Shelby Energy Cooperative and Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are using high-tech tools to help draw employers to a high-profile Shelbyville, Ky., site.
The 400-acre Norfolk Southern property, located adjacent to Interstate 64 in Shelbyville, is the latest site showcased on www.DataIsPower.org, which features locations available to commercial and industrial businesses looking to expand or relocate. Videos and detailed data about the property appear on the PowerVision page of the web site.
The property features ready accessibility to rail and interstate transportation, as well as the nearby Louisville International Airport and UPS Centennial Hub.
Working closely with Norfolk Southern, which owns the property, the cooperatives used aerial drones to film and digitally map and analyze the land, producing a five-minute flyover video and another video featuring three-dimensional analysis of the site.
“Shelby Energy is always ready to work with our members to bring jobs and investment to our community,” said Debbie Martin, President & CEO of Shelby Energy Cooperative. “We’re excited about the possibilities it offers for the community.”
Jake Weir, Industrial Development Manager for Norfolk Southern, welcomed the cooperatives’ assistance in promoting the site to businesses.
“This project has been a great collaborative effort between all of our organizations,” he said. “This shows there is a high level of cooperation, we’re all pulling in the same direction to bring jobs and investment to Shelby County.”
Rodney Hitch, Economic Development Manager for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives agreed.
“Thanks to the assistance of all our partners, our cooperatives are putting PowerVision to work marketing this prime property to companies around the globe,” Hitch said. “The DataIsPower.org web site puts extremely detailed information about the tract at the fingertips of site scouts everywhere.”
Data about the property can be downloaded from the web site and plugged into computer-aided design programs. The videos even feature a computer-generated view of how the property could be developed with five commercial/industrial buildings.
“The accessibility of the data is extremely valuable to prospective buyers,” Weir said. “You can download the files from the public web site in a matter of minutes and quickly see the benefits that our property has to offer.”
“It is very exciting to bring technology into marketing these types of properties,” said Libby Adams, Executive Director, Shelby County Industrial & Development Foundation Inc. “Prospects can see the property from anywhere. They can be on the other side of the world and take a look at detailed information.”
On Wedneday, Nov. 1, Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives dedicated its Cooperative Solar Farm One, a 60-acre solar energy facility located in Clark County, Ky.
“Co-op members have asked our electric cooperatives to provide options for clean, renewable energy. Today, this solar farm officially begins producing energy fueled by the sun,” said Joe Spalding, board chairman of East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC), which will operate the solar farm. He is a member of Inter-County Energy Cooperative.
Members of the 16 electric cooperatives that make up Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives can participate by licensing solar panels. For a one-time payment of $460 per panel, participating members will receive a 25-year license and they will get credit on their monthly power bills for the value of the energy generated by their share of the solar farm.
Cooperative Solar Farm One features 32,300 solar panels capable of producing up to 8.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to provide all the power needs for approximately 1,000 typical homes.
“This is truly a milestone for our electric cooperatives,” said Anthony “Tony” Campbell, President & CEO of EKPC. “This is the beginning of a new era. We are making and delivering energy from the sun. “
FRANKFORT, Ky – Governor Matt Bevin tells Kentucky Living he will call a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly “soon” to vote on his plan to save and overhaul the commonwealth’s beleaguered public pension systems.
“I really want to make sure people have in their hands the actual details they need, the legislators in particular, the people who are voting on it,” Bevin said in an interview at the Governor’s Mansion.
One week ago, Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Jeff Hoover unveiled the “Keeping the Promise” plan, which pledges to meet the traditional “defined benefit” obligations owed to current and retired teachers and public servants while creating a “defined contribution” retirement system for future workers.
“We are at the front edge of trying to come up with a solution,” Bevin told Kentucky Living. “And I believe that what we’ve put forward, while it will take 30 years, it will get us out of the other end of the tunnel and it will become a model for other states to follow because they really don’t have an alternative.”
Kentucky’s three major public pension systems — Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS), Teachers’ Retirement System of Kentucky (TRS), and the Kentucky Judicial Form Retirement System (KJFRS) — collectively administer eight distinct retirement plans.
Kentucky’s $64 billion unfunded pension liability ranks as the worst funded system in the nation. Experts cited by the Bevin administration conclude that the Kentucky Employee Retirement System, Non-Hazardous, will run completely out of money by the year 2022 if meaningful pension reform does not occur.
“If we allow that hole to become so deep that we are ultimately forced by some lawsuit to fill it, it will come at the expense of everything else that people want,” Bevin explained, “which is why it has to be addressed before we become in a crisis mode.”
Kentucky’s credit rating is continuously downgraded because of the shortfall, Bevin added, making it more difficult to borrow money and undermining efforts to recruit businesses to Kentucky.
“If this was a private pension plan, the federal government, by IRS statute, by law, would have shut them down years ago,” the governor said. “We are in horrific shape.”
Asked about concerns of teachers and school superintendents about how the pension changes would affect educators and the education system, Bevin insisted there is “very little sacrifice for those in the system.”
“And for those not yet in the system,” Bevin continued, “they shouldn’t have an assumption of what’s going to be available for them.”
“This is a big problem for the entire state,” Bevin said, “and for any one group, any one interest or organization to think that they should be untouched and everyone else should pay the sacrifice, I think is inappropriate.”
The pending pension changes could be a prelude to yet another special session of the legislature to address another pressing issue for Kentucky, tax reform.
“Possibly. We’ll see,” Bevin replied. “If we can’t get tax reform done as part of this budget session, and we may or not be able to, it may or may not make sense, then, yes, I would do another special session to address that because we’ve got to update and modernize our tax code. It’s very antiquated. It’s counter-productive, we exempt more monies than we take in, everybody knows that, as well.”
The governor said he is up for the challenge, and that anyone else in elected office should be, as well.
“I’m at the parade too, but I’m the guy with the shovel behind the elephant,” Bevin said. “While everyone’s enjoying the show, my job and that of our current legislature is to clean up the mess for those that have preceded us. We’re going to clean it up and we’re going to make Kentucky shine.”
“Clean Power Plan” published in Federal Register on Friday
The member-owners of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives stand to pay a disproportionate price for the changes required in the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP), published in the Federal Register on Friday.
Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are not-for-profit, member-owned entities which serve more than 1.5 million people (about 35% of the state’s population) in 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. All costs are paid by members. Cooperatives serve some of the most remote areas of the commonwealth, where members are often the least able to afford rate increases.
The EPA plan targets coal, the main source of Kentucky’s electricity, in new and aggressive limits on carbon emissions. About 90 percent of electricity generated in Kentucky is by coal fired power plants. The CPP fundamentally changes how electricity is generated, distributed and consumed in the United States.
“The new limits in the plan are impossible to achieve with our current fleet of generators,” said Chris Perry, President and CEO of Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives (KAEC). “The time frame is inconsistent with time needed to build alternative sources. This makes the potential great for increased costs and potential reliability problems.”
In the last decade, the two main suppliers of electricity to cooperative customers, East Kentucky Power Cooperative and Big Rivers Electric Corporation, have invested more than $2 billion in coal assets. These are 20- to 30-year investments.
Cooperative member-owners face compounded costs under the Clean Power Plan:
cost of the electricity as generated, including construction of new plants
cost to pay for debt of prematurely retired coal-fired plants as non-producing stranded assets
cost to pay carbon credits to other states which have an easier burden under the CPP
In 2013, Kentucky had the 3rd most electricity-intensive economy in the U.S., based on electricity consumption per state GDP dollar.
Kentucky has lost one-quarter of its manufacturing jobs since 2000. The Kentucky Energy & Environment Cabinet estimates a ten percent increase in the cost of electricity would trigger a loss in Kentucky of almost $2 billion GDP.
The CPP assumes an increased dependence on natural gas, a commodity which is also used in residential heating, making it prone to price volatility and supply concerns. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) projects a 30 percent increase in demand for natural gas, straining availability during periods of heavy demand, such as in extreme heat or cold.
While coal-fired power plants generally keep 30- to 45-day coal stockpiles, natural gas – by its nature – is not stored, but conveyed by pipelines in a “just-in-time” delivery model. While the coal supply has redundant delivery channels, the natural gas supply is limited to one or two pipelines.
In addition, the NERC report on potential reliability impacts of the Clean Power Plan questions whether adequate equipment (e.g., generators, solar panels, wind facilities, transformers, and conductors) and resources (e.g., engineering, procurement, and construction) will be available to support the plan’s requirements.
Though Kentucky’s electric cooperatives support the coalition of 24 states and energy companies who filed suit today to challenge the regulatory package, cooperatives will comply with federal mandates and have a fiduciary responsibility to plan accordingly, even while courts contemplate whether to vacate the regulations.
Kentucky takes center stage at economic development conference
Like a championship coach opening his playbook for other teams, Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are sharing the secrets of their economic development success with economic development professionals from across the country at a major conference in Louisville later this month.
“We are helping our communities make the very best impression they can, because it means jobs and investment for Kentucky,” said Rodney Hitch, economic development manager for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.
Using ground-breaking tools to showcase Kentucky’s resources to industries looking to expand or relocate, Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have been involved in economic development projects that resulted in 7,000 jobs and over $2 billion in investment for Kentucky.
Last month, the International Economic Development Council awarded the Kentucky team the Excellence In Economic Development Award for New Media at the organization’s annual conference in Toronto.
“We want to share real world experiences and technologies,” said Brad Thomas, associate manager of economic development.
Thomas is among more than a dozen speakers scheduled to address the EUCI conference October 23-24 in Louisville, Economic Development Best Practices within Electric Cooperative & Municipal Utility Communities.
Other presenters include Statebook International, Powersouth Energy Cooperative, Denton Municipal Electric and more, discussing how to leverage numerous economic development tools. The conference will review rural development programs, and assess how to respond to communities’ demands for efficient and renewable energy and site readiness to help “close the deal.”
“The integrated design of the cooperative and municipal utility business model grants the opportunity for this industry to help better serve the communities for which they provide power,” said Jessica Matson, EUCI Program Manager.
Matson said the conference will showcase modern technologies and innovations available for economic development professionals and utilities looking to increase electric load through attraction of new industrial and commercial activity.
Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are leading the field by using PowerMap, a first-of-its-kind tool that puts the power of locational knowledge in the hands of economic development professionals. The technology provides detailed cooperative service territory maps, state of the art drone flights to showcase top industrial sites, and economic development data.
More information is available on the EUCI website or at the EUCI office: 303-770-8800.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Crews from Kentucky’s electric cooperatives were among the hurricane relief workers honored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the U.S. Senate floor on October 3, 2017.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the need for disaster relief for hurricane victims:
“Last week, Congress passed legislation to reauthorize the FAA including its authority to collect and spend money for repairs and replacement parts for our air traffic control system. I am proud that we worked together to get this bill over the finish line. Now the FAA can continue to play a critical role in the federal government’s response to the powerful hurricanes that have hit our country.
“The president is on his way to Puerto Rico to survey the hurricane damage personally and see how the federal government can continue to assist in the recovery efforts. Our thoughts remain with the hurricane victims as they continue to piece their lives and communities back together. During his visit, the president will have the opportunity to see the resilience of the Puerto Rican people. He can also witness the overwhelming support of their fellow Americans who have volunteered to help deliver relief.
“Much of that support has come from the military – including the men and women of Kentucky’s own Air and Army National Guard, who have helped bring relief to Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Just last week, the 101st Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade deployed from Fort Campbell in my home state to help support relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
“President Trump will also have the chance to see the groundswell of generosity from our communities. Many donated money, food, or other essentials. Other brave Americans left their homes behind to go to disaster sites to offer aid. I am especially proud to recognize some of the Kentuckians who have volunteered to join the relief efforts in the wake of these storms.
“The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services selected eight fire departments from around my state to send to Florida to assist local operations after Hurricane Irma. Working 12-hour shifts, these firefighters responded to 9-1-1 calls in Tampa as residents begin to move back into their homes.
“Throughout my state, churches and non-profits sent volunteers to help however they could. One religious organization arranged more than 200 volunteers to help flood victims in Texas and Florida. In all, they served over 78,000 meals, helped with laundry, and distributed many bottles of water.
“The Kentucky Humane Society stepped in to care for pets that were affected, and chapters of the American Red Cross from across the Commonwealth have mobilized to help where needed. The Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives sent dozens of linemen to Georgia to help restore power after Hurricane Irma. The joint effort from 17 of our state’s electric cooperatives represents one of the largest mutual deployments in Kentucky history.
“These Kentuckians – along with so many more – have generously given their time and labor to help their fellow Americans during this time of suffering. And they aren’t alone. Compassionate men and women from around the country have joined the cause to help ease the pain of the victims.
“Along with my colleagues in the Senate, I am committed to continuing to do our part to support relief along with FEMA, the Department of Defense, and the rest of the administration. We will soon receive a supplemental funding request from the administration, and when we do I expect Congress will act quickly to ensure that the men and women providing critical support in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have the resources they need. The Senate will continue to stand with those suffering from these devastating storms.”
Kentucky voters aren’t the only ones facing a critical decision. The next governor must decide how to confront controversial EPA regulations.
With Kentucky’s future electric rates hanging in the balance, opposing candidates for governor share a common suggestion, that the state’s electricity providers should resist crafting a plan to comply with the stricter than expected final rule of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
“I don’t think you ought to start developing a plan,” Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) said during a gubernatorial debate before the 52-member board of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives (KAEC) in Louisville.
“I would instruct you not to comply,” agreed businessman Matt Bevin (R). “Because, as a state, we will not comply. As governor, I will not submit that plan, and I will have your back on that.”
At the September 22 debate, both Bevin and Conway recognized the importance of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives in the lives of the approximately 1.7 million people they serve, stressing the legacy of reliable and affordable electricity, especially in rural areas dealing with poor economic conditions.
The EPA’s final rule to limit carbon emissions across the United States shocked Kentucky energy officials when it was announced in August because it requires a much steeper reduction of CO2 emissions than the original plan.
The Clean Power Plan calls for a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions nationwide by 2030. The plan’s final rule calls for Kentucky to reduce its carbon emissions by 41 percent by that same deadline.
“The new limits in the plan are impossible to achieve with our current fleet of generators,” says KAEC President and CEO Chris Perry. “The time frame is inconsistent with time needed to build alternative sources. This makes the potential great for increased costs and potential reliability problems.”
How Kentucky chooses to react to the EPA mandate is one of the first major decisions facing the next governor of Kentucky, who will take office on December 8.
If a state fails to file a state implementation plan, it becomes subject to a federal implementation plan. Losing control of implementation is a concern to power generating cooperatives, such as East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) in Winchester. During the debate, EKPC President and CEO Tony Campbell reminded the candidates of what’s at stake in the EPA debate.
“I think it is conceivable that we could see a doubling of rates” by 2030, Campbell told the candidates, “especially with natural gas prices moving upward. Are you going to put an order out for us not to comply? Because we’re going to have to comply with one or the other if it’s a federal law.”
“We do not need to comply with the regulatory suggestions from unelected bodies,” Bevin says. “There is no legally binding mandate, none whatsoever, from the EPA that forces us as a state or you ultimately as individual cooperatives to comply, and I will have your back on that.”
Conway has sued the EPA as Kentucky’s attorney general, but a federal appeals court rejected Kentucky’s request for a preliminary injunction against the Clean Power Plan because the final rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register.
“The D.C. Circuit (Court), I think, is very sympathetic to our arguments,” Conway says. “So as soon as that thing is published, I as attorney general or I as governor, will sue, along with other states, to get an injunction in place, to stay the implementation of that, pending the outcome on the merits of this case.”
Campbell believes Kentucky’s energy regulators should begin developing a plan with input from Kentucky’s electric utilities.
“It is wise to have that plan as an option,” Campbell says. “Ultimately, it will be up to the governor’s administration to decide whether to submit that plan.”
“I would tell you, no, do not begin planning for that,” Conway says, “because I think we’re going to win this case. I think it’s pretty clear that the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t followed its own governing statutes. I mean, they are reregulating carbon several times under several sections of the Clean Air Act.
“They haven’t released their science,” Conway says. “They haven’t done a cost-benefit analysis, which the MATS case that we just won at the Supreme Court, tells us they have to do.”
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) regulation, ruling that the EPA had not taken the costs to utility companies into consideration when it formulated the rule.
Because electric utilities need to make long-term decisions based on the best available information, the invalidation of the MATS regulation came only after the utilities began taking action to comply with it.
“We had a victory,” Conway says, “but it resulted in about 18 percent of coal-fired generation being retired in trying to comply with a rule that wasn’t legitimate in the first place.”
Bevin says he is prepared to join the attorneys general and governors in 26 other states refusing to submit state implementation plans.
“I know you’re concerned about the fact that while they’ve said that if we don’t submit a plan, they’ll submit one for us, and that may be more onerous on some of you, than the alternative,” Bevin acknowledges. “And I appreciate that, and so we’ll have open dialogue about this. We’ll have a conversation about this. But I think it would be a mistake.”
Though Bevin and Conway appear to be in agreement on Kentucky’s next move, the candidates sparred at the debate about each other’s abilities and commitment to deal with the issue. Bevin alleged that Conway has a spotty record on energy issues, citing the Sierra Club’s support for Conway in a prior congressional race.
“Truth is, we’re very different people,” Bevin says. “I will stand on our autonomy. I will stand as somebody who has the authority as a governor to be the last line of defense.”
Bevin warns that rates will increase “catastrophically” without action.
“It’s going to come back on you,” Bevin says. “Your customers will be outraged at the 20-, 30-, 50-, 100-percent increases, and ultimately, that is not acceptable.”
Conway disputed Bevin’s charge that he once favored “cap and trade” legislation to limit carbon emissions and argued that he is better equipped and experienced to handle the challenges ahead.
“I have stood up, I’ve taken on my own party,” Conway says. “I’ve put people over politics, I’ve put Kentucky first. And I am going to do everything I can to stop the Clean Power Plan because I think it hurts Kentucky. I’m going to see this lawsuit through to the end as attorney general and as your next governor. We will not be submitting a plan to the EPA while we do not think that this rule is legitimate. End of story.”
Independent gubernatorial candidate Drew Curtis was not a part of the KAEC debate, but a statement released on his campaign Web site indicates support for both the Clean Power Plan and Kentucky providing an implementation plan.
“Unless we do provide one, the EPA takes over and there is no recourse later to provide a state plan,” Curtis says in his statement. “As governor I’d prefer to retain control of this program, so we must provide a plan to the EPA for Kentucky to implement the Clean Power Plan.”
Both Bevin and Conway say the state needs to change its tax structure, including phasing out the inventory tax, yet they differ on the current shape of the rural economy under current Governor Steve Beshear.
“Kentucky’s doing pretty well right now,” Conway says, explaining that his administration’s Economic Development Cabinet would have the right priorities and use tax incentives to create jobs.
Conway also reiterated support for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative to boost eastern Kentucky, taking advantage of public-private partnerships to deliver broadband access.
Bevin argued for fundamental changes.
“We have got to be serious about why we are being held back,” Bevin says. “We must pass Right to Work legislation. It has to happen. This is no longer an option.”
Bevin also says Beshear’s expansion of Medicaid is unsustainable and comes at a price that taxpayers “cannot bear.”
Both candidates told the KAEC board that Kentucky’s community and technical schools need to meet the needs of employers.
“If we want certain outcomes, we need to incentivize those outcomes,” Bevin says.
Conway says early childhood education would be a major focus of his administration.
“We have too many kids in rural areas in single-parent families that aren’t getting exposed to the tools they need at the tenderest ages to make certain they learn,” Conway says. “And that’s how you break the cycle of poverty.”
Bill Prather, president and CEO of Farmers Rural Electric Cooperative in Glasgow, told the candidates about a lack of available workers in some parts of Kentucky, explaining that people are opting to collect state and federal benefits rather than enter the workforce.
“There should not be a working age, able-bodied childless man or woman in this state receiving benefits from this state,” Bevin says. “Period.”
Conway says Kentucky needs to “re-engineer the way the Workforce Development Cabinet does business,” and to coach high school students to prepare for jobs of the future.
Responding to concerns by board member Linda West of Salt River Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Bardstown, the candidates disagree on the best course of action to rescue Kentucky’s imperiled pension systems for retired state workers and teachers.
“It is impossible to maintain as a defined benefit program,” Bevin says. “We’ve got to move to a defined contribution plan for all people who are not currently in the plan.”
Conway countered that Kentucky has largely adopted recommendations by the Pew Foundation to address pension shortfalls.
“It’s going to take a decade and a half of sound budgeting principles to get it out (of debt),” Conway says, adding that he is committed to fully funding future pension obligations in each Kentucky budget, and finding a dedicated stream of revenue to dedicate to pension obligations.
“We are encouraged they understand the importance of rural Kentucky and the importance of having affordable energy to drive job growth in the future,” says Perry. “It’s critical that the next governor understands the challenges faced by the utility industry.” KL
Joe Arnold is KAEC’s Vice President of Strategic Communications. He joins KAEC after 20 years in television news and radio.
To better gain attention for communities located primarily in rural Kentucky, the co-ops have developed ground-breaking tools to showcase Kentucky’s resources to industries looking to expand or relocate.
In particular, the IEDC award singled out PowerMap featuring StateBook and PowerVision, a project that combines GPS mapping with StateBook’s economic development database and drone-captured video and data to make Kentucky’s sites highly visible and accessible around the globe. And it’s all contained in applications for handheld devices.
“Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have been on the cutting edge of using technology to spur economic development and it has dramatically increased our activity,” said Brad Thomas, Associate Manager of Economic Development for the co-ops.
Since the beginning of 2015, Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have been involved in economic development projects that resulted in 7,000 jobs and over $2 billion in investment for Kentucky.
“Those jobs and investment are making a positive difference for many communities across Kentucky,” Hitch said.
In addition, developing the online tools has involved two Kentucky-based firms, Interapt and Qk4.
Interapt developed the PowerMap application and even used computer coders from its Eastern Kentucky training program, which Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives helped to start.
Qk4 applied its unique abilities in combining engineering and drone technologies to help develop the PowerVision application.
Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives include 17 not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperatives that serve more than 1 million Kentucky residents across 87 Kentucky counties. They include: