Category: Uncategorized

Youth Tour goes ‘virtual’

Coronavirus changes co-op plans

(March 27, 2020) – With the Frankfort Youth Tour of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, elected leaders are making sure that the 150 high school juniors selected for the leadership program are still receiving a virtual dose of civic engagement.
Video messages by Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams and Representative Samara Heavrin highlight the “Virtual Frankfort Youth Tour” released by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. Other elected leaders are also invited to add their messages to the video.

“Now more than ever we need those of you who are eligible to register to vote, and we need poll workers” says Adams, whose message focused on rural voting. He credited his election in November to voters in rural counties saying: “My grandfather made me this wooden state of Kentucky after I won my race. Look how many counties are red, rural counties. Never forget every vote counts.”
Previously scheduled for March 17, the 2020 Frankfort Youth Tour was to also kick off this year’s Co-ops Vote initiative to encourage civic engagement by local consumer-members of Kentucky co-ops. Electric cooperatives serve 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
“We are really sorry to miss the opportunity to take students to Frankfort. It’s not only an opportunity for our students to learn more about Kentucky’s government, but for those that go on to the Washington Youth Tour, it creates an even deeper connection between local and national leadership” says Sarah Fellows of Nolin RECC.
For nearly fifty years, Kentucky’s local electric cooperatives have sponsored youth tours of both Frankfort and Washington, D.C., selecting rising young leaders in their service territories to gain a personal understanding of American history, civic affairs, and their role as citizens and members of electric cooperatives.
“It saddens me that we had to cancel the Frankfort Tour, but it was the best decision,” says Vanessa Blagg of Jackson Purchase Energy. “Our students’ health and well-being are of the utmost important to us.”
“My mom told me the trip to Frankfort was cancelled,” says Gabe McFadyen, a Warren RECC student. “I’m bummed, but I understand.”
Heavrin, who was sponsored on the 2009 Washington Youth Tour by Warren RECC, says the experience opened her to career opportunities she didn’t know existed. After working on Capitol Hill and the Kentucky State Treasurer’s office, Heavrin was elected in November to represent Kentucky’s 18th House District, serving Grayson and Hardin Counties.
“I became the youngest woman ever to serve in the Kentucky General Assembly and I truly give that all up to my opportunity to be on the Washington Youth Tour,” Heavrin says. “I’m so thankful Kentucky Electric Cooperatives invested in me just like they are investing in you today. What an incredible opportunity you have to learn more about our government and a life as a public servant.”
In deciding to postpone the 2020 Frankfort Youth Tour, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives heeded the call of Governor Andy Beshear to avoid large social gatherings. Since then, Beshear has only intensified those public health directives.
“The safety and quality of life of our local co-op consumer-members are our priorities,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We hope to find an alternative date in the future to continue this important commitment to Kentucky’s future.”

We’re all in this together

We’re in the middle of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic now, but when the crisis has passed, I hope we can look back at this disaster to recognize its irony. I hope we can say that a virus that forced us to stay away from each other also brought us together.

It’s something that your local electric cooperative knows well, that when our communities are facing the greatest challenges are the times we also see the best of our neighbors and friends, a sense of civic duty and a resolve to do what it takes to not only overcome an obstacle but move forward as well. Kentucky’s electric cooperative program began as America was clawing its way out of the Great Depression. Since then, we have weathered many storms and tragedies, the sacrifice of our soldiers in war, natural disasters, the ravages of drug abuse, farming downturns and a changing economy that left many of our communities behind.

Our parents and grandparents found the will and the ways. Then, as now, we’re all in this together.

As this current crisis continues to unfold at a dizzying pace, Kentucky’s electric co-ops have taken measures to encourage the health and safety of local consumer-members and of co-op employees so that nothing threatens the uninterrupted service of safe, reliable and affordable electricity. 

I hope you see this special April Travel Issue of Kentucky Living as further testament to that uninterrupted flow of Kentucky energy. Though every individual Kentuckian, industry and business is affected by the economic stranglehold of this pandemic, our hope for the future is bolstered by acts of kindness and the promise of better days ahead.

I think about the beautiful and interesting tourism attractions and destinations highlighted in this month’s issue. Be sure to call ahead or check online to see whether the events and places featured here are affected by pandemic protocols. For those that have had to curtail operations, I encourage you to save this magazine all year long as a handy guide of places to go, enjoy and support in the future. Kentucky’s tourism treasures are going to need our help.

I have confidence we will support them. After all, we’re all in this together.


Frankfort Youth Tour postponed

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives heed Governor’s caution amid COVID-19 concerns

Frankfort, Ky. – Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Frankfort Youth Tour which annually sends 150 high school juniors from across Kentucky to the state capitol has been indefinitely postponed out of public health concerns amid COVID-19.

“The safety and quality of life of our local co-op consumer-members are our priorities,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “Based on the recommendation of Governor Beshear to avoid large social gatherings and in an effort to protect all Kentuckians, we made the decision to postpone the 2020 Frankfort Youth Tour. We hope to find an alternative date in the future to continue this important commitment to Kentucky’s future.”

Previously scheduled for Tuesday March 17, the Frankfort Youth Tour includes remarks from elected leaders, tours of the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion and civic education at the Kentucky History Center and Museum. For nearly fifty years, Kentucky’s local electric cooperatives have sponsored youth tours of both Frankfort and Washington, D.C., selecting rising young leaders in their service territories to gain a personal understanding of American history, civic affairs and their role as citizens and members of electric cooperatives.

Rural act to fix tax law unintended consequence

Electric cooperative leaders from Kentucky are joining co-ops across America calling on Congress to fix an unintended consequence of changes to federal tax law, warning that co-ops risk losing their nonprofit status if a major ice storm or tornado strikes a state.

To maintain tax-exempt status, no more than 15% of a co-op’s annual gross income can come from sources other than co-op members. Under the new law, government grants are considered non-member income—increasing the risk that co-ops working to restore their systems after major storms or help their community will be forced to forfeit their tax-exempt status.

Other federal or state government funding that could fall into this category are grants for economic development, energy efficiency and rural broadband deployment. 

Without tax-exempt status, co-ops will be forced to return a significant portion of those funds to the government in taxes rather than using the monies for their intended purpose.

“These changes leave a cloud of uncertainty hanging over electric co-ops,” says Marty Littrel, president and CEO of Meade County RECC, one of 26 electric cooperatives in Kentucky. “This uncertainty puts co-ops and their communities in a difficult position as they work to plan for the future.”

The Rural Act is bipartisan legislation that would correct this mistake. Co-sponsors include Kentucky Congressmen Andy Barr and James Comer.

—Joe Arnold

When a heat pump is the right choice

There are several types of heat pumps—ductless mini-split heat pumps and central system air-source heat pumps are the most common.

The ductless mini-split heat pump system, a good solution in replacing inefficient older baseboard heaters, has a compressor outside that is connected with refrigerant lines to the blowers inside. A ductless system can serve up to four zones, so it can heat a small home or be combined with another heating system in a larger home. It’s a great option for a home that does not have a duct system, or if the existing duct system is inefficient or poorly designed.

The second option, the central system air-source heat pump, can be an efficient option if the existing duct system is in good shape. This system’s compressor is also outside, but in this case, it’s connected to the home’s duct system to distribute cold or warm air through the existing vents. 

A third option is a ground-source, or geothermal heat pump, which uses a system that taps into heat that’s naturally underground year-round. Geothermal systems are typically a more expensive investment up front, but they are the most energy efficient and cost effective of all the options.

Pumping up advantages

Heat pumps usually are much more efficient than electric resistance systems and can be a solid solution in a variety of circumstances, from a manufactured home or construction addition to a replacement for a broken or inefficient heating and cooling system. They’re also becoming more popular for central heating in new construction.

If you currently are using electric resistance, heating oil or propane gas, a heat pump can reduce heating costs up to 75%. It also can cut cooling costs. A ductless mini-split heat pump offers heating and cooling flexibility because it can serve multiple zones or be used with another system. 

Safety also is a factor. Heat pumps eliminate the need to burn fuels inside your home and exhaust combustion gases. There’s no risk of carbon monoxide or gas leaks that can come from flaws in a system that runs on natural gas, propane, fuel oil or wood.

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Kentucky co-ops on mission in off-year election

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are urging local consumer-members in Kentucky’s rural areas to make sure that they are registered to vote and that their registration is up to date ahead of the November 5 statewide election.

Co-ops across the country are joining National Voter Registration Day efforts to create broad awareness of voter registration opportunities to reach tens of thousands of voters who may not register otherwise. The registration efforts are in addition to the Co-ops Vote initiative Kentucky co-ops launched in 2016.

Kentuckians can easily register and update their registration with, the Commonwealth’s online voter portal. County clerks’ offices throughout Kentucky will accept online and paper applications until 4 p.m. local time on the deadline. Mail-in voter registration applications must be postmarked by October 7, 2019.


To be eligible to vote, Kentuckians must:


  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be a Kentucky resident for at least 29 days before Election Day.
  • Be at least 18 years old on or before the General Election.
  • Not be a convicted felon, or if convicted of a felony offense, must have obtained a restoration of civil rights.
  • Not have been adjudged “mentally incompetent.”
  • Not claim the right to vote anywhere outside Kentucky.
  • Young people who are 17 years old but will be 18 years old on or before the November 5, 2019 General Election are eligible to register as well.


Voters who have recently moved need to update their voter registration information by no later than October 7, 2019.

Voters may check their current registration status and where they vote at For questions, contact your county clerk or the State Board of Elections at (502) 573-7100.

Ahead of next year’s presidential election, Kentucky is among three states holding elections for governor. National political observers are carefully watching the 2019 contests in Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana for any signs of what they may say about the 2020 national race.

Yet for Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, the off-year election is more than just a barometer of a larger national picture. On November 5, Kentucky voters will elect the commonwealth’s constitutional officers for the next four-year term, and co-ops are again stressing the importance of voting to rural citizens.

“They might call it an ‘off-year election,’ but we are on mission to remind rural voters that they need to stand up for local communities and issues,” says Chris Perry, president of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “That’s why Kentucky co-ops enthusiastically support the Co-ops Vote program.”

In addition to advocating for issues that affect the ability of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity, co-ops are also leading the drive for more voter participation in the rural areas they serve.

In the most recent gubernatorial election in 2015, Kentucky’s statewide voter turnout was only 30.6 percent. Sixty-six of Kentucky’s 120 counties failed to reach 30% voter turnout, mostly in rural areas.

In 2015, three rural Kentucky counties failed to reach even 20% voter turnout.

The following year, the Co-ops Vote campaign began, aiming to reverse the downward trend in rural voting. In the 2016 presidential election, rural voter turnout in Kentucky accounted for an increase of about 85,000 voters between 2012 and 2016.

Despite the increase in the number of voters in 2016, Kentucky’s voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters slightly decreased, down one percentage point compared to 2012, from about 60 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016.

Kentucky’s off-year elections typically draw far fewer voters to the polls. In 2011, the voter turnout was a measly 28.6%, and in 2007, 37.8% of registered voters cast ballots.

“If rural Kentuckians want elected leaders to pay attention to their concerns, voting is the most effective method,” says Chris Perry, president of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “I encourage all Kentuckians to join me in making the commitment to vote.”

Anyone who can vote, no matter where you live or whether you are a co-op member, can participate in the non-partisan Co-ops Vote and take advantage of its voter resources. Just visit and take the pledge to vote in this year’s elections. Once you’ve registered, you’ll have access to information on registering to vote, where to vote, and background on all the candidates.

“The communities and rural areas served by co-ops are facing challenges that require attention and respect,” Perry says. “It’s easy to attack rural electric cooperatives. We are paying attention to see who gives co-ops and their members a fair shake in Frankfort.”

What to pack for Youth Tour









The flip of a switch

Electric reliability depends on big plans and small fixes 

Next time you flip a switch and the light comes on, think about the time it didn’t in a spectacular way for nearly 4,000 Kentucky electric co-op members.

Around 1 a.m. on a day in May 2011, a snake slithered into a Berea-area substation—that’s one of those fenced-in areas full of wires and transformers where high voltage gets stepped down for use in your home.

A snake is shaped a bit like a wire, and the last act for this reptile connected a couple of conductors not meant to be connected. Metering equipment shorted out, rupturing the voltage regulator and sparking a fire that destroyed most of the equipment in the substation.

Lights came back on for the co-op members less than 24 hours later. But the snake and the substation tell a larger tale of what it takes to keep electricity flowing. That larger story is that while building and maintaining a reliable electric grid calls for billions of dollars and thousands of miles of power lines, you also have to sweat the small stuff.

To find out what it takes to make sure you have electricity whenever you want it, we went to the source of the power.

For co-op members in Kentucky, that power comes from one of three large organizations, called generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts), because, of course, they make sure that electricity gets generated, then transmitted to your local electric cooperative. Your local co-op is called a distribution co-op because it distributes that power to the homes and businesses in your area.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which is based in Winchester, supplies 16 distribution co-ops in primarily the eastern half of the state; Big Rivers Electric Corporation is the Henderson-based G&T for the three distribution co-ops along the northwest Kentucky border; and the Tennessee Valley Authority, which technically is not a cooperative G&T, but instead is a federal corporation, provides electricity to 154 local power companies in seven states, including five distribution co-ops in southwest Kentucky.

Representatives from all three tell similar stories about the enormous job of keeping the electricity flowing 24/7. And they all talk about critters—woodpeckers for Big Rivers and buzzards for TVA.

“Woodpeckers love our poles; they’re apparently delicious,” says Mike Chambliss, Big Rivers’ vice president of system operations. Big Rivers developed a mesh covering to prevent the woodpeckers from weakening the poles. TVA installs buzzard shields to keep the birds off its power lines and transmission towers.

Nick Comer, the external affairs manager with East Kentucky Power, says it began using an attachment to go around the base of a substation fence, with a lip sticking out at the top so snakes can’t crawl up, over and in.

Planning and security

Preventing interference from varmints is just part of running the electric grid, which the National Academy of Engineering calls the most important engineering achievement of the 20th century. Comer, Chambliss and Ernie Peterson, the Kentucky general manager for TVA customer delivery, all describe
their mission as providing reliable, affordable and safe electricity—and they say each of those is critically important.

“You start with the fuel source,” says Peterson, which in Kentucky is mostly coal and natural gas, as well as some hydroelectricity, nuclear power and, increasingly, solar energy and other renewable power sources. “You’ve got to get that fuel to the power plant and then the plant’s got to be able to reliably convert that fuel into electricity, and then you’ve got to have all the proper transmission equipment in place so you can get the electricity to the distribution cooperative where they have all the right transformers and wires and communications equipment to get those electrons to the individual homes, businesses and industry.”

One key to getting all that done is planning. Massive, detailed planning. Every few years the three G&Ts produce a document of more than 200 pages called an integrated resource plan. In between are annual planning sessions.

East Kentucky Power is in the middle of its several-monthlong strategic planning session, involving dozens of staff and board members. They’ll analyze and talk through markets and finances for the different fuels they use, the future of renewable energy, environmental and other regulations, the status of their power plants and what the future cost of electricity might be.

All that planning results in power being off for only about two hours a year for the average utility customer in the United States. And the trend is improving. According to one standardized measure (a measure that excludes both extremely short outages and especially long and widespread outages), the average American was without power for just 127 minutes in 2016, down from 144 minutes 10 years earlier. The number of outages per consumer declined slightly as well, from 1.33 a year in 2007 to 1.3 in 2016. The length of each of those outages declined from 109 minutes in 2007 to 99 minutes 10 years later.

That reliability doesn’t happen without a lot of work. At Big Rivers, quarterly meetings of maintenance, engineering and operations staff review and find solutions for any problems.

Richard Easton is a maintenance leadman with Grayson RECC and part of the all-important team that keeps the lights on. Photo by Tim Webb

And they make up practice problems to solve.

“You have to anticipate that things are going to go wrong,” says Chambliss. “If a car hits a pole you have to have a plan and you have to revise that plan frequently and you have to drill on that plan. You have to create scenarios and put your people to grueling exercises.”

How do they get the ideas for the grueling scenarios?

“We come up with scenarios like you have this huge rain event where the roads are flooded and closed, then just as the rain stops, you have a major windstorm,” says Chambliss. “We blow everything down and now tell people to figure out how to get the lights back on. Last year we used an earthquake.”

Physical security and cybersecurity add another ingredient to reliability. The G&Ts talk about installing cameras to prevent theft of copper wire from substations. They describe protections from the thousands of electronic threats every day to the electricity network. Reliability involves working with state, regional and federal groups, especially the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which develops and enforces standards to keep the lights on.

So electric utility reliability requires steps as big as building firewalls against internet hackers to as small as developing barriers for snakes. Entire departments are tasked with keeping trees and other vegetation away from where they can interfere with power lines.

For TVA’s Ernie Peterson, that broad and varied work and expertise is worth the attention it gets.

“I’ve spent some time on mission trips in other countries where having electric power, if you had it at all, is certainly not reliable,” says Peterson. “We’re blessed here to have electric power available to us anytime we want, truly at the flip of a switch. That doesn’t just happen.”

By Paul Wesslund, from Kentucky Living, October 2018.


A co-op success story | Kentucky steel plant nearly doubling capacity

Expansion emphasizes partnership between industry, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives and state government

Kentucky electric cooperative leaders are cheering an announcement by the Nucor Corp. that it will invest $650 million to nearly double its steel-making capacity at a plant in Gallatin County served by Owen Electric Cooperative.

“We are thrilled Nucor has chosen to invest and create additional jobs in Kentucky,” said Mark Stallons, president and CEO of Owen Electric. “All parties have been committed to developing a close working relationship in order to develop solutions that satisfy each organization’s expectations. Nucor has been an excellent partner.”

Leaders of Owen Electric Cooperative, which serves the mill, and East Kentucky Power Cooperative,  the wholesale energy provider to Owen Electric, worked closely with Nucor officials to support the phase II expansion, which is expected to add another 70 jobs.

“We would like to thank Governor Matt Bevin, our local officials, East Kentucky Power Cooperative and Owen Electric, our teammates and the entire community for their support,” said John Farris, vice president and general manager, Nucor Steel Gallatin. “The project will allow us to better serve our automotive and value-added customers.”

Kentucky offers the lowest industrial electric power rates east of the Mississippi – one of its many attractive features for manufacturers. That played a role in Nucor’s decision, as the mill is a major electricity customer and the phase II expansion will create significant additional demand.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative President and CEO Anthony “Tony” Campbell welcomed the decision.

“Nucor’s decision to bring high-quality jobs to Kentucky is wonderful news. This emphasizes the critical importance of affordable, reliable energy for Kentucky’s industries to compete in the global economy,” Campbell said. “Nucor is an important partner for Owen Electric and EKPC, and we are proud of our longstanding relationship.”

Since Governor Matt Bevin took office in 2015, one out of every four dollars invested by economic development projects in Kentucky has been in Kentucky Touchstone Energy Cooperative territory served by East Kentucky Power Cooperative. That figure does not include even more investments in areas served by Big Rivers Electric and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“Nucor is doing incredible things at its Kentucky steel mill,” Bevin said. “We are excited that, after a substantial investment in 2017, the company has decided to move forward with its phase II project and create additional job opportunities for the county and surrounding communities.

“The steel and primary metals industry are a driving force behind the commonwealth’s surging economy, and this announcement reflects the distinct advantages we have to offer engineering and manufacturing companies. Nucor is certainly a major player in this industry, and we are grateful for their commitment to continue forging success right here in Kentucky,” Bevin continued.

This second phase will increase the mill’s annual capacity from 1.6 million tons of coiled sheet steel to approximately 3 million tons. As well, it will allow the mill to produce coils up to 73 inches wide.

In May 2017, Nucor announced its phase I project; construction of a new building and installation of galvanizing and pickling lines. That phase, expected to open in the first half of 2019, represents a $176 million investment creating 75 full-time jobs. The two phases position the mill to produce substantially more, wider and value-added products, suitable for a broader range of manufacturers and products.

“This investment is another major component of our planned strategy for long-term profitable growth,” said John Ferriola, Chairman, CEO and president of Nucor. “Together with the new galvanizing line, this expansion increases our presence in the important Midwest market, specifically in the automotive, agriculture, heavy equipment, and energy pipe and tube sectors.”

Nucor purchased the former Gallatin Steel Co. from Gerdau SA and ArcelorMittal in late 2014 for approximately $780 million. The mill currently employs 465 people.

In Kentucky, Nucor and its affiliates employ approximately 2,000 people and include Nucor Steel Gallatin, Steel Technologies LLC, Republic Conduit, and Harris Rebar. Nucor also owns the David J. Joseph Co. and its six subsidiary River Metals Recycling facilities across the state, which collect and recycle scrap metal.

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Nucor Corp. is North America’s largest recycler and the nation’s largest producer of steel and steel products. The company employs more than 25,000 people at about 200 facilities primarily located in the US and Canada, including several wholly owned subsidiaries.

The company has three segments: steel mills, steel products and raw materials. Nucor’s products include, carbon and alloy steel – in bars, beams, sheet and plate, hollow structural section tubing, electrical conduit, steel piling, steel joists and joist girders, steel deck, fabricated concrete reinforcing steel, cold finished steel, steel fasteners, metal building systems, steel grating, wire and wire mesh.

Founded in 1955, Nucor Corp. traces its roots to 1905 when Ransom E. Olds, Oldsmobile’s creator, left his company after a stockholders dispute. He formed REO Motor Co., which evolved into the Nuclear Corporation of America, and ultimately became Nucor in 1971.