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Video airs concerns

A new video represents the voices and experiences of average Americans who are facing the possibility of increased costs for their electricity due to proposed EPA regulations. Consumers are concerned with the supply and price of electric power, if our plentiful and reliable supply of coal can’t be used to generate electricity.

Click here to watch the video 

Recent regulations announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require new and existing coal-burning power plants to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted, to levels that are impossible to meet without some type of “carbon capture” technology. The problem is, no commercial-scale carbon capture systems have been proven as viable, let alone affordable. If the EPA standards go into effect, new coal generation plants may never be built that could use our most plentiful fuel, and many existing coal plants would probably shut down rather than spend hundreds of millions of dollars for additional emissions controls.

That would be bad for consumers in Illinois and other states that rely on coal for a large portion of their reliable, affordable energy supply. President/CEO David Stuva pointed out to members at our Annual Meeting that Illinois’ not-for-profit electric cooperatives support an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, one that incorporates natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy, and coal to generate power.

“The fact of the matter is the regulations do have the potential to impact real people,” says Stuva. “We’re asking our members to contact their elected officials, or go online to www.action.coop, and send a message to the EPA that expresses their concerns about the real world impact of the proposed regulations.”

Climage Change Strategy

 


SmartHub now online!

The new SmartHub communications tool is now in place for
RECC members’ use, providing more information than ever before on your computer, smart phone, or tablet. SmartHub lets you view or pay your monthly electric bill, but it also offers so much more information and convenience:

• Quickly pay your bill

• Review past payments

• Receive bill reminders

• View your hourly, daily, and monthly electric use

• Update your account or contact information

• Get outage information

• Receive alerts from RECC

Watch a short video introduction about SmartHub

SmartHub can be used on a computer website, and that’s where you should register and set up a secure password. Members registered for our previous e-bill site will use the same sign-on information as before.
Click here to register

We’re also offering a free SmartHub app, which can be downloaded for Apple and Android mobile devices. Just go to the Apple Store® or the Android® Market, and search for SmartHub.

After downloading the app on your mobile device, the installation will prompt you to find your electric co-op. You can type in “Rural Electric Convenience” or just search through the list to find it.

 We’re excited about SmartHub and the many features it offers to our members. We hope you’ll give it a try, and keep your information about Rural Electric and your account close at hand!

SmartHub Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 

 


Home Energy Audit

Have you had your home checked out, to see if it’s ready for another grueling Midwest winter?Crawl Space Foam A home energy audit determines how much energy your home consumes and assesses what measures you can take to make your home more efficient. Just because “nothing’s broken” doesn’t mean your home may not have a serious energy problem, or several small areas where you could be saving energy every month.

Several RECC members had their homes checked out in the past year, under the HomE program that offered insulation and heating system rebates with funding from the State Energy Office. They often found that their attic insulation was below today’s construction standards, along with installation deficiencies and obvious air leakage paths.

Audits were performed by RECC and local contractors, and efficiency projects included fiberglass, cellulose and spray foam insulations along with rigid foam board, in addition to caulking and sealing materials.

While RECC does not have insulation rebates available at this time, you can still take advantage of federal tax credits for qualifying insulation and high-efficiency heating system projects completed before Dec. 31, 2013.

Here are several local insulation contractors you can contact about checking your home’s weatherization needs. We always suggest getting more than one bid on any major project to help you determine the best plan for your home.

Anders Insulation                All Green Contractors          Pioneer Homes

New Berlin                             303 Williams Lane                 430 S. Spresser St.

Springfield                              Chatham, IL  62629                Taylorville, IL 62568            

(217) 306-2300                       (217) 483-7803                       (217) 820-0481

 

R Factor Insulation               Capital Weatherization      Prairie Insulation

433 N. Broad, P.O. Box 198   300 S. Church St.                   3501 Mayflower Blvd

Carlinville, IL  62626              Mechanicsburg, IL  62545     Springfield, IL 62711

(217) 415-3315                        (217) 364-8026                       (217) 787-9388

 

EnviroFoam of Illinois          ProFoam

PO Box 15                               327 Goby Trail

Chatham, IL 62629                 Waggoner, IL 62572

(217) 553-8661                        (217) 710-5375

 

 


Electric Aggregation Is Hot Topic Across Illinois

Click To Read Our Aggregation Fact Sheet

Many communities and counties across Illinois have begun aggregating their citizens’ buying power for electricity from Ameren or Commonwealth Edison companies, but co-op members are not affected by the power marketing programs. Under the 1997 Illinois electric deregulation law, not-for-profit electric cooperatives and municipally owned utilities were treated differently than for-profit, investor-owned utilities.

Because of their consumer-owned structure and aggregated buying power, the not-for-profit and locally owned and controlled electric cooperatives were allowed to maintain their local decision making authority on whether or not to maintain their aggregated buying power as a group, or to enter the deregulated market with both its risks and potential rewards.

The towns and counties that have approved aggregation plans are doing what Illinois electric cooperatives have already been doing for their member-owners for 75 years. They are basically creating power purchasing cooperatives. But, they’re signing one- or two-year contracts for power supplies, compared to the long-term contracts that RECC and other cooperatives have to assure a reliable, reasonably-priced electricity source for years to come.

RECC’s board of directors does not believe that the small short-term savings offered by some power marketers will offset the risks of abandoning our existing secure power supplies. That’s one reason why we’re not participating in the “deregulated” power program set up by the state.

Investor-owned Utility Deregulation

In 1997 the Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation that deregulated investor-owned utilities in Illinois. This legislation was motivated at the time largely by the desire of large commercial/industrial entities to have alternative options for wholesale power.

The original 1997 electric utility deregulation legislation was entitled “The Customer Choice and Rate Relief Act.” As the title implies, investor-owned utility customers were given a choice to continue to purchase their wholesale electricity from the traditional investor-owned utility or from an alternative supplier based on the then prevailing market price. These alternative suppliers were termed Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers (ARES). The 1997 legislation set out a timetable for the investor-owned utilities in the state to allow customers to purchase from an ARES. 

The 1997 electric utility deregulation legislation treated the not-for profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives and municipal systems differently than for-profit, investor-owned utilities. For municipal electric utility systems and electric cooperatives, all decisions relating to entry into a deregulated market were delegated to the governing bodies of each local system (in the case of municipal utilities, the elected city council; in the case of co-ops, the member-elected board of directors). A couple of electric cooperatives tested the new deregulation law’s changes, but later reversed their decision and left the deregulated market. None of the state’s municipal utilities have entered the deregulated market.

Being a commodity, wholesale electricity is traded like many other commodities. Just as corn prices rise and fall with supply and demand, wholesale electricity costs rise and fall. Hot weather, generator outages and the state of the economy all impact wholesale electricity prices. A weak U.S. economy where major manufacturing is in the doldrums will depress wholesale electricity prices. As our economy improves in the next few years, electricity demand and prices are expected to increase.

Deregulated Electricity Service is More Complicated

Up until 1997 all utilities in Illinois provided electricity in “one-bucket.” Everything necessary for electricity service to the home or business was sold in a single package and billed on one simple bill, often with only a line or two describing the electricity service charges.

Electricity service to a home or business is made up of three distinct parts:

  • Wholesale Electricity Generation (Electricity Supply) – The conversion of fuel, sunlight or wind to electricity in a generator of some type.  
  • Transmission Services – The cross-country delivery of electricity by high voltage lines greater than 100,000 volts.
  • Distribution Services – The local delivery of electricity by local wires, poles and transformers to the meter at the home or business.

Under the 1997 law the investor-owned utilities were required to “unbundle” their one-bucket service into these distinct parts. The investor-owned utility would continue to provide the distribution services or the wires to the home or business. The consumer would continue to call the investor-owned utility to arrange for service and report outages, and would receive a bill from them. The bill though would contain the three new line items, one for each distinct part plus additional charges for metering, uncollectable accounts and other charges.

Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers

Today, there are over 30 ARES registered to sell wholesale electricity in Illinois. Most of ARES have their primary business headquarters located outside of Illinois. For customer service inquiries many ARES employ call centers located out of state or overseas. 

An ARES may assemble a portfolio of generation and contracted power purchases designed to form the basis for marketing and selling wholesale electricity. This is analogous to a closed-end mutual fund assembling a portfolio of investments and then offering shares to an investor until the fund is filled or closed. Today it is unusual for an ARES to offer contracts for the sale of wholesale electricity exceeding two to three years. These contracts at times include early termination or cancellation costs, presenting a unique challenge for some customers. Consumers must carefully read and understand the fine print these contracts.

Marketing To Residential Customers

ARES activity targeting residential consumers in Illinois was minimal until around 2008. The financial crisis and subsequent collapse of the economy has resulted in significant shuttering of industrial manufacturing capacity. This has led to decreased demand for electricity and an abundance of electricity supply being thrust on the market. Responding to the laws of supply and demand the price of traded wholesale electricity declined substantially through 2011 and continues to be “soft” today. 

The shuttering of industrial manufacturing capacity has also impacted the demand for natural gas. At the same time, advanced natural gas recovery technologies such as “fracking” have brought unprecedented natural gas supply onto the market. Both of these factors have worked to collapse natural gas prices in recent years. This presented the ARES marketers with an unprecedented short-term opportunity to market low-priced wholesale electricity to Illinois consumers, and also helps one understand why ARES’s are reluctant to offer contracts of longer than two to three years. 

Aggregation

In one of the 2007 adjustments to the original deregulation act, the Illinois General Assembly enabled home-rule entities to organize aggregation groups. The legislation gave municipal and county governments the ability, with the passage of essentially a referendum, to arrange for the sale of wholesale electricity to their citizens. Provided the referendum passed, all citizens in the community or county would then buy their electricity through the community or county unless they opted-out.

The prospect of an ARES making a large sale by doing business through the channel of the community or county has greatly increased their attention to aggregation. However, even with the prospect of thousands of new aggregation customers in these communities and counties, the ARES marketers currently appear reluctant to offer contracts of longer than two to three years. 

Electric Cooperatives Take the Long Term Approach

Electric cooperatives were started 75 years ago by farm families wanting electricity for their farms and homes. They saw the benefits and labor savings offered by electricity when they went to town and wanted the same for their families. Investor-owned utilities typically served those towns. The rural people approached these utilities asking for electricity services. They were refused or offered service at a cost that was prohibitively high. It simply wasn’t possible for the for profit utilities to make enough money serving rural areas with only a few farms or homes per mile of electric line.

After several years of buying wholesale electricity from investor-owned utilities, most member-owned cooperatives eventually banded together to “aggregate” their wholesale electricity needs. They formed generation and transmission cooperatives (G&T’s) to pursue resources that were more economical because of the combined larger size. (RECC has a power contract with the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, which is similar to a G&T to supply wholesale power for 32 municipal-owned electric systems across the state.)

Electric cooperatives still sell electricity service in “one bucket.” Everything a member needs for electricity service to their home or business can be arranged with one phone call. The charge for electricity service by a cooperative is straightforward and easy to understand. 

The employees of the cooperative live in the community, supporting the tax base and local economy. They serve on local charity boards, serve as church elders and serve on school boards. The manager of the cooperative lives in the community. Many know the manager and the manager knows where the buck stops.

Cooperatives’ Risk Management Approach

Cooperative members value reliable, local service and stable prices over the long term. Cooperatives have never had a policy to pursue the lowest possible electricity price in the near term at the expense of the long term. The 75-year history of cooperatives is a testament to the success of this strategy. 

Of course it is natural for all consumers, no matter what the product, to want to enjoy a low price.  There are instances though where consumers make a decision not to pursue the lowest price in the near term simply because it prevents them from securing a more stable price in the long term. The home mortgage is an example of this. The house payment could be potentially made lowest over the next two to three years by entering into an adjustable rate mortgage contract. Despite the opportunity to save money in the short run by using an adjustable rate mortgage, most homeowners still opt for the long term, fixed rate mortgage. They know the risks beyond the two or three-year term of the adjustable rate mortgage are likely to outweigh the potential short run savings.

Electricity deregulation and aggregation are complex topics, with profound effects on the future of Illinois consumers. 


Be Prepared For Winter Storms

We enjoyed a very mild winter last year, with little snow and no ice storms. Are you willing to bet that we’ll have another easy winter this year?

If not, then you should be taking steps now to prepare for winter storms and possible extended electrical outages that might result. Heavy accumulations of ice and snow can bring down utility poles, trees and limbs with the ability to disrupt power for days on end. With this comes a threat to property and also to life itself.

Safe Electricity stresses the importance of being prepared for dangerous winter storms and the power outages they may cause. Preparing ahead of time in order to have the right supplies and the knowledge to stay warm safely are keys to weathering a winter storm emergency.

  • Always keep a battery-powered radio or TV, flashlights and a supply of fresh batteries in case of an emergency. Test these ahead of time to make sure they are operational. 
  • Know where to find extra blankets.
     
  • Fill spare containers with water for washing, and keep a supply of bottled drinking water on hand.
     
  • Keep a supply of non-perishable food items, along with a hand opener for canned food.
     
  • Switch off lights and appliances to prevent damaging appliances and overloading circuits when power is restored. Leave one lamp or light switch on as a signal for when your power returns.
     
  • To prevent water pipes from freezing, keep faucets turned on slightly so that water drips from the tap. Know how to shut off water valves just in case a pipe bursts.
     
  • Check on elderly or disabled friends and neighbors.
     
  • Do not use charcoal grills or gas ovens to heat your home; this could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

If you use a standby generator, make sure it has a transfer safety switch or that your power is cut off at the breaker box before you operate it. This prevents electricity from traveling back through the power lines, or what is also known as “back feed”. Back feed creates danger for anyone near power lines, particularly crews working to restore power. Be sure to let your electric utility know that you have a generator.

Safe Electricity is an electrical safety public awareness program created and supported by a coalition of hundreds of organizations, including electric utilities, educators and other entities committed to promoting electrical safety. For more information visit www.SafeElectricity.org.


Lou DeLaby Reaches 40-Year Anniversary

Lou DeLaby is the longest-serving employee at RECC, officially at 40 years, but he can add even a couple of more summers to that total. He worked two summers while in high school as a temporary groundman, before joining the co-op full-time in October 1972 as a groundman. He’s worked ever since in the line department, and now heads that department as Manager of Operations and Maintenance.

In 1976, Lou became a Journeyman Lineman, learning the skills of overhead and underground electrical systems. He was one of the many linemen working tirelessly after the April 1978 ice storm to rebuild the lines after every member had lost electric power. He went on to work as a service man for six years, installing meters and security lights and other small jobs.

When Delbert Boston retired from RECC in March 1997, Lou was named as department manager. He has helped guide the co-op through the introduction of new technologies including automated meter reading, outage management system, and digital mapping. His department also took over responsibility for the co-op’s nine substations and 22 miles of transmission line that were purchased when RECC changed power suppliers in 2009.

 Lou is a member of the Job Training and Safety Committee for the Association of Illinois  Electric Cooperatives, and has completed the NRECA Management Intership Program. He is a certified Loss Control professional.

 Lou is also heavily involved in the National Utility Training & Safety Education Association (NUTSEA), an organization comprised of utility safety and training professionals from various backgrounds throughout the United States. He serves on the Board of Directors for the distribution section.

Congratulations to Lou on reaching this significant milestone at RECC! It’s becoming a rarity to stay in one industry for an entire career, but he has been with one company, in one location, since his high school days!


Tackle home projects safely

Cooler weather is here at least, and the urge to get some home projects done may be returning also. As you gather up your trusty tools, remember that safety items are also essential for DIY tasks. Read and follow directions on every power tool you use. Wearing eye and ear protection and gloves, as well as tying back loose hair and securing loose clothing, are all important to keeping you safe. If renting a tool, ask the store for safety tips.

For outside projects, first check the area where you will be working. Identify potential hazards and take time to avoid or correct any problems. Don’t forget to look up for power lines, and avoid using long poles or ladders within 10 ft. of overhead wires. Will your project involve any digging? Call 811 before you dig even if you think you know where underground lines may be. The 811 service will mark all underground lines in your area for free before you start work.

If a job seems like it might be too much to handle, leave it to a professional. Take into consideration heavy lifting, expensive tools that will only be used once, and whether you really have the time. That way, you won’t be temped to skip safety measures.


Helping out the osprey

RECC puts up nesting platforms at Sangchris Lake

The osprey-watch is on at Sangchris Lake State Park! Two new nesting platforms were installed on August 17 by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), with assistance from RECC, to attract nesting ospreys to the area.

Ospreys – a bird of prey listed as an endangered species in Illinois – nest in large trees, on rock formations, or on artificial structures near lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, where the adults feed on fish. Elevated platforms like those installed by RECC at Sangchris Lake have been used successfully by nesting osprey at a number of locations in the Midwest, including at the Lake Shelbyville Sullivan Beach area in central Illinois.

“Park visitors, wildlife watchers and our IDNR site staff and biologists have seen ospreys spending time in and around Sangchris Lake during migrations each spring and fall, and we hope installation of these platforms will encourage more nesting pairs to produce chicks here,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “We appreciate the cooperation of RECC in providing the utility poles and platforms and installing them at Sangchris Lake as part of this wildlife restoration effort.”

Adult ospreys – sometimes mistaken for the larger bald eagle – are generally 21-26 inches long with a black upper body and mostly-white head, chest and underbelly. Like other birds of prey, the population of ospreys in the U.S. has rebounded since the use of the pesticide DDT was discontinued in the early 1970s. No osprey nests were seen in Illinois from the early 1950s until the mid-1980s, and efforts like the platform installation at Sangchris Lake are used to attract even more nests in the state.

Co-op crews installed two elevated platforms, mounted on 30-foot poles, beside Sangchris Lake southeast of Rochester. Branches and vines were weaved around the platforms to provide inviting nests for any passing ospreys.

“Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative has always had a good working relationship with the State of Illinois and Sangchris State Park, and we are happy to assist the park with the installations of the osprey nest platforms to help build the population of these beautiful birds,” said Manager of Operations and Maintenance Lou DeLaby.