CEO/GM's Monthly Updates
A Blog by SEMO Electric CEO/GM Sean Vanslyke
Be aware. We have had some member-owners report receiving phone calls from individuals identifying themselves as SEMO Electric employees or a third-party representative of the cooperative – only to find out the call was a scam to collect cash or prepaid debit cards. SEMO Electric warns member-owners it's a scam if someone calls claiming their bill is overdue and they must pay via a prepaid debit card to keep the power on. Do not accept offers from anyone, including those claiming to be a SEMO Electric employee, to pay your bill or provide any other service for a fee.
Occasionally, SEMO Electric MAY call you to discuss your account. If we do, we will provide you with information that only you and SEMO Electric would know in order to validate that our call is legitimate. If, after receiving the information, you are uncomfortable providing personal information by phone, or if you believe the call is a scam, hang up and call the cooperative directly at 1-800-813-5230.
SEMO Electric members who have delinquent accounts receive multiple notifications from the cooperative prior to electric service disconnection – never just a single notification one hour before disconnection. SEMO Electric never asks or requires members who have delinquent accounts to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid electric service disconnection. Members can make payments online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person. Service disconnection is a last resort option to deal with a late bill.
If you or someone you know has a question about whether someone is a legitimate representative of SEMO Electric, call the cooperative at 1-800-813-5230. Call police immediately if you believe the person is an imposter. Please guard against fraud – never share your personal information, including birthday, Social Security number or banking account information.
$880,953 in Capital Credits
SEMO Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors has voted unanimously to refund $880,953 in Capital Credits to member-owners in October 2014. This amount includes 100% of margins from 1977 and 1978, the oldest unretired years, and 10% of margins from 2013. SEMO Electric will have returned a total of $11.2 million in Capital Credits to its member-owners during the past 20 years.
What are Capital Credits?
Unlike electric utilities that generate margins on behalf of investors and shareholders, electric cooperatives may return the margins earned by the electric cooperative to their members. Each year, any margins earned by SEMO Electric are reinvested in the cooperative. At the same time, the value of the margin is proportionally allocated (based on electric purchases during the year) to Capital Credits accounts maintained for each of our current members. When the Board of Directors has determined that the cooperative has met its financial requirements and any other obligations, they may decide to retire (pay) the Capital Credits to member-owners.
As a member of an electric cooperative, you build ownership in SEMO Electric through your kilowatt-hour purchases. There is no stock to be purchased or sold; our members are owners of the business with a proverbial "piece of the pie." When the cooperative has earned a margin, we allocate the margins to you, our member-owners. Capital Credits are a tangible benefit of belonging to an electric cooperative, and you can trust SEMO Electric to offer fair pricing, value and satisfaction. Capital Credit Retirements will be mailed in early October to existing and former SEMO Electric members-owners if your refund is $5 or more. If the amount is less than $5, it will be carried over to next year.
Every day, SEMO Electric works to earn your trust through delivering safe, reliable, affordable and local service, remaining financially sound, and contributing extensively to the communities we serve. After all, we’re your friends and neighbors, and we live here, too. Throughout 2013, SEMO Electric continued to offer stable rates while adding value to your membership and supporting continuing education in our communities through the SEMO Electric Cooperative Foundation.
Quick shout-outs to SEMO Electric member-owners Mark Kluesner, during an event with Senator Roy Blunt at SEMO Port, and Jamie Sifford, who gave me an overview of Missouri Young Farmers’ visit to the region. In both cases, it is good to see positive activity in southeast Missouri.
Be safe. Act smart.
SmartHub is here! What’s SmartHub? SmartHub is SEMO Electric Cooperative’s free online bill payment system that also allows you to monitor your daily energy usage. If you previously used E-Bill, the co-op’s former payment system, you can access SmartHub using the same E-Bill login and password. If you are new to paying your bill online, you will need to create a SmartHub account. SmartHub provides 24-hour access to account or accounts by computer, smartphone, or tablet with a free online application. SmartHub is easy to navigate. It’s simple and quick to make a payment or view your bill. Members can compare bills and find out what day of the week you typically use the most electricity. SmartHub includes a free app for your smartphone or tablet. Download it by searching for “SmartHub” on either the Apple Store or Android Market. Once the app is open, type in “SEMO Electric Cooperative” as the provider. The login information is the same for both the web and mobile app.
Pay Your Way
Did you know you can pay your bill by phone? While our offices in Bloomfield and Sikeston are available for face-to-face member services, many members use SEMO Electric’s Pay-By-Phone or Auto Pay options. Members may make a payment directly from a credit or debit card at no additional cost by using our automated phone system. You can pay anytime from anywhere by calling (877) 833-3634 and following our easy-to-use prompts. Or you may enroll in SEMO Electric’s Auto Pay program to save you time and hassle. Auto Pay is a free, simple and worry-free way to pay your monthly bill automatically from your checking or credit card account. Please call (800) 813-5230, visit us or click on gosemo.com to enroll in Auto Pay.
Shout-out to Letty Bradshaw… If I asked folks around New Hamburg if they know SEMO Electric member-owner Letty Bradshaw, I would wager that most people know her. I met Letty while conducting field visits with SEMO Electric’s line superintendent Tony Powell. We arrived on the job site just after SEMO’s linemen departed Letty’s house. She was pleased with the work completed. We visited for several minutes. Letty even talked me out of a bottle of cold water and a 2014 SEMO Electric calendar!
Shout-out to Larry James… SEMO Electric member-owner Larry James and I had a good conversation about solar power. We have several member-owners who have installed solar panels. SEMO Electric doesn’t offer solar rebates. However, we are investing time and resources into ways we can be more engaged. The challenge is to keep SEMO Electric’s rates affordable and electricity delivery reliable, while embracing emerging technologies. Currently, we deliver electricity that is generated from wind, water, coal and natural gas.
Shout-out to Chase Robins… As a little league baseball coach, SEMO Electric member-owner Chase Robins displayed great sportsmanship against my Dexter baseball team. Chase and his Advance team helped put a smile on a player’s face that was priceless. We all need coaches and mentors who are willing to help us find success.
Shout-out to Bud Woods… I met Navy veteran and SEMO Electric member-owner Bud Woods of Bloomfield. We discussed several things, but soon discovered his son lives near to where my family used to live. It’s amazing what we can learn by asking questions and listening. Bud, thanks for your military service!
Be smart. Act safe
Quick quiz. Pork bacon? Hogs. Beef burger? Cattle. Dairy milk? Cows, goats. Plant milk? Almonds, coconuts, rice, soybeans. Ketchup? Tomatoes. Electricity? The switch.
As a kid, I spent many special days on my grandparents' dairy farm. I gained firsthand experience about agricultural products that fuel our lives: bacon, hamburgers, milk, bread, eggs and vegetables. For each shovel of manure I scooped, I learned where natural gas originated. But, I don't recall when I learned where electricity came from. I just flipped the switch.
When thinking about electricity, which of the following attribute is most important to you: affordable, clean or reliable? Many members tell me they want reliable electricity at an affordable cost. When I ask how much more they are willing to pay for renewable energy, most say not much or none.
At a recent electric generation co-op meeting, I had the chance to meet Dr. Scott Tinker, the state geologist of Texas and acting associate dean of research in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas. He said "We don't think about it (electricity), we just want it (electricity). It (electricity) comes from electrons. We don't grow them or mine them. A majority of the educated public do not know how electricity or gasoline are made... nor do they really care. They just want it affordable, available, reliable... and now clean."
Tinker said today's "energy security - affordable, available, reliable, sustainable - drives the energy mix and should be the goal of energy policy." I took that statement to mean we must rely on diverse options to generate electricity if we want a chance to keep it affordable and reliable.
He discussed the numerous ways electricity is generated: coal, natural gas, oil, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar and nuclear and how each method has its challenges. Clouds and darkness hamper solar. Wind is intermittent. Coal has transportation and regulatory challenges. Natural gas has infrastructure issues. Every option has its distractors. Tinker said we "can't not like everything."
Electricity needs to remain affordable. Tinker said some countries, such as Denmark and Germany, have watched rates skyrocket without a diverse electricity generation plan. Denmark's rate per unit of electricity is .41 cents. Germany's rate per unit of electricity is .35 cents. SEMO Electric's residential rate per unit of electricity is less than .09 cents. Which choice do you prefer?
Electricity has joined water and air as necessities in today's world. We need to breathe. We need to drink. We need (want) to charge our mobile phones to stay connected. We expect results when we flip the switch.
SEMO Electric and its electricity supplier - Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. - focus on providing you affordable, clean and reliable electricity to your home, farm and business that has been generated from hydro, wind, coal and natural gas.
Many years ago, access to electricity improved my grandparents' dairy farm. Today, access to electricity helps us live better lives. Tinker says "Energy makes the modern world possible. Energy underpins everything in our world. All communication and computing. Every product and building. All food and water. Every family consumes energy 24 hours a day."
To protect our access to affordable and reliable electricity, we need to better understand - and appreciate - where electricity comes from... it's not just the switch.
Be smart. Act safe.
Earlier this month, I had a chance to join more than 2,500 co-op representatives at the 2014 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. The meeting was about what we can do to make sure that this so-called “do-nothing” Congress does more, and does it for you, SEMO Electric Cooperative’s members.
Collectively, we worked together to get our positions heard on Capitol Hill. I was able to meet with Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Representative Jason Smith, R-Mo., and other members of Congress. I am pleased to report they support our fight against the EPA and support legislation to protect the co-op’s ability to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity to homes, businesses and farms in southeast Missouri.
One of the most important issues discussed on The Hill was getting members of Congress to sign House and Senate letters urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide at least 120 days for comments on proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for existing power plants. The EPA is expected to release its proposal in June as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan. This first-ever existing plants GHG proposal will be far more complex than the EPA’s new plants proposal. Utilities will need more time to determine the impacts on power plants, grid reliability and consumer costs. Rep. Smith took the lead in seeking an extended deadline. Please let him know you appreciate his efforts!
Did you know three in four Americans are concerned that proposed EPA policies to eliminate coal-generated electricity will result in higher electricity costs and summer blackouts and brownouts? That’s the results of a new Harris poll. Their concerns are not unfounded. Removing reliable and affordable coal generation from the energy mix forces America to rely more on fuels subject to volatile swings in price and supply. Many Americans reported higher electricity bills this winter, largely as the result of a cold spell when electricity prices in their regions tracked the price of natural gas and alternative fuels, used to generate their power. Fortunately, SEMO Electric member’s cost per energy unit did not change this winter. Usage increased dramatically, but the cost per kWh was the same as last winter because of our reliance on coal to generate electricity. Had stable and plentiful coal not have been part of the energy mix, those prices could have increased.
The poll also shows most Americans are concerned that the proposed EPA regulations will spawn electricity black-outs and brown-outs this summer. Heavy summer and winter usage alike can stress the nation's power grid and heighten the effects of a failure in any part of the system. Implementing regulations that shut down coal facilities will remove the most dependable source of electricity from that system.
It is important we realize the importance of coal in keeping our electric rates affordable and our electric grid reliable. I agree hydro, wind, solar and natural gas need to continue to be part of our energy portfolio. However, we can’t just stop using coal. Evidently, many agree. More than 515,000 comments about the EPA’s climate change agenda have been sent through NRECA’s grassroots effort on Action.coop and TellEPA.com. Locally, SEMO Electric’s members and friends have sent over three thousand comments to let the EPA know a possible rate increase of nearly 80% is not acceptable. Thank you. We must protect the co-op’s ability to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity to homes, businesses and farms in southeast Missouri.
Be smart. Act safe.
Co-op’s 77th Annual Meeting
Happy 77th Birthday to SEMO Electric Cooperative! If you are member-owner of SEMO Electric, please attend the co-op’s annual meeting on Thursday, May 29 at the Sikeston Field House. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The business meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Barry Hart, executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, will provide insights into the world of electricity and Co-op Nation. See you there.
Keep Water Recreation Safe
It is a family’s nightmare. An enjoyable summer day of swimming—with kids wearing life jackets and their mom closely supervising—turns tragic when a little boy is killed amidst the fun in the marina. This is a reality the Ritz family has to live with as they seek to teach others about the hidden danger that claimed eight-year-old Lucas.
“Recognizing that his life jacket was on, I’m puzzled as to why he is apparently unconscious,” his father, Kevin, recalls. “First thing I do is check for respiration, and I didn’t detect anything. Then I check for heartbeat…couldn’t detect any…hoping that I’m doing this wrong.” Neither Kevin nor the paramedics were able to revive Lucas. As Kevin sought to understand what killed his son, he discovered that a boat plugged into shore power was leaking electricity into the marina water. Lucas was killed as he swam into energized water.
Equally tragic, fatal accidents like this happen each year, due what is called electric shock drowning (ESD). Working with Safe Electricity’s “Teach Learn Care TLC” program, the Ritz family wants everyone to learn about this silent killer and the steps they should take to stay safe.
If you are in the water and feel electric current, shout to let others know. Try to stay upright and tuck your legs up, making yourself smaller, and swim away from anything that could be energized. Do not head for a ladder on a boat or dock.
If you are on the dock or shore when a swimmer feels electrical current, do not jump in. Throw them a float, turn off the shore power connection at the meter base, and/or unplug shore power cords. Try to eliminate the source of electricity as quickly as possible; then call for help.
“Have dock systems (and pool decks) inspected each year and make sure ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breakers are installed on all circuits feeding electricity to the dock,” Kevin recommends. “Have all metal bonded and grounded back to the source.” A video with more information on Lucas’ story can be found at SafeElectricity.org.
Employee and Public Safety
On behalf of SEMO Electric’s member-owners, directors and employees, I recently accepted a Certificate of Safety Achievement from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). The certificate nationally recognizes SEMO Electric’s dedication to employee and public safety and commitment to regulatory compliance and loss control practices. NRECA’s Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP) includes on-site inspections and random safety audits to measure SEMO Electric’s commitment to safety. Safety is, and will continue to be, foundational to the co-op’s ability to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Thank you to those who make safety a priority in their home, on their farm and at their business.
Be smart. Act safe.
Hope and Homes in Touchstone Energy Effort
A few Saturdays ago, my family had the privilege to join about 120 co-op directors, staffers and family members from electric cooperatives across the nation as part of the Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Community Service Project, held in conjunction with the 2014 National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association’s (NRECA) annual meeting. We pitched in to support Habitat for Humanity of Williamson County, Tennessee, by building a home from a bare foundation and putting the finishing touches on another home, saving Habitat and local volunteers endless hour of work. The two homes are on co-op lines in Fairview, a community of 8,000 about 30 miles west of Nashville.
While hammers pounded and saw blades roared, other volunteers canvassed the neighborhood, passing out brochures that contained tips on energy efficiency. One of those volunteers was our twelve-year-old son Parker. The price for a sixth-grader to get up at 4:30 on a Saturday morning? A trip to the Grand Ole Opry, naturally. Parker said “It’s amazing how fast they built the house.”
Another volunteer was NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson, who took a break from her annual meeting schedule to greet volunteers and pound a few nails. She said “It’s a privilege for me to work alongside so many dedicated co-op volunteers. A concern for community differentiates not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives from other utilities.”
It is always good to lend a hand at home or away from home. Our family is blessed to be able to help others in Stoddard County, Missouri, or Williamson County, Tennessee. Each of us has different talents, but each of us has the ability to share a smile with a stranger. You never know what a smile might mean to someone else.
(Editor’s note: Thanks to ECT.coop/Steve Johnson for his contributions to the Touchstone story.)
77th Annual Meeting
We are finalizing plans for SEMO Electric’s 77th Annual Meeting on May 29 at the Sikeston Field House. Mark your calendars! Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with entertainment by Link Union, an eight member band that will provide a musical experience combining folk, rhythm and blues, jazz, sing and gospel. Plus, several information booths will be available. The business meeting will begin at 7 p.m. All members of SEMO Electric are encouraged to attend and participate in your annual meeting.
Be smart. Act safe.
Illuminating Experience 235 Feet Underground
Before taking the underground coal mine tour, my group first experienced a 45-minute safety briefing. We were given instructions on how to respond to an emergency situation and, if trapped underneath, what we should expect and do. Without a doubt, safety is the first priority.
After our safety briefing, we loaded in a multi-person mine vehicle (all underground vehicles are less than seven feet tall, which is about the underground mine’s working height or roof). A second vehicle followed us in case someone felt uncomfortable and wanted to exit the mine. We entered the mouth of the mine and traveled down about 1,650 feet at an eight percent grade. Once we leveled off, we traveled another 7,500 feet underground. Overall, we were approximately 235 feet underground and nearly two miles inside the coal mine.
We were able to get an up-close look at a rotating cutting head as it cut the coal seam. The coal was then loaded into a transport vehicle and taken to a conveyor. It was a clean operation. It wasn’t loud. In fact, we didn’t need ear plugs or dust masks. The men and women who worked underground were professional and focused. On average, they mine about 22,000 tons of coal per day.
My visit inside the coal mine was surprisingly clean and dust-free. Afterwards, I had some residue on my safety jacket, but it was from me putting small pieces of coal and shale into my pockets (with permission).
I took the opportunity to go underground and see how coal is mined and used to generate electricity. I am not a technical wizard or engineer, but seeing first-hand how things work is illuminating.
My coal mine visit took place across the Mississippi River in Washington County, Illinois, at the Prairie State Energy Campus. The facility generates 1600 megawatts (MWs) of power and is 95-percent owned by eight non-profit utilities (including electric co-ops) that provide clean, reliable and affordable base-load power to 2.5 million families every day.
The coal used to power Prairie State is derived from an adjacent underground mine, where nearly seven million tons of coal are mined annually. The coal travels on conveyors from the coal field across the road to the power plant.
All said, the Prairie State Energy Campus contributes $785 million in economic activity annually. The plant and coal mine drives jobs and supports schools. It is an economic backbone to the area. More importantly, the coal keeps the lights on – affordably – for thousands of homes, farms and businesses.
As demonstrated by cold snaps just this winter, natural gas and propane prices are volatile and spike even during shorter-term weather events. This has an immediate adverse effect on electric bills. However, coal, and its stable price, is a long-term proven hedge against natural gas volatility. Access to clean coal is critical if we are to continue to provide affordable electricity for our members.
When we live paycheck to paycheck, it is hard to see years down the road. However, we encourage you to take action today by clicking on action.coop to stop the EPA from raising electric rates through its proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions at new power plants. The big fear is the proposed rules will eventually apply to existing coal-fired power plants. Therefore, it will eventually apply to your monthly electric bill.
Thank you to the thousands of co-op members who have taken action. We need all members to join the movement. Visit action.coop or stop by our Bloomfield or Sikeston office to take action.
Be smart. Act safe.
BRRRR! That sums up the deep freeze we experienced in early January. The historic cold snap drove demand for electricity. In fact, members served by SEMO Electric Cooperative set an all-time record for winter power use. A winter peak of 76.5 megawatts was reached at 7 p.m., Monday, January 6.
The cold created several challenges for many across the nation. Locally, our electric delivery system held up extremely well. Employees worked second and third shifts in order to more quickly respond to member calls and restore power for various reasons. It was freezing cold and safety was our top concern.
The cold temperatures caused many of us to use more electricity, natural gas, wood, propane and/or oil to stay warm. That means higher energy bills. That means higher electric bills due to increased usage.
Electric use varies from household to household, depending upon the size of your home, number and type of appliances and how you use them. Your electric meter keeps track of it all for you. Electric meters record the total amount of electricity used. You can look at your own usage by learning to read your own meter. Your electric meter measures the amount of electricity you use. Just as you purchase pounds of meat, quarts of milk or gallons of gasoline, you buy kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. One kWh of electricity supplies enough energy to light ten 100-watt lamps for one hour.
By reading your meter at the same time each day, you will get an idea of the amount of electricity you used. By recording each daily reading, you can chart increases and decreases in energy use. By making notes when a particular energy activity is done like running the air conditioner, doing laundry, or cooking, you will know how your energy dollar is being spent.
Subtract the previous reading from the present reading to determine your usage. To calculate the cost of the energy you used, multiply the number of kilowatt-hours by the cost per kilowatt-hour. Take a look at your electric bill to find your cost per kilowatt-hour.
Remember, just reading a meter alone will not save money; however, it will help you become more aware of how much electricity you use, and being aware is the first step to saving energy and money.
So, what is a peak? In the energy industry, the energy load is the amount of energy a system is using at any given time. During the year, the amount of energy needed — or the energy demand — fluctuates, depending on factors like how much energy members are using, the weather conditions and the time of day. When demand for electricity is at its highest, it’s called a “peak” period.
So, what is a megawatt? Megawatt is the standard term of measurement for bulk electricity. The output of power plants usually is described in terms of megawatts. One megawatt is equal to 1 million watts or 1,000 kilowatts. One megawatt is enough for 16,666 60-watt light bulbs. A typical coal power station produces around 600–700 megawatts.
So, why does it matter? SEMO Electric must know its “peak” to make arrangements with its wholesale power supplier for a set amount of “megawatts” to be available at any given time. Much like January 6, we never know what Mother Nature will throw our way. And just like reading your meter, SEMO Electric has to pay attention in order to keep the lights on for all member-owners.
Be smart. Act safe.
Welcome to 2014!
Thank you for being a member-owner of SEMO Electric Cooperative. On behalf of my co-workers, we look forward to serving you in 2014. We wish you peace, happiness and abundant good health.
Winter Storm 2013
Whenever the electricity goes out, we’ve come to expect service will be restored within a few hours at most. But when major ice storms or tornadoes cause widespread damage, longer outages cannot be helped. Line crews and support staff work long, hard hours restoring service, but it’s a task that needs to be done methodically to be done safely.
In early December, southeast Missouri was blessed with a small winter storm. Winter Storm 2013 could have been much worse. Because of the advanced warning, Team SEMO worked with the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC) in Jefferson City to coordinate mutual aid assistance to pre-stage line crews in Sikeston for a more efficient response. I extend a special thank you to our co-op friends from Boone Electric Cooperative (Columbia, Mo.), Callaway Electric Cooperative (Fulton, Mo.), Consolidated Electric Cooperative (Mexico, Mo.), Gascosage Electric Cooperative (Dixon, Mo), Laclede Electric Cooperative (Lebanon) and Three Rivers Electric Cooperative (Linn, Mo.) for helping us restore power. It is a great feeling to know there is help available.
As member-owners of SEMO Electric, you might like to know we paid $528,713 in property taxes for 2013. Property taxes are paid on things such as real property (land, two offices and warehouses) and more than 2,600 miles of distribution lines which bring electricity to your home or business.
Unless something unexpected occurs, I am pleased to report SEMO Electric will not have a rate increase for 2014. We have worked hard to contain costs and manage debt. As we look ahead, our power supplier has indicated electricity costs likely will increase in 2015. We will keep you informed as we get closer to 2015. Linkit
Farmers: Need Irrigation?
Electricity usage for irrigation continues to grow and we continue to install new services. If you plan to add new irrigation pivots or pumps in 2014 or would like to discuss switching to electricity, please give SEMO Electric’s Sonny Clark a call at 800-813-5230. We appreciate the business.
Power outages occur for various reasons. Outages may be attributed to storms, vehicle accidents, contact with underground wires, fallen trees or wildlife. In most cases, a power outage impacts a small number of customers and is restored quickly. During the past three months, we have seen a rash of vehicles striking power poles and causing power outages. As a reminder, if a power line falls on a vehicle (or tractor), you should stay inside the vehicle. Warn others outside the vehicle not to touch it or the power line and for them to stay a safe distance away. Call 911 immediately. The only circumstance where you should get out of the vehicle is if it is on fire. Do not step out of the vehicle, but jump free of the vehicle, so that your body clears the vehicle before touching the ground.
Take Action During The Holidays
From Team SEMO to you and your family, we wish you a safe holiday season. We appreciate your support of SEMO Electric Cooperative and it is our pleasure to help keep your lights on 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. It is my hope we all find a moment during the holiday season to reflect on the reason for the season.
Electric co-op members tell EPA: “Don’t raise our rates”
Members of electric cooperatives around the nation are flooding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with messages with a similar theme: “Don’t raise our rates.” The Take Action Network campaign, launched recently by Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), aims to fight regulations pending at EPA she says would cripple the affordable and reliable supply of electricity for electric cooperatives. SEMO Electric members, family and friends can send their own message at www.action.coop web site or can contact SEMO Electric for help.
The proposed regulations would make it impossible to generate affordable electricity using coal, the fuel source for 80 percent of the electricity used by Missourians, including those served by electric cooperatives, municipals and investor-owned utilities.
It would also raise rates, impacting families, small businesses and farms struggling to make ends meet. Worse, it would hamper efforts to attract new jobs to the state. Gov. Jay Nixon often cites low electric rates as one of Missouri’s key assets for job creation.
Electric cooperatives in Missouri serve some of the most economically disadvantaged members of our society. Our latest survey shows that half of our members are seniors 55 years old or older, with 35 percent over the age of 65. One third of these senior members earn less than $25,000 a year, and one third are retired and living on a fixed income. On the other end of the spectrum, those younger members just getting started with families and careers also earn less than $25,000 a year.
SEMO Electric encourages users of electricity who believe affordable electricity is important to make their voice heard at www.action.coop or call us at (800) 813-5230 and we will help you help us.
Your choice! Local offices, mail, phone or automated bill paying service.
While our offices in Bloomfield and Sikeston are available for face-to-face member services, many members use SEMO Electric’s Pay-By-Phone or Auto Pay options. Members may make a payment directly from a credit or debit card at no additional cost by using our automated phone system. You can pay anytime from anywhere by calling (877) 833-3634 and following our easy-to-use prompts. Or you may enroll in SEMO Electric’s Auto Pay program to save you time and hassle versus paying your bill yourself. Auto Pay is a free, simple and worry-free way to pay your monthly bill automatically from your checking or credit card account. Please call (800) 813-5230, visit us or click on gosemo.com to enroll in Auto Pay.
Be smart. Act safe.
Take Action at Home and in DC
In recent weeks, a thief broke into SEMO Electric’s Miner substation to steal copper. The person cut a copper ground wire that carried more than 7,200 volts of electricity. It appears the person was spooked and left. However, the cut damaged hardware in the substation, created an unsafe environment and possible blinks or outages at your home.
Here is the bottom line: Stealing copper from a substation is a stupid idea and worth only a few dollars. Stealing copper from a substation is a felony and could be fatal. SEMO Electric’s lines are energized at 7,200 volts and higher. The act of copper theft could kill or seriously injure a lineman. Aside from being incredibly dangerous to enter an electric substation and cutting copper wire, it also threatens electric service to you, our members, and is a direct cost to members for repairs. If you notice odd activity around a substation or have information regarding copper theft, please call the Copper Theft Reward Hotline at (855) 267-7379.
Whether you agree or not, using less clean coal to generate electricity will increase your electric bill. Fact: Coal generates 75 percent of the electricity used by Missouri’s electric cooperatives. Fact: Missouri’s residential electric rate is the seventh lowest in the United States. Do you want to keep it that way?
Electric cooperatives are disappointed —but not surprised—that in September the Administration officially abandoned an all-of-the-above energy strategy for a new, all-but-one approach that effectively removes coal from the nation’s fuel mix in the future. The policy, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sets stringent limits on carbon dioxide emissions from future coal or natural gas plants. Trouble is, the new standards are impossible to meet with existing technology.
We need the help of each and every electric cooperative member to fight this plan. If we don’t act now, the price you pay for electricity will increase. Stand with us as we fight to keep electric bills affordable. It's urgent you tell the EPA we need an all-of-the-above energy strategy. We've made it easy. Go to www.action.coop and send your message!
Be smart. Act safe.
Let’s Be Serious About Safety
Miller was Badly Burned
“The moment it happened it impacted 50 lives,” he told me. “My wife, my kids and other family members and friends. I was in the hospital for 30 days – followed by more than 25 operations. I grew up in the house and had seen the power line every day. Before it happened, I only thought of electricity two times – when I had to pay for it and when it went off.”
As SEMO Electric Cooperative’s CEO, I have the pleasure of serving as a board of director for the Energy Education Council (EEC), which was established in 1952. The EEC is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization and includes electric cooperatives, investor-owned electric utilities, municipal utilities, educators and others who share the mission to provide life-saving and energy-saving information and resources. The EEC’s award-winning Safe Electricity program has grown to include almost 400 utility partners and sponsors reaching millions of consumers in 32 states. The goal is simple: enhancing lives – like yours – by promoting the efficient and safe use of energy.
During the EEC’s August board meeting, I heard Shawn Miller’s horrific story. He had been hanging holiday lights in the trees that lined his mother's yard. As he tossed the lights up into the trees, 7,200 volts of electricity entered his body, traveling from the overhead power lines through his strand of lights. His mother found her son on the ground with wisps of smoke coming from his body. Miller was unconscious and badly burned. Shawn suffered 27 exit wounds, the loss of one hand, and a finger on another but miraculously survived. Shawn Miller and his mother hope their lesson can save other families from harm.
"I'm lucky to be alive," he added. "I want everyone to be careful, be aware of power lines. After something life-changing happens, you become more interested and learn much more. Had I known more before this happened, I might still have two hands and the job I loved. I want to help people learn from what has happened to me. Safe Electricity is helping me help others."
Let’s be serious about safety. Let’s talk about safety before something serious or tragic happens. Let’s take time to discuss safety with family members. Perhaps visit www.GoSEMO.com or www.SafeElectricity.org and watch a few safety videos in the classroom or dining room. Or invite SEMO Electric to your next group meeting to discuss safety.
Moreover, make sure you look up and around for overhead power lines before working or playing outside. Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house and when working with long tools, like ladders and pruning poles. Keep equipment and yourself at least 10 feet from power lines in all directions, at all times.
Field Visits in Stoddard County
During a recent ride-along with fieldstaker Martin Ward, I was able meet several SEMO Electric member-owners in Stoddard County. Thanks to Bobby Aslin, Steven Burch, Bill Knoder and Randy Senciboy for their time.
Be smart. Act safe.
Board approves $500,000 refund to member-owners
SEMO Electric Cooperative’s board of directors approved a capital credit retirement of $500,000 comprised of 100% of remaining 1976 member allocations and 8.39% of 2012 member allocations. This is the 19th consecutive year the Cooperative has been able to retire capital credits – a total of $10.2 million. In 2012, SEMO Electric retired $409,308.
Watch your mailbox in mid-October as checks will be mailed to member-owners’ most current address listed on the Cooperative’s records. If the amount of the retirement is $5 or less, the amount will be carried over to 2014.
Free Co-op Connections Membership
Members now have a free membership to Touchstone Energy’s Co-op Connections national savings program. You can download the mobile app or visit www.connections.coop on the web. There are more than 25,000 participating businesses and the list continues to grow. Discounts are available for retail items, dining, travel and more. Look for more information in future issues of Rural Missouri. If local businesses are interested in attracting new customers through Co-op Connections, please visit the site or call Marla or Glen at SEMO Electric.
SEMO Electric’s New Website
SEMO Electric’s updated web site enhances the member’s experience by highlighting content and solutions to make life less complicated and more energy efficient. To learn more, visit www.gosemo.com. Just because technology continues to advance, a face-to-face interaction is still available at SEMO Electric. Please remember SEMO Electric’s walk-in offices in Bloomfield and Sikeston remain open to you from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. We have a great team of member/customer service professionals to greet you.
Do your lights ever flicker? Do your clocks start blinking? Do you ever wonder what causes flickers? It could be a tree, a snake, a raccoon, a car, lightning, birds or other things. If something or someone comes into contact with our lines, the system is designed to protect itself until the cause drops off or burns in the clear. That is when a blink or several blinks may occur. If the power goes out completely, the system is saying something or somebody may have made serious contact with an energized power line. Once the reason for the fault is removed or repaired, Team SEMO is able to restore power.
SEMO Electric’s annual work plan provides improvements to the system by removing deteriorating equipment, such as poles and conductors, or special projects like adding more lightning protection around equipment or adding animal guards at equipment locations. Other efforts include clearing our right of ways of tree problems and keeping an eye out for potential equipment failures.
Be smart. Act safe.
Meeting and helping our neighbors
Visit to Mississippi County
In July, SEMO Electric’s Serviceman Terry Bunting invited me for a ride-along in Mississippi County. We made several service stops, ate lunch in East Prairie, checked the maturity of some members’ sweet corn, stopped by the City of Wyatt’s offices, and, most importantly, we discussed SEMO Electric’s reliability with member-owners.
It was nice to meet members face-to-face on their turf. It was nice to see the good things happening in our communities. It was nice to receive compliments about SEMO Electric’s employees.
A special thank you to Burke and Cherie Dodson, Emmett Burke and Jim Burke, of Burke Farms, and Dale Glenn, of Glenn Farms, who, collectivity, farm thousands of acres and produce bushels and bushels of corn, soybeans and wheat in Mississippi County, for taking time to visit with us.
Team SEMO Provides Assist in Stoddard County
Several employees of SEMO Electric had the chance to help deliver summer snack packs to the Stoddard County Gospel Mission. While Team SEMO assisted, the real effort was provided by the First Christian Church of Dexter. The Elders organized the summer snack drive for area children. The congregation donated money and snack type foods to fill 350 white paper sacks. We can only imagine the smiles on the children’s faces when they received the snack packs.
The Stoddard County Gospel Mission is located at 207 N. One Mile Road in Dexter. The Food Bank is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday. If you know someone in need, please call (573) 624-8979 to schedule a time to receive food. If you wish to donate non-perishable food items, please feel free to call or visit. A little gift could become a big blessing.
Be smart. Act safe.
Members tell us their priorities
Clean, Affordable or Reliable?
SEMO Electric Cooperative member-owners had the chance to vote their priorities at Associated Electric Cooperative’s CARE exhibit during SEMO Electric’s 76th Annual Meeting. Members who stopped by the exhibit received a voting chip to drop into a clear box that corresponds to the aspect of their electricity – clean, affordable or reliable – that most important to them.
The informal vote gave members a chance to consider the options and express their opinions. It also allowed staff from Associated and SEMO Electric to inform members, answer questions about their wholesale power supply and explain how Associated and SEMO Electric work together to balance environmental costs while keeping electricity affordable and reliable.
So what was the result? More than 88% of SEMO Electric member-owners voted for reliable electricity, while10% voted for affordability and 2% voted clean electricity.
The “CARE” exhibit, named for the acronym that stands for “Clean, Affordable, Reliable Electricity” was created in 2012 to engage and educate cooperative members. The three choices seem rather simple until you try to balance them every day.
Missouri Electricity Costs Among Lowest
A recent study released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration ranked Missouri’s average retail electricity costs among the lowest. Missouri was ranked eighth for residential rates, fifth for commercial rates and ninth lowest for industrial rates. The average residential rate for Missouri was 9.13 cents per kWh. North Dakota had the lowest average residential rates at 7.97 cents per kWh. SEMO Electric’s residential rate – 8.79 cents per kWh – is below the Missouri average.
76th Annual Meeting
A special thank you to SEMO Electric’s members, directors, employees, suppliers and guests that attended and participated in SEMO Electric’s annual meeting. For more information about the event, please see the back page.
Be smart. Act safe.
Be Selfish about Safety at Work and Home
Safety at Work
On April 11, my heart skipped a beat when I heard the news that a Missouri lineman was electrocuted while restoring power after severe weather in St. Louis. It was a sad reminder of the hazardous conditions that SEMO Electric Cooperative’s employees (Team SEMO) may deal with 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You never know when the phone will ring to respond to an outage. You never know when your loved one might not come home. Team SEMO continues to keep the fallen lineman’s family and friends in its prayers.
On April 12, Team SEMO started its day with an unscheduled safety meeting. We have monthly safety meetings, but this was an extra meeting. We stopped to contemplate the loss of a fellow utility worker. We talked about how our actions are more important than words. We updated our personal emergency contact lists. We agreed that our best personal protection equipment (PPE) is our co-worker. Team SEMO knows working safely is the foundation for everything we do.
As the CEO/GM of SEMO Electric Cooperative, I am selfish about safety. I am protective of my co-workers. After storms or other events, Team SEMO will do its best to restore power as safely and quickly as possible. Yes, that is a sound bite. However, it is honest. Team SEMO and its contractors will restore power as soon as possible - safely. We may work through difficult circumstances. We may work long hours. But, safety is first. I have no plans to attend a funeral because I asked Team SEMO to take a shortcut or pushed too hard. The task is hazardous enough.
Safety At Home
May is National Electrical Safety Month. Electricity is a major part of our daily lives and essential to our modern lifestyle. When electricity does the work it is intended to do, the benefits are enormous. But awareness of the power of electricity is vital or the consequences can be devastating. Each year, electrical accidents and fires kill more than a thousand people and injure thousands more.
Did you know that nearly seven children a day are treated in emergency rooms for electrical shock or burns caused by tampering with a wall outlet around the home? The vast majority of those accidents can be prevented with awareness. We all must learn about electricity, and how to properly use it, and ensure that it is an asset instead of a liability. Please take time to discuss and identify the electrical dangers in your home.
SEMO Electric’s Annual Meeting
On May 20, SEMO Electric will hold its 76th Annual Meeting. Registration and infotainment will begin at 5:30 p.m. The business meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Please join us to learn more about safety, energy and the cooperative. During the meeting, the SEMO Electric Cooperative Foundation will award scholarships to more than 60 students from 16 area schools. A majority of these students plan to continue their education at a local community college or Southeast Missouri State University. These scholarships are a result of member-owners continued support of SEMO Electric’s Operation Round Up, which is a program funded by "rounding up" members’ electric bill payments each month. On behalf of the students, thank you for your support.
Be Smart. Act Safe.
Rebuilding Together, Touchstone and Spring Safety
On a recent Saturday, I was blessed to join nearly 90 volunteers from 30 electric cooperatives from across the nation to take part in the annual Touchstone Energy® Community Service Project.
During the day-long effort, we yanked off rotting exterior boards, installed new exterior panels, caulked, painted and removed toxic drywall at homes in Hollygrove, a working-class neighborhood northwest of downtown New Orleans.
We worked in cooperation with Rebuilding Together New Orleans, a group that has helped low-income homeowners restore their properties since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005.
In 2006 and 2007, my wife Debbie organized and led weeklong mission trips to Gulfport, Miss., where we did our best to help a few families rebuild. And after nearly eight years since Katrina, it was amazing to witness the continued desire to rebuild.
The same spirit exists in other communities such as Joplin, Mo., the northeast and places throughout the world. It is a humbling experience to help others after they have lost everything to Mother Nature. And as we all know, there is always room for a helping hand in our own neighborhoods due to severe weather such as ice storms.
So what is Touchstone Energy? Touchstone Energy is a nationwide alliance of more than 740 member-owned electric cooperatives dedicated to serving their members and communities with integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. SEMO Electric is a member of Touchstone. This means you have additional access to energy-saving resources.
For example, find out how the little changes add up at www.togetherwesave.com. The site features more than a dozen energy-efficiency interactive web applications linked to a virtual home tour, all designed to encourage co-op members throughout the country to take energy-saving actions now.
If you don’t have access to the Internet, start with these simple tips: Flip a switch. Seal some cracks. Screw in a CFL. Install a programmable thermostat and actually program it. You also may visit or call SEMO Electric and request a copy of “Touchstone Energy’s “101 Easy Ways to Save Energy and Money.”
If spring weather is sprouting thoughts of home improvement projects, you are not alone. Rising temperatures traditionally give rise to more remodeling, repairs, maintenance, landscaping and construction projects. Please remember these safety tips:
• Look up and around you. Always be aware of the location of power lines, particularly when using long metal tools like ladders, pool skimmers and pruning poles, or when installing rooftop antennas and satellite dishes or doing roof repair work.
• Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep equipment and yourself at least 10 feet from lines
• If your projects include digging, like building a deck or planting a tree, call 811 for a utility locator before you begin. Never assume the location or depth of underground utility lines. This service is free, prevents the inconvenience of having utilities interrupted, and can help you avoid serious injury.
Be smart. Act safe.
Keeping the Lights on: Tree Trimming and Property Taxes
2013 Tree Trimming
As long as the lights are on you may not think much about SEMO Electric’s daily work to keep the power flowing. However, keeping the lights on is a 7/24/365 business – especially when you mix together trees and severe weather.
Managing tree and vegetation growth near power lines is a proven method for reducing the frequency and severity of power service interruptions. SEMO Electric’s tree trimming is performed by trained personnel in accordance with standards set by OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) and ISA (International Society of Arboriculture).
Trees pruned in this manner are less susceptible to disease and insects, and the overall structure of the tree is stronger and more resistant to high winds and ice. Although the shape has been altered, it is recommended over topping or rounding of trees, which tends to promote quick re-growth of small, weakly attached branches.
As part of our commitment to keep the lights on, each year we trim different sections of SEMO Electric’s 2,500 miles of power lines. In 2013, SEMO Electric will focus tree trimming efforts around Anniston, Ardeola, Bloomfield, Delta, Dogwood, Idalia, Lilbourn, Miner, Vanduser and Wyatt.
2012 Property Taxes
Recently, I was asked if SEMO Electric pays property taxes and, if so, how much? Here’s the answer.
Since SEMO Electric operates on a non-profit basis (margins in the form of capital credits are returned to members), it is exempt from state and federal income taxes. However, SEMO Electric must still pay sales and use taxes, employment taxes and property taxes. Property taxes are paid on things such as real property (the land and buildings where are two offices and warehouses are located), vehicles and the more than 2,500 miles of distribution lines which bring electricity to you.
For 2012, SEMO Electric paid $519,333 (or $43,278 per month) in county property taxes. This represents a 196% increase over the past ten years. Following is a list of the 2012 county property taxes with the cooperative’s service area:
Cape Girardeau $46,288
New Madrid $78,686
Cooperative is Not-for-Profit
As member-owners and consumers of electricity, we are fortunate to be a part of a not-for-profit three-tiered cooperative system. What does “three-tiered” mean? In simple terms you are a member-owner of SEMO Electric, which owns its transmission company, which owns its generation company. Each tier works hard to meet the needs of its members as efficiently as possible – which is a huge advantage for all members. The goal is not to produce profits for distant shareholders, but to enhance your quality of life with safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
Be smart. Act safe.
Weather, Surveys and a Junior Trip March 2013
Severe Weather Radio
Did the recent storm and blizzard surprise you? SEMO Electric cares about its member-owners being prepared for severe weather. One item to help protect your family is an all-hazards alert weather radio. These radios can be purchased at many retail outlets. For $34 (includes tax), SEMO Electric offers a weather alert radio which carries the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service’s (NWS) All Hazards alerts. The radio utilizes the Specific Alert Message Encoding (SAME) technology that allows you to receive alerts/warnings for your designated area. Stop by our Bloomfield or Sikeston office to pick one up. For safety sakes, we will program it for you.
During the next few months, SEMO Electric will be participating in a telephone survey that is conducted every three years to measure the quality of service provided to you - our member-owners. This survey will ask several questions about your energy usage and your satisfaction with the cooperative. It should take approximately 15 minutes to answer all questions.
TSE Services, a cooperatively-owned market research organization, has a goal to complete 250 interviews with SEMO Electric member-owners. Its professional call center will conduct the survey and will identify themselves as calling on behalf of SEMO Electric. The calls will be made 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. You are not obligated to participate, but, if contacted, we would appreciate your participation.
High School Juniors
May I have your attention please? For those who have flown in a passenger plane, you may have heard those words just before take-off. Now, here is an opportunity for area high school juniors to soar.
Each year SEMO Electric sponsors at least two area high school juniors to serve as delegates for the National Rural Electric Youth Tour – an exciting all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to learn about our nation’s history, rural electrification and visit many historical landmarks.
Delegates from at least 40 states will participate in the week-long event June 14-20, 2013. The state of Missouri will send approximately 80 delegates. Missouri’s delegates will meet in Jefferson City on Friday, June 14 for a banquet and orientation before traveling by plane to Washington, D.C.
In order to attend, applications need to be completed by March 1. The opportunity is open to high school juniors who attend a school in SEMO Electric’s service area or whose parents or legal guardians are current members of SEMO Electric. To apply, call SEMO Electric, visit gosemo.com or check with your high school guidance counselor. Buckle up!
Team SEMO will continue to work hard to provide you with safe, reliable and reasonably-priced electricity.
Be smart. Act safe.
Several Changes coming as we head into new year February 2013
Happy New Year! Thank you for being a member-owner of SEMO Electric Cooperative. On behalf of my co-workers, we look forward to serving you in 2013. We wish you peace, happiness and abundant good health in the new year.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson
As a member-owner of SEMO Electric, you may have noticed U. S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson’s (R-MO) decision to accept the opportunity to become National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) next chief executive officer (CEO). She will assume her new position on March 1.
We should be proud as she will continue to represent southeast Missouri in her role as NRECA’s CEO. Her success will be our success as we work together to improve your quality of life with safe, reliable and reasonably-priced electricity.
Congratulations and best wishes to Rep. Emerson.
Farmers and Irrigators
In 2012, SEMO Electric saw significant growth in irrigation load and we continue to install new services. If you plan to add new irrigation pivots or pumps or would like to discuss switching to electricity, please give us a call (800-813-5230) so the service will be ready when you need it. We appreciate the business.
Last month we discussed avoiding bill shock since residential member-owners used 20% less electricity during the 2012 winter than during the 2011 winter. If the upcoming winter is colder than last year, member-owners may experience bill shock. When you receive your monthly bill, please take a moment to look in the top right corner of your electric bill. Each month, we provide usage history – by kWh – that reports how much electricity was used compared to last year. This is the first thing to look at if the bill seems higher than you expected.
If you have questions about your account, please stop by Bloomfield or Sikeston or call us. Team SEMO will continue to work hard to provide you with safe, reliable and reasonably-priced electricity.
Be smart. Act safe.