Category: Community Issues

Kentucky’s Electric Co-Ops Urge Change To Farm Bill

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are expressing concern with a provision in the Senate Farm Bill which would radically alter the current rural electrification funding program and likely lead to increased costs and uncertainty for co-op consumers across Kentucky.

The bill passed by the Senate on Thursday includes a provision that would retroactively change the rules of the Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan program, one of the most successful infrastructure development programs across the federal government.

Over time, co-ops fund escrow accounts to secure their ability to repay government loans. The current RUS electric loan program contributes hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the federal Treasury.

However, the Senate-passed Farm Bill would retroactively reduce interest rates on these funds, altering existing agreements.

“Kentucky’s electric cooperatives count on the ‘cushion of credit’ in the RUS program for greater certainty to the federal government that loans will be repaid, particularly in the event of disasters or other unforeseen disruptions that can negatively impact a co-op’s cash flow,” explained Chris Perry, president of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives.

As the House version of the Farm Bill does not adversely affect the RUS program, Kentucky co-ops urge lawmakers to implement significant changes in conference as they work to develop a Farm Bill that can be supported by the 1.5 million Kentuckians and 42 million Americans who benefit from safe, reliable and affordable service of electric cooperatives.

Arlington Inspires Kentucky Co-Op Students

Meade County High School’s Evan Smiley is one of 90 high school seniors from Kentucky participating in the Washington Youth Tour, an annual program of America’s Electric Cooperatives. KAEC is proud to share their stories.

Courage. By definition it means, “the ability to do something that frightens one.” But to our nation’s greatest heroes, courage is much more than that. Courage is going above the call of duty and serving in one of our country’s gruesome wars and served as leaders not just in their battalions, but for their communities and their country. Many of these heroes gave the greatest sacrifice to prepare, preserve, and protect the rights of every American.

See more photos of the Washington Youth Tour and a video of the students at Arlington on KentuckyLiving.com

On June 12, 90 high school seniors and 15 chaperones representing Kentucky’s electric cooperatives on the Washington Youth Tour witnessed a testament to that courage at Arlington National Cemetery – the United States’ most sacred memorial ground. Participants toured the roughly 562 acres where 420,000 fallen soldiers are entombed, dating back as far as 1864.

Youth tour delegates are rising high school seniors selected for their academic performance, social involvement, and personalities. The Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives (KAEC) has coordinated the tour for Kentucky co-ops since 1972, when 18 students and four chaperones made the trip. In all, the more than 1,800 delegates from across rural America are in Washington, D.C. to learn about the political process, interact with elected officials and gain an up-close understanding of American history.

For many participants, including myself, Arlington is the final resting place of close relatives and friends. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself to visit the gravesites of these loved ones, participants were eager to pay their respects. Arlington even provides a smartphone app known as “ANC Explorer” that allows the user to identify the exact location and directions to a particular grave. A shuttle guided tour allows visitors to explore an area and simply “hop on” the next shuttle. Sometimes, the shuttles are delayed by funeral processions which average 20-30 every weekday and ten on Saturdays.

Arlington National Cemetery has a unique history that involves many historical figures. The land was once a plantation owned by the adopted grandson of President George Washington, whose daughter married the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War, the Lee’s abandoned Arlington House to fight in the war. Meanwhile, the Union Army used it as a headquarters. Arlington House overlooks the great national cemetery and serves as a memorial for Lee. Many great figures have visited and admired the home. President John F. Kennedy stated that he loved the view from Arlington House that he could stay there forever. Just eight months later, he was assassinated and was laid to rest in Arlington.

Kennedy isn’t the only President buried at Arlington, however. President William Howard Taft also wanted his final resting place to be there, joining the long list of great leaders and patriots within the hallowed grounds.

Arlington is home to one of the most solemn places of United States History – the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year despite any weather conditions. Participants of the youth tour were able to witness the legendary changing of the guard. Two of Kentucky’s youth tour delegates, James Shaddox and Tori Drew, placed a wreath on the tomb on behalf of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives. Many participants said this was their favorite part of the entire tour of Washington DC. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of many memorials at the cemetery including the Coast Guard Memorial, Chaplains’ Hill, and the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial.

Arlington National Cemetery is a treasured part of the youth tour itinerary, a place of courage and honor for our country’s finest men and women.

And they’re off! Kentucky co-ops send 90 students to DC

One of the great traditions of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives is unfolding again in 2018 as 90 high school seniors and 15 chaperones have begun this year’s Washington Youth Tour.

Students boarded buses at Kentucky’s local electric co-ops Friday morning, ultimately rallying at the Clark County Extension Office for lunch and orientation before heading to Charleston, West Virginia for the night. On Saturday, the students are touring Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, before making their way to the nation’s capital.

“We have had a very smooth start,” says Mary Beth Dennis of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, the coordinator of the trip. “The first two days are always an exciting time for us because we get to watch the students start to come out of their shells and form friendships, friendships we hope last a lifetime.”

KAEChas been coordinating the tour for Kentucky co-ops since 1972, when 18 students and four chaperones made the trip.

The students join more than 1,800 of rural America’s best and brightest high-schoolers who will visit Washington, D.C. to learn about the political process, interact with elected officials and gain an up-close understanding of American history.

Now in its 53rdyear, the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour is a weeklongprogram that includes Youth Day on June 11, a spirited gathering of young delegates and featured speakers.

Among Kentucky’s youth tour alumni are business leaders, elected officials, journalists, and many engaged co-op consumer-members and citizens.

One of the first orders of business for the Kentucky delegation will be electing its representative on the Youth Leadership Council, a yearlong appointment to represent Kentucky electric cooperatives on the national and state level.

Last year, Allison Wade of Jackson Energy Cooperative, McKee, was selected as the YLCrepresentative.

“Throughout the Youth Tour, I made memories and friendships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” Wade says. “And I am beyond grateful to share this experience with other cooperatives across Kentucky.”

Local electric cooperatives set their own criteria to select which students they will sponsor on the all-expenses-paid trip.

“It is an investment in our co-op youth and the future of the co-ops themselves,” says Chris Perry, KAECpresident. “We are so proud of these students. They impress us with their passion for their communities and our nation, and they give us hope for the future.”

Lend Your Voice to Rural America

In 2016, rural America played a big part in our national elections – 500,000 MORE rural voters went to the polls than in 2012.  This is an incredible story, as many in small towns and communities across our country went to the polls to ensure their voices were heard, and elected officials took notice.  But, elections matter EVERY year.

2018 will be no different, and electric cooperatives have the opportunity to play a vital role in encouraging rural voter turnout and engaging on issues that matter most to us. This year, we must build on the momentum we started in 2016, to join with 42 million members of electric cooperatives around the country, and remind our elected officials that rural issues matter.

Electric co-ops are not-for-profit energy providers that are owned by the members they serve.  They provide coverage for 88 percent of our nation’s counties. They are a foundation in their communities and their members can make a difference in lending their voices to issues like rural infrastructure and broadband, and maintaining access to affordable, reliable electricity.

To ensure that all electric co-op members do continue the drumbeat that started in 2016, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) will continue the successful Co-ops Vote program. This is a non-partisan initiative that remains quite simple at its core:  to ensure that members are registered to vote and they go to the polls for every election, and to ensure rural issues remain part of the national discussion.

By participating in the Co-ops Vote program in 2018, co-op members continue to send a resounding message that all candidates – at all levels – will need to put rural America’s concerns front and center in order to earn our vote. We proved in 2016 that with millions of electric co-op members speaking out with one voice, we can have a major impact in making our top issues part of the national conversation.

Learn more at www.vote.coop.

Governor Bevin Kicks Off Second Annual “Beautify The Bluegrass” Initiative

Shelbyville, KY. –Governor Matt Bevin and Kentucky Living magazine have launched the 2018 “Beautify the Bluegrass” initiative. Under this program, Kentuckians are encouraged to come together and make their communities shine.

“Our goal is for Kentuckians to identify a project in their community that they can be involved in repairing, enhancing, or beautifying,” said Gov. Bevin. “Gather together a group of one, two, three, five, fifty, or a hundred people—however many you need to improve a specific area. From updating landscapes to painting murals, there is so much we can do to beautify our communities. Let’s work together to make the Commonwealth shine.”

The initiative is a partnership between Kentucky Living and the Governor’s office. Kentucky Livingis published by the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, whose 26 members are committed to improving the quality of life in communities across the Commonwealth. With a monthly readership topping one million people, Kentucky Livingjoined the “Beautify the Bluegrass” campaign to help spread the word and get communities across the state involved in improving their public spaces.

“We are excited to partner with Gov. Bevin to make the Commonwealth shine through this initiative,” said Anita Richter, editor of Kentucky Livingmagazine. “Our team at Kentucky Livinglooks forward to seeing all the great projects that are to come.”

Shelby Energy Cooperative members worked to revamp the landscaping around the Shelby County Courthouse Annex earlier this year. The project was a group effort by co-op staff including linemen, and even enlisted the help of county inmates.

“We take pride in the communities we serve,” said Debbie Martin, Shelby Energy Cooperative’s president and CEO. “We’re thrilled to help Gov. Bevin launch Beautify the Bluegrass, and we bet other electric cooperatives across Kentucky will also roll up their sleeves.”

Gov. Bevin established the “Beautify the Bluegrass” initiative in 2017 to encourage Kentuckians to be involved in enhancing the existing beauty of the Commonwealth. The campaign follows a simple model: identify a public area in the community that needs attention, gather a team to take on the project, and put the ideas into action to beautify the space.

Last year, more than 25 projects from across Kentucky were submitted. The winning project was from Paintsville (Johnson County), where the Trail Town Committee painted numerous buildings to transform the downtown area.

This year, submissions will be accepted from April 30 to July 27 via KentuckyLiving.com. The winner will be announced by the Governor on August 23 at Kentucky Living’Best in Kentucky awards, live at the Kentucky State Fair. The winner will receive a barbecue meal for up to 200 people with Gov. Bevin and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.

Interested participants can visit Kentucky Living for more information.

Co-Op Leaders Discuss Key Issues With Energy Secretary Perry

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky – In a roundtable discussion with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in Hopkinsville, leaders from Kentucky’s electric cooperatives stressed matters of concern to co-ops while thanking Perry for his leadership on several key issues.

A guest of Kentucky’s senior senator, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Perry reiterated his commitment to the reliability of America’s energy system while addressing specific concerns of about 15 energy leaders from Kentucky.

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives were represented at the roundtable by KAEC President Chris Perry and Vice President Joe Arnold, Big Rivers Electric President Bob Berry and Government Relations Director Sharla Austin, East Kentucky Power Cooperative Chief Financial Officer Mike McNally and Pennyrile Electric President Greg Grissom.

The private hour long roundtable discussion also included representatives from other utilities, fuel producers, the oil and gas industry and education. Afterword, McConnell and Perry addressed a luncheon hosted by the Christian County Chamber of Commerce.

At that event, Perry noted that a “fair and predictable” regulatory climate is a key ingredient to a successful economy.  Stressing innovation, Perry celebrated advances in domestic energy production, citing recent increases in coal use and his upcoming trip to India to discuss U.S. energy exports.

Electric Cooperatives Applaud Rural Broadband Funding In Omnibus Spending Bill

Arlington, VA – Electric cooperatives today applauded congressional action to allocate $600 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for rural broadband grants and loans.  The measure is part of the omnibus spending bill unveiled by Congressional leaders last night.

Electric co-ops have encouraged Congress to set aside funding for accelerating rural broadband deployment.

“This is a positive step towards connecting the rural economy and closing the digital divide,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “Expanded broadband access is equally important to the people who live in rural America and operations of the electric co-ops that serve them.

“High costs and low population density remain the biggest obstacles to expanding rural broadband access. In order to close the digital divide for the 23 million rural Americans who lack broadband internet access, an expanded combination of federal grant and loan funding through USDA is essential. We look forward to working with Congress and the Trump administration as they consider the omnibus and other legislation to help deploy rural broadband and modernize rural America.”

Nearly 100 electric co-ops are investing in rural America by bringing high-speed internet access to homes, business and schools and many more are exploring broadband projects. These newly connected co-op communities are creating new jobs, attracting new employers, and directly jump starting local economies.

In addition to the omnibus spending bill, electric co-ops are encouraging Congress to continue pursuing other legislative vehicles to secure additional rural broadband funding. Other vehicles include the FY2019 spending bills, any potential infrastructure legislation, and the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Bipartisan Budget Agreement enacted by Congress on February 9 contained a $20 billion “infrastructure initiative” for FY18 and 19. Electric cooperatives called on Congress to dedicate funding each year for rural broadband deployment through USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.

Cold Weather Is Producing Higher Electric Bills, PSC Says

Customers advised to look into payment plans or heating assistance

Prolonged and severe cold in December and January has led to sharply higher electric bills for customers across Kentucky, the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) says.

For many customers – particularly those who heat entirely or primarily with electricity – bills received from late December through January have been much larger than those for the previous billing period.

That is because the National Weather Service (NWS) measure that tracks the need for home heating was, in December, about 75 percent higher than in November. January heating demand was up another 14 percent over December, or roughly double that in November.

“When you have prolonged periods of sub-freezing weather, as we have had this winter in Kentucky, the amount of energy needed to heat your home goes up dramatically,” PSC Chairman Michael Schmitt said. “And energy usage is by far the most important factor in determining energy costs.”

Schmitt said customers who are concerned about high electric bills should first contact their utility company for information about payment plans or heating assistance.

“The PSC consumer services staff will do all they can to help customers who cannot resolve issues with their utility providers,” he said. “They also can guide people to sources of assistance in their communities.”

Almost all of the hundreds of inquiries about high energy bills the PSC has received since late December have been about electric service. Customers who heat with natural gas have not seen comparable increases.

That is because the amount of electricity needed for heating rises sharply in times of extreme cold. Even the most efficient heat pumps won’t work very well once the temperature drops more than a few degrees below freezing.

During periods of prolonged cold, all-electric heating systems switch on resistance (or strip) heating, which consumes much more electricity than the heat pump. “It’s like heating your house with a large toaster, and your usage goes up exponentially as a result,” Schmitt said.

In contrast, natural gas heating systems work essentially the same way no matter the temperature.

Electric consumption this winter not only rose sharply as milder weather in November turned colder in December and January, but also significantly from last year due to the much colder weather. November and December of 2016 and January of 2017 were all warmer than normal, as measured by the NWS.

In contrast, while November of 2017 was slightly warmer than normal, it was 20 percent colder than the year before. December 2017 was slightly colder than December 2016, while last month was 42 percent colder, in terms of heating demand, than the unusually warm January of 2017.

The NWS uses a measure known as heating degree days to measure heating demand. Heating degree days occur when the average daily temperature drops below 65 degrees. Each degree below 65 degrees produces a heating degree day, so a day with an average temperature of 30 degrees creates 35 heating degree days.

The chart below shows the heating degree days for November, December and January of this winter and last winter, with the departure from normal in parentheses for each month (+ means colder than normal; – means warmer). The numbers are an average of eight weather stations spanning Kentucky. (Details for each weather station follow this release.)

November       December       January

2017-2018                               516 (-14)         904 (+35)        1,034 (+79)

2016-2017                               428 (-95)         847 (-15)         728 (-226)

PSC Chairman Schmitt noted that customers can take action to manage their heating bills.

“Electric utilities in Kentucky offer even-payment plans that enable customers to reduce month-to-month fluctuations in their bills,” he said. “Energy bills become predictable and are far less subject to weather-related swings. Customers should contact their utility for more information.”

Utilities also may make one-time payment plan arrangements with customers. PSC regulations require a utility to offer a payment plan only after a customer receives a disconnect notice and only to customers who do not have previously unpaid bills. But utilities may offer such plans under other circumstances at their discretion.

Schmitt said customers who are having trouble paying their bills should check to see whether they are eligible for heating assistance, either through the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which is operated by local community action agencies, or through programs operated by their utility provider.

In the long term, the best way to combat high energy usage is through energy conservation, Schmitt said. Even modest investments, such as adding weather stripping around doors and windows or switching to high-efficiency lighting, can pay off in lower electric bills, he said.

The PSC is an independent agency attached for administrative purposes to the Energy and Environment Cabinet. It regulates more than 1,500 gas, water, sewer, electric and telecommunication utilities operating in Kentucky.

2018 Kentucky Legislative Guide

Serving more than 1.5 million people in 117 of 120 Kentucky counties, Kentucky’s member-owned electric cooperatives are committed to improving the quality of life for our members. We encourage Kentuckians to engage with elected leaders and advocate for safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

View the 2018 Legislative Guide

Clean Power Plan Replacement Should Focus On Reliability, Affordability And Clean Air Act Precedent

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Jim Matheson today released the following statement on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) advance notice of proposed rulemaking to replace the Clean Power Plan:

“We are pleased that EPA has taken this necessary step to replace the Clean Power Plan. America’s electric cooperatives support the development of a common-sense, durable policy that is focused on improvements that are specific to each electric-generating unit. This approach is consistent with decades of policy precedent and would produce greater regulatory certainty for electric cooperatives and their members.

“At its core, the regulation should maintain electric reliability and minimize the economic impact on consumers. We look forward to working with EPA on a rulemaking that achieves these critical goals.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.