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Keep your Christmas lights under control

Let your lights shine bright, but don’t let them shine all night! Today’s Christmas lights are more energy-efficient than the screw-in bulbs that were common just a few years ago, but all those strings of lights still add up. Use a timer to turn your decorative lights on at dusk and off when you go to bed. That’s also a safety step for two reasons: it gives your home a lived-in look even if you’re away for the evening, and it leaves lights off later at night when no one is around to detect problems such as smoke or fire.

The latest trend in Christmas lights is LED bulbs, which use small amounts of power but can be very bright and intense. They also come in many colors and can even change colors with an electronic controller. LED prices have dropped in the past three years, and more choices are available every year. Several strings of LED lights can be connected together safely, but read the packaging for the maximum number to be connected.

Christmas lights are a festive addition to the holiday season, so install them safely and enjoy their beauty with all of your loved ones!



Sign Up For Member Notifications

Our Notify 24 uses text and phone messaging to let members in specific areas know about planned outages, as well as the cause of unexpected outages and other information that may affect their service. Notify 24 helps members understand what’s going on with their electric system. Text messages have been the most popular means of communication among our members. With texting, we can often send out a notice while an outage is still happening, and give members an idea of the severity and expected recovery time.

Click here for more information on text and phone messaging from RECC.


One Million Comments Sent to EPA

More than 1 million comments from electric cooperative advocates were sent to the Environmental Protection Agency outlining concerns about proposed carbon dioxide limits for existing and new power plants by the agency’s Dec. 1 deadline.

“At the heart of this, we oppose the EPA’s regulations because they will raise electric rates, threaten reliability and are illegal under the Clean Air Act,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

“This is why NRECA joins with co-op advocates all across the country who submitted more than 1.1 million grassroots comments asking for the withdrawal of the proposals on new and existing power plants.”

In comments to EPA, NRECA said its analysis shows that electric co-op members can expect to see rates increase by more tan 10 percent on average in 2020 and by more than 17 percent in 2025.

“And that’s just the averages,” said Emerson. “Some members will see hikes as high as 33 percent in 2020, and a whopping 46 percent in 2025.”

The proposed rule is expected to be finalized by June 2015, with emission reduction deadlines beginning in 2020.

NRECA also said that the pending EPA rule stands to hamper grid reliability, a concern of the country’s largest regional transmission organizations. For co-op members, the hurt is double, Emerson said.

“Reducing reliability and increasing costs has this proposal unfairly affecting co-op members the hardest,” she said, adding that 93 percent of the country’s “persistent poverty counties” are served by electric co-ops.

As not-for-profit utilities, co-ops that opt to close existing coal plants in favor of building new natural gas-based generation or renewables to meet the EPA rule will pass those expenses on to members, she said.

“We urge EPA to withdraw this proposal and work with electric cooperatives and others in the industry to create a policy promoting an ‘all of the above approach’ which is environmentally and economically responsible within the appropriate and lawful regulatory scheme.”

In Texas, one generation supply cooperative’s CEO said the rule as proposed will force five power plants owned by co-ops to close. The billions of dollars spent on new transmission in the state will not overcome the reliability risks from the lost generation, he said.

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 

Climage Change Strategy

 


Don’t Be An Energy Zombie!

Margaret57What do fortune tellers, couch potatoes, and amater make-up artists have in common? They’re all hopelessly in the dark about the life-changing benefits of LED bulbs – until they learn to look for the ENERGY STAR. That’s the premise of three quirky, irreverent new spots promoting LED lighting from EPA’s ENERGY STAR program this fall.

ENERGY STAR has put this new series of video vignettes that highlight the benefits of ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs on You Tube for your entertainment and enlightenment. Click below to see the three videos!

Bad light bulb makes Margaret a zombie

Bad light gives Floyd explosive surprise

Bad light leads to bad fortune for Madame Helga

 


Member Appreciation Breakfast on Oct. 25

church exteriorRECC members are invited to an informal breakfast from 8-10 a.m. at Pleasant Hill Christian Church near Raymond on October 25! Stop in to  meet with co-op staff and directors, see what’s new at RECC, try out our SmartHub member portal on an iPad, or ask any questions you might have about our programs and operations.

Sausage & Biscuit Breakfast   8:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Pleasant Hill Christian Church
19433 West Frontage Road, Raymond
(Just north of Grand Magnuson Hotel, at Exit 60 on Interstate 55)


Pink Hardhats Support Cancer Awareness

RECC National Pink Hard Hat Campaign_0271If you see RECC linemen in a pink hardhat during October, it’s s reminder of National Breast Cancer Month and the need to support all cancer patients. It’s also a reminder for everyone to use available screening and tests for early cancer detection, which increases survival rates tremendously. We’ve all been touched by family and friends fighting cancer, so let’s all work together to beat this terrible disease!


Open House Sept. 19 for Retiring Employees

A retirement reception will be held at the RECC office on Friday, Sept. 19Retirement Party
from 2:00-4:00 p.m., for three long-time employees of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative. Members and friends are invited to join us in honoring these men!

Dean Fuchs of Farmersville joined the co-op as a bookkeeper in June 1973, and was named office manager in 1977, just the second person to hold that job since RECC was started in 1937. He is being replaced by Matt Sheerin as Manager of Finance and Office Services.

Curt Fishburn of Auburn joined RECC as a warehouseman in February 1989, and soon moved into the line department. He became a Journeyman Lineman in 1995.

Tom Jones of Chatham was hired as an engineering technician in June 1991, working with the mapping system and line control equipment. He retires as Information Systems Supervisor, with Chris Bridges taking over the job duties.


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.