Category: Public News

Shelby Energy welcomes international copper producer Wieland 

Shelby Energy Cooperative today welcomed Wieland North America to Kentucky as the international copper producer broke ground for a $250 million copper and copper-alloy recycling facility in Shelbyville, Ky. 

“Wieland’s tremendous dedication to quality, people and sustainability makes the company a perfect fit for our community, and we welcome them with open arms,” said Jack Bragg, President & CEO of Shelby Energy Cooperative, which worked with state and local officials to help recruit Wieland. “We are proud Wieland chose Kentucky and particularly Shelbyville as the location for the next chapter in its 200-year history.” 

Wieland is constructing the new recycling facility on a 79-acre site near Interstate 64 in Shelbyville. With 75 full-time employees, the operation will melt copper and copper-alloy for recycling for use in manufacturing semi-finished copper and copper-alloy products for customers throughout North America. The facility is expected to begin production in 2023. 

“With customers located throughout North America and the globe, Wieland was looking for a centrally located site with outstanding transportation access, and we knew this site would fit their needs,” said Brad Thomas, Manager for Economic Development for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. “We are thrilled to play a role in helping Wieland find a home here in Kentucky.” 

Wieland North America manufactures copper and copper-alloy products, including sheet, strip, foil, tube, bar and other fabricated components for its North American customers. The company also rerolls and forms other metals, such as stainless and carbon steel. 

Last year, Wieland, based in Ulm, Germany, brought its North American headquarters to Louisville. 

Story: Nick Comer

Hazelrigg retires, Hunt succeeds at Fleming-Mason

Flemingsburg, Ky (June 29, 2022) – The Board of Directors of Fleming-Mason Energy is pleased to announce that Brandon Hunt, manager of engineering and operations, will become the co-op’s eighth president and CEO in its 84 year history.
Hunt will succeed veteran Fleming-Mason President & CEO Joni Hazelrigg who is retiring on July 8 after 37 years with the electric cooperative.
“It’s been a wonderful honor to be a part of the cooperative program for so many years,” Hazelrigg said. “One of the things I admire most is how electric co-ops are always willing to share information, best practices, storm assistance and other key ideas with each other. This makes each of us individually stronger. I will truly miss my cooperative friends and wish each the best.”
The co-op honored Hazelrigg at its annual meeting and member appreciation day.
“On behalf of the Board, I want to thank Joni for her excellent management and stewardship at Fleming-Mason Energy during her tenure as manager,” said Board Chairman Tom Saunders. “I also wish her a very long and healthy retirement.”
Commending Hazelrigg for her decades of service to the cooperative, Hunt said he is “grateful and excited to be selected as Fleming-Mason Energy’s next President and CEO.”
“I am looking forward to building on the trust the board bestowed on me as we continue our member-focused mission of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity to the communities we serve,” Hunt said.
Hunt began his Fleming-Mason Energy career as a student intern in the engineering department while attending the University of Kentucky, later joining the cooperative full-time after his graduation in 2006. Since then, he has worked as a system engineer, engineering manager, and engineering and operations manager. A Fleming County resident, Hunt and his wife Michelle have three children.
Hazelrigg started her Fleming-Mason Energy career in 1980, working about three-and-a-half years as a file clerk, then returning to the co-op for good in 1988. She worked her way up the ranks as cashier, billing, general office supervisor, accountant, chief financial officer and ultimately chief executive officer in 2014.
Fleming-Mason Energy has about 50 employees, including approximately 30 line technicians. Joni Hazelrigg is one of the few female electric distribution CEO’s in the United States.

Line trainees learn the ropes at EKPC

Dozens of electric line worker trainees received hands-on training for three days in mid-May at EKPC to better their skills in rigging and hoisting operations.

The three-day training was led by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Director of Safety and Training Randy Meredith and held at EKPC’s headquarters and outdoor training facility. Trainees from 15 different electric cooperatives across Kentucky learned skills designed to improve the work of apprentice and entry-level line workers, including how to set poles and how to install transformers and other heavy power-line materials manually.

“Performing these tasks within the bounds of OSHA Standards is the core component of the training that Kentucky Electric Cooperatives is providing,” Meredith said.

Safety is a critical component of the training. Meredith said instilling the core safety components of the job early in the careers is not only a key to working safely, but working safely for years to come.

“We know that with a foundational understanding of the compliance standards, even the most rigorous work can be performed safely and efficiently. We want all line workers to be safe during the day and go home fully intact every night.”

Three electric co-ops receive Kentucky broadband grants

Three electric cooperatives are among the 12 internet service providers and local governments announced as broadband grant recipients by Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday. The allocation of federal American Rescue Plan funds is earmarked for unserved and underserved households and businesses across Kentucky.

Of the $89.1 million in grants announced Monday, $19.3 million will support the broadband deployment efforts of three electric cooperatives:

Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative received seven grants totaling $13,827,320. The overall project cost is $27,906,340 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 5,598 currently unserved households and businesses located in Caldwell, Christian, Lyon, Todd and Trigg counties.

Gibson Connect received a grant for $4,650,880. The overall project cost is $11,073,552 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 1,763 currently unserved households and businesses located in Fulton, Graves and Hickman counties.

Tri-County Electric received a grant for $900,000. The overall project cost is $1,800,000 including the required matching funds. This investment will expand access to high-speed internet to 97 currently unserved households and businesses located in Monroe County.

The awards are the result of a bipartisan agreement signed into law by Gov. Beshear in April 2021 that allocated $300 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to bring internet access to unserved and underserved communities across the commonwealth.

“This is a tremendous example of our elected leaders coming together for the best interests of Kentuckians. This is what electric co-ops are all about and we thank Gov. Beshear and legislative leaders for making it happen,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We especially appreciate the vote of confidence in electric cooperatives in the General Assembly led by Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens, Rep. Jason Petrie and Rep. Brandon Reed.”

“In addition to the legislation that enables the grants announced by the governor, the General Assembly in 2022 also approved House Bill 315 which streamlines the regulatory process for cooperatives wishing to deploy broadband, appropriates $300 million to support broadband in rural Kentucky, and unlocks future federal funding,” Perry said.

“I am incredibly pleased to announce what I believe is the single largest provision of funding for high-speed internet in our commonwealth’s history,” Gov. Beshear said. “High-speed, reliable internet service is not just the infrastructure of the future, it is the infrastructure of the present. It is just as important right now as roads and bridges. And today is a key part of our plan to build a better Kentucky, as high-speed internet will be critical to the success of our state’s economy and to future job creation.”

In Christian County, Todd County and Trigg County, energynet, a partnership between Hopkinsville Electric System and Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, will receive a boost due to Kentucky Infrastructure Authority funds.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the state and build a fiber-to-the-home network for the communities we serve,” Pennyrile Electric Cooperative President and CEO Alan Gates said. “This funding from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority will alleviate some of the significant financial burden associated with building a rural fiber-optic broadband network.”

Gibson Electric will apply the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Program grant funds in Fulton, Graves and Hickman counties.

“Our member-owners desperately need high-speed, fiber-based internet service and it will vastly improve the quality of life in our communities by providing opportunities for education, health care, jobs, entertainment and more,” said Dan Rodamaker said, president and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and Gibson Connect. “We plan to begin work immediately and will soon communicate details of our buildout plan.”

Tri-County Electric expressed excitement for their members who will benefit from the broadband support both now and into the future.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the announcement regarding the approval of Tri-County Electric’s broadband grant application,” Tri-County Electric CEO Paul Thompson said. “I believe that having our application approved is evidence that the state knows we are ready to provide fiber internet to Cumberland County.”

“These grants will lower the cost of construction so that our most rural areas will have access to this necessity of high-speed internet,” State Budget Director John Hicks said. “These funds are dedicated to unserved areas in Kentucky. We’re also setting up Kentucky’s first Office of Broadband Development to help administer and create a master plan for the commonwealth to provide universal service to every Kentuckian.”

Kentucky electric co-ops help after Ohio storms

Crews from five Kentucky co-ops restoring power

Mutual aid crews from at least five electric cooperatives in Kentucky are headed to sister cooperatives in Ohio after a strong cluster of thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday knocked out electric service to more than 300,000 people.

Kentucky-based United Utility Supply Cooperative is also assisting. The UUS warehouse in Columbus, Ohio was not damaged in the storms and is already responding to member needs.

The National Weather Service confirmed a derecho in the area with winds topping 70 mph. The storms downed hundreds of power lines and flooded roads.

Seventeen two-man crews are gearing up in Kentucky to assist with power restoration in Ohio. The 34 Kentucky line technicians are from Owen Electric, Kenergy Corp, Fleming-Mason Energy, Jackson Energy and Nolin RECC.

“Over 13,000 of our 18,000 meters are without power,” reports Holmes-Wayne Electric Cooperative in north central Ohio. “We have six substations that do not have power from our transmission supplier. A large quantity of roads are blocked. Crews have been navigating through this dangerous situation since the start of the storm. This will be a several days process to restore all power.”

In addition to Holmes-Wayne Electric Cooperative, the Kentucky crews are also assisting Consolidated Cooperative, The Energy Cooperative, and Guernsey-Muskingum Electric Cooperative.

“The power outages are widespread in Ohio and several other states and will require many hours of restoration,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “With this same area also under an excessive heat warning, we understand the need to restore power as soon as possible. We are praying for our sister co-ops in the region and for the safety of everyone assisting.”

By responding to natural disasters in other states, Kentucky co-op crews gain invaluable experience to ultimately help them respond to outages here at home. Coordinated by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, mutual aid crews from Kentucky co-ops are deployed to specific sister cooperatives who have requested their help.

Recent mutual aid deployments include more than 160 personnel and contractors from electric cooperatives in Kentucky assisting after Hurricane Ida in Louisiana last year, and several deployments in 2020, including 87 Kentucky co-op employees after Hurricane Sally in Alabama, 73 Kentucky co-op employees after Hurricane Delta in Louisiana, and about 50 co-op personnel assisting after Hurricane Zeta in Georgia.

The top priority of each local Kentucky co-op is service to its own consumer-members. Before committing resources to mutual aid requests, each co-op ensures it has ample crews available for all local needs, including routine maintenance and emergencies.

Because the national network of transmission and distribution infrastructure owned by electric cooperatives is built to federal standards, line crews from any co-op in America can arrive on the scene ready to provide emergency support, secure in their knowledge of the system’s engineering.

Coops ensure reliability and affordability

Amid a heat wave that has some U.S. power networks asking customers to conserve energy, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are committed to doing everything in their power to protect the reliability and affordability of electric service to their members.
With some utilities in other states issuing warnings about stress on the electric grid, Kentucky co-ops are prepared to handle this summer’s energy demands without interruption to members. Co-ops, however, do have concerns about the long term future of the grid amidst hurried transitions to less reliable energy sources.
Coops support a transition to renewable energy that protects the reliability and affordability of electric service for coop members. Unfortunately, current government policy and administration statements are pushing a transition timeline that is incompatible with those goals. The policies have led to the premature retirement of coal and nuclear plants, replacing them with less dependable wind and solar energy sources.
In addition, by signaling the demise of coal power, these policies have also put a strain on the availability of coal supplies, increasing market prices and threatening reliability.
Kentucky’s electric cooperatives embrace an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, including significant investments in renewable energy sources in partnership with regional power networks. Since 2010, carbon emissions by Kentucky cooperatives are down nearly 40%.
Because electricity needs to be generated simultaneously as it is used, the electric system has to be built large enough to meet the biggest demand at any one time. Kentucky’s electric cooperatives urge policymakers to heed the heat wave blackout warnings and rethink the current timeline that threatens the well-being of cooperative consumer-members.

NERC: weather, demand and supply delays could threaten reliability this summer

Extreme weather conditions, high seasonal demand and supply and shipping delays could pose reliability challenges for the nation’s electric utilities this summer, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. said in a new report.

“The utility industry prepares its equipment and operators for challenging summer conditions, but persistent, extreme drought and its accompanying weather patterns create extra stresses on electricity supply and demand,” said Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments, in a May 18 briefing on NERC’s Summer Reliability Assessment.

“Grid operators in affected areas will need all available tools to keep the system in balance this summer,” he said. 

Olson outlined industry concerns, which include ongoing inventory disruptions that are delaying generation and transmission construction and upgrades, cybersecurity threats, supply challenges for coal-based generation, and an anticipated active late-summer wildfire season in the western United States and Canada.

The report notes that reliability challenges are being compounded by evolving demands on the power grid, which has grown increasingly complex as renewable energy assets are added and consumers assert more control over their electricity use. 

“There’s clear, objective, inclusive data indicating that the pace of our grid transformation is a bit out of sync with the underlying realities and the physics of the system,” said John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment. 

“We look at that long-term, and we see the transformation that’s happened over the last 10 years with our traditional baseload generation resources like coal and nuclear retiring, and lots of new natural gas and variable generation, mostly solar and wind,” said Moura.

NERC officials discussed the potential impact of summer weather and associated demand on regional transmission operators who manage large portions of the nation’s power grid. 

Seven areas face risks of energy shortfalls this summer, said Olson. “Their anticipated generation resources may not be sufficient to meet the operating reserves of a peak summer day in an average year.”

But 2022 is not shaping up to be average. Drought conditions and the early beginning of wildfire season in the West and Southwest coupled with low winter snowfalls could pose problems for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. That prompted a “high risk” designation for MISO, which serves 15 states and Canada’s Manitoba province. 

“Drought can lead to reduced output from several types of generation, and it can also set weather conditions for higher temperatures,” said Moura.

Areas facing elevated risks include:

• The Southwest Power Pool: Drought conditions could contribute to low output from thermal and hydro generation needed to balance wind output.

• Texas: Increased wind and solar have eased capacity concerns, but drought conditions and summer heat may challenge the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and prompt manual load shed events during periods of low wind and high power plant outages.

• While the Pacific Northwest and California should have sufficient reserves under normal conditions, regional heat events could cause transmission congestion and energy emergencies. Wildfires, drought and supply chain issues could pose localized risks. 

“The risk of energy shortfall in these areas is elevated because more extreme conditions that drive above-normal demand or low resource output could deplete the reserves and lead to an energy emergency,” Moura said. He added that hydroelectric output could be curbed by drought conditions, particularly in California. 

NERC officials also warned that as older generation is retired, smaller baseload and peaking plants are being driven harder, increasing the risks of mechanical failures and forced outages. Officials also warned that some utilities are facing slowdowns in coal delivery, creating additional concern about falling reserve margins.

NRECA reacted to the report with a statement to reporters that noted “the ongoing energy transition must recognize the need for time, technology development and be inclusive of all energy sources to maintain reliability and affordability. A resilient and reliable electric grid that affordably keeps the lights on is the cornerstone of the American economy. American families and businesses rightfully expect the lights to stay on at a price they can afford. And a diverse energy mix that includes adequate baseload supply is essential to meeting those expectations day in and day out.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.

Veteran co-op executive to lead Taylor County RECC

Electric cooperative’s board names new CEO

The Board of Directors of Taylor County RECC is pleased to announce that after a nationwide search, Jeff Williams has been unanimously elected CEO of the electric cooperative.
Williams will succeed the longtime CEO of Taylor County RECC, Barry Myers, who is retiring after the co-op’s annual meeting on July 15. Myers has served as the co-op’s chief executive since 1985.
A native of Owensboro, Williams brings more than twenty years of co-op experience to Taylor County RECC which serves nearly 26,000 consumer-members in the Central Kentucky counties of Adair, Casey, Cumberland, Green, Hart, Marion, Metcalfe, Russell and Taylor.
“After a very careful and conscientious review of the cooperative’s needs, our board enthusiastically agreed that Jeff’s expertise and cooperative experience are an excellent fit for Taylor County RECC,” said Board President Donald Dean Shuffett. “We are excited to introduce Jeff to our dedicated employees and valued consumer-members.”
Williams joins Taylor County RECC after serving four years as Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative’s Chief Financial Officer and VP of Finance and Accounting. Immediately prior to that, Williams was Manager of Budgets for nine years with Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and for ten years worked with Western Kentucky Energy, a subsidiary of Louisville Gas & Electric.
“I’m honored that the Board has placed their trust in me to lead a great group of employees,” Williams said. “I look forward to helping the members of Taylor County RECC and the communities we serve to prosper. At Taylor County, the members, the employees and our Board of Directors are all in this together. That is the essence of what a cooperative is.”
Williams and Shuffett expressed gratitude to Barry Myers as he begins a very well-deserved retirement. Myers’ 37 years as Taylor County RECC CEO makes him by one year the longest-serving manager in the co-op’s history. Earl Tomes, the first CEO of the cooperative, led Taylor County RECC for 36 years, from 1938 to 1974.
“I also want to thank the Board, employees and members of Jackson Purchase Energy,” Williams added. “I have been privileged and blessed to know and work with a great group of people.”
Williams and his wife of 29 years, Trinna, have four grown children: Joshua, Cassie, Caleb and Emily.
“My wife and I enjoy camping and the outdoors,” Williams said, “The Taylor County RECC service area is in a central location and is such a wonderful destination. We are humbled and happy to be so graciously welcomed to our new home.”

Co-op profile: Logan Reeves | Kenergy

In the latest co-op profile video by your statewide association, we are pleased to feature Logan Reeves. 

In his 2 1/2 years as a system controller for Kenergy, he has demonstrated the power of positivity and is an inspiration to all of his fellow colleagues after overcoming a huge obstacle in his life.

Does your co-op have an interesting story to tell or other developments to share? If you have an idea for a video produced by the statewide co-op association, please email wharris@kyelectric.coop or mdennis@kyelectric.coop

Biden’s 2023 Budget Proposal: What Co-ops Should Know

The Biden administration’s proposed 2023 budget would increase funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect broadband program by 33%—from $450 million in fiscal year 2022 to $600 million.

The ReConnect program provides loans and grants to electric cooperatives to help pay for the construction, improvement or acquisition of facilities and equipment to bring high-speed internet to rural communities that have little or no service.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of broadband as people have relied on it to work from home, attend virtual classes and access telemedicine appointments.

President Joe Biden’s budget proposal is, like that of all presidents, a request to Congress. Legislators have the power of the purse and ultimately will decide spending priorities and levels for federal agencies and programs.

“While we recognize that the final decision lies with Congress, we welcome the administration’s support for increasing broadband funding to help close the digital divide that is keeping rural America from reaching its full economic potential,” said Hill Thomas, NRECA’s vice president of legislative affairs.

Turning to another USDA program vital to co-ops, the administration’s proposed budget calls for continuing to fund the Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan Program at $6.5 billion. Congress increased funding for the program by $1 billion in fiscal year 2022 from $5.5 billion in 2021.

Co-ops use RUS loans to help build and improve infrastructure that provides reliable, affordable electric service to their consumer-members. Repayment of those loans with interest to the U.S. Treasury helps reduce the federal deficit. 

“We are glad to see that the administration’s budget supports the increase that Congress provided to the RUS loan program that is so crucial to electric co-ops and the communities they serve,” Thomas said.

In a departure from the Trump administration’s budget proposals, the Biden administration is not seeking to sell off transmission assets that provide affordable hydropower from federal dams to hundreds of co-ops.

The Trump administration—in an effort that drew bipartisan opposition in Congress—had proposed to privatize assets held by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Bonneville Power Administration, Southwestern Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration.

The Trump administration had also sought to increase rates for federal Power Marketing Administrations by changing the cost-based rate structure to make it comparable to rates charged by investor-owned utilities.

In its budget plan for 2023, the Biden administration proposes increased funding for climate-related activities at nearly every federal agency. That includes a boost of almost $17 billion, for a total of $45 billion, to the five agencies with the most climate-related programs. The budget requests a record $11.9 billion—a nearly 29% increase—for the Environmental Protection Agency alone.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.