By CEO/GM Sean J. Vanslyke
Painting for a Cause
A few Saturdays ago I had the pleasure to help paint a home at the annual Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Community Service Project, held in conjunction with the NRECA annual meeting in New Orleans. As one of 100 volunteers from 40 cooperatives across America, we teamed up with the Rebuilding Together New Orleans organization to repair five houses belonging to elderly or disabled homeowners who can’t perform the upkeep on their own.
As NRECA’s Steven Johnson wrote about the event, “it wasn’t just the homeowners who benefitted from the stroke of a paintbrush. The annual event has created a sense of camaraderie among co-op participants.” Since 2013, this was my fourth Touchstone community service project. I have made friends from Colorado to Ohio to Florida to Montana. While it is only a one day event, we work hard and talk fast. In most cases, we trade stories about our families, our home cooperatives and quiz each other about something coop-related. Learn more at ect.coop.
SEMO Electric’s Annual Membership Meeting is set for Monday, May 23, 2016, at the Miner Convention Center. We will open the doors at 5 p.m. for two hours of live music by Maggie Thorn and Link Union. The business meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Please mark your calendar. Your Annual Membership Meeting Official Notice will be on the front page of May’s Rural Missouri. By using Rural Missouri for the official notice, it will reduce postage costs by $8,000.
Green Sales Tax Holiday
Each year from April 19 to April 25, the Missouri Show-Me Green Sales Tax Holiday exempts state sales tax on retail sales of select qualifying Energy Star certified new appliances, up to $1,500 per appliance. Some of the qualifying appliances include clothes washers, water heaters, dishwashers, air conditioners, furnaces, refrigerators and freezers that meet or exceed the applicable Energy Star efficiency requirements. Visit the Missouri Department of Revenue website for further details.
April shout-outs to SEMO Electric member-owners Mike Tomaszewski and Darrel Latham. Be smart. Act safe.
Rebates for Energy Efficiency
SEMO Electric Cooperative’s member-owners who choose energy efficient systems may have the opportunity to receive rebates from the cooperative. In 2015, SEMO Electric members received nearly $80,000 in rebates.
SEMO Electric has rebates available for the following (please contact SEMO for complete details): 1) Water Heaters: $165 rebate for the replacement of an existing water heater with an efficiency rating of less than .90 for a new higher efficient unit. Tankless or gas water heaters are not eligible. 2) Room Air Conditioning Unit: $50 rebate for purchase of a new Energy Star unit; 3) Dual Fuel Heat Pump: $250 per ton for Energy Star + 2 rating and a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating of 16.5; and 4) Geothermal (Ground Source) Heat Pump: $750 per ton for Energy Star + 2 rating and at least an energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 19.1 and a coefficient of performance (COP) of 3.3.
Please contact us before you buy as the rebate program has specific guidelines and limited funding. Only SEMO Electric member-owners are eligible for these rebates. For more information, contact SEMO Electric’s Member Services department, click on gosemo.com or visit a walk-in office at Bloomfield or Sikeston.
As a member-owner of the cooperative, one of the biggest assets you own are the 65,000 poles that support more than 2,500 miles (it’s only 2,300 miles from Sikeston, Missouri to Seattle, Washington). Over time, these poles need to be replaced because of decay. This year SEMO Electric budgeted for 500 pole replacements around Wolf Island and Advance. Plus, we will rebuild line sections and update regulators around Bloomfield, Delta and Matthews to enhance the reliability of the distribution system. There is a lot of work behind the scenes to keep the lights on.
Did you know SEMO Electric works with member-owners who ask about installing solar generation? We want to discuss the process to interconnect to the grid and safety. Several members have installed solar generation and signed interconnection agreements with the cooperative. Missouri’s “Net Metering and Easy Connect Act” states that the distribution generation (DG) is intended to primarily offset part or all of the consumer-generator’s own electrical energy requirements. As such, full retail price is credited for all energy put on the grid up to the amount purchased that month from the cooperative. All kilowatt hours put onto the grid by the member will be subtracted from the total amount purchased that month from the cooperative. The member will pay the “net” difference. Avoided cost is paid for energy put on the grid in excess of that month’s purchase. This amount above what is purchased can remain as a credit on the member’s bill for up to a maximum of one year. That month’s credit will expire if not used within one year, or at the time of disconnect. All standard service availability charges apply. For more information about the Net Metering and Easy Connect Act, please call us. We want to make sure your system is safely installed.
Save the Date
SEMO Electric’s Annual Membership Meeting is set for Monday, May 23, 2016, at the Miner Convention Center. We will open the doors at 5 p.m. for two hours of live music by Maggie Thorn and Link Union. The business meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Please mark your calendar.
March shout-outs to SEMO Electric member-owners Larry Peters, Danny Farrenburg, Cynthia Bright, Roger Stepp, Raymond Ellis, Sarah Bailey, Jimmie Worth and Charlotte Gilmore. Be smart. Act safe.
Avoid bill shock
The cold temperatures cause many of us to use more electricity, natural gas, wood, propane and/ or oil to stay warm. That means higher energy bills. That may mean higher electric bills due to increased usage, especially if your home is all electric.
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. Your electric meter measures the amount of electricity you use. Just as you purchase pounds of meat, gallons of gasoline or minutes for mobile phones, you buy units of energy known as kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. If you want to be energy aware and save money, it is important to know how much you use each month. For example, my family averages about 900 kWh per month to keep the lights on, phones charged and other devices running. When you receive your next bill, take a look at your monthly usage.
There are two easy ways to avoid bill shock
First, you can use SEMO Electric’s SmartHub app. Approximately 33% of SEMO Electric’s member-owners are using SmartHub. What’s SmartHub? SmartHub is SEMO Electric’s free online system that also allows you to monitor your energy usage and pay your bill. 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. 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.
Second, you can record your own electricity usage by manually reading the meter. By reading your meter at the same time each day, you can chart increases and decreases in energy use. 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 kWh by the cost per kilowatt-hour – for simplicity use 10 cents.
By taking note of your usage, you may notice when your furnace operates for long periods or when you host a family event, or when the kids are home from school. But, you will know how your energy dollar is being spent. Remember, just reading a meter alone will not save money; however, it will h e l p you become more energy aware and help you avoid bill shock!
February shout-outs to Mark Taake, Mark Dean, Tommie Caviness and Marty Hutcheson.
Be smart. Act safe.
Team SEMO – the employees of SEMO Electric Cooperative – appreciates the opportunity to deliver safe, reliable and low cost electricity to your home, farm and business. As a nonprofit co-op, our daily goal for 2016 will continue to be to work safe, be tidy and be prudent in serving you – the co-op’s member-owners. Best wishes to you and your family in 2016.
Team SEMO has worked the past 24 months – or roughly 198,700 hours – with zero lost time accidents. The “zero” is significant. Zero means Team SEMO didn’t miss a day of work because of unsafe acts. Zero means daughters, sons, moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents made it home safely at the end of each day. Safety is SEMO’s first job and will continue to be in 2016. If you see a member of Team SEMO, tell them “thanks for working safe.”
TSE Services, in coordination with SEMO Electric and Touchstone Energy, has initiated a market research study to better understand how different generations and segments of electric cooperative members view their electric provider and how cooperatives can better communicate the value of cooperative membership. Members of SEMO Electric will be randomly selected to participate in this telephone survey, so please help us better serve you by answering a few opinion questions if you are selected for the survey. Residential member telephone interviews will be made primarily during weeknights from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Weekend calling will be limited to Saturday only. No Sunday calling is permitted on this study. The survey is expected to last no more than 15 minutes.
As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, Team SEMO works hard to contain costs and make prudent business decisions. Did you know approximately 67 percent of SEMO Electric’s annual operating budget is for wholesale electricity to deliver to thousands of homes, businesses and farms? Where’s the other 33 percent? Similar to a vehicle that requires oil changes and safety inspections, SEMO’s complex delivery system – which includes about 65,000 poles – demands constant inspection, routine maintenance and tree trimming to keep the lights on 24/7/365. If you would like to learn more about how we operate, please call and arrange for a tour of the cooperative.
With property taxes due, I thought you might be curious about the cooperative’s tax bill. SEMO Electric’s property taxes for 2015 totaled nearly $525,315. Since the co-op has roughly 2,600 miles of power lines and 16,000 meters, property taxes equate to about $202 per mile of line or $32 per meter.
Shout-outs to SEMO member-owners Paul Dirnburger, Fenton Goering, Tammar Gant, Leroy Holmes, Dean Hayes, Mark Smith, Greg Baker, Barbara Houck, Shirley Anderson, Tom Raffety, Pete Rost, Judy Riley and Debra Frala. Be smart. Act safe.
As I walked into the church, emotion took hold of my heart and my eyes. This was the first time my family was together in the church since May 2008. I don’t recall the church being so big – to my left and to my right it seemed there were 30 rows of long pews. As I looked around at the stained glass windows, the baptistery and the pulpit, many memories raced through my mind. Memories like the sounds of the choir and the organ, my wife Debbie being baptized, our daughter Amanda being baptized, our son Parker being christened and me learning to speak in front of large groups in a safe environment. Now, several weeks ago, we were in the church for Revered Jay Johnson’s funeral. Pastor Jay suffered a heart attack two days after his last sermon. Our friend Jay was 63.
Pastor Jay was the rock. He always had a smile, time to listen and time to coach. He used humor to get his message across, but he never wavered from his Christian values. During our two mission trips together to Gulfport, Mississippi, Pastor Jay made sure the team stayed focused on “getting dirty for Jesus” as we worked side-by-side in wet, musty trailers and houses. In his last sermon, which I was able to read, Pastor Jay said “We don’t serve because we need to curry God’s favor; we serve because we’ve already been touched by grace. He (God) hopes we’ll live out our calling not to seek a reward but simply because it’s our identity.” Pastor Jay knew his calling and made the world a better place. Each of us has a choice to be good servant. Jay was and still is a role model for me. As Christmas approaches, I pray for you to have a blessed holiday and to remember the reason for the season. RIP Jay.
(The church: Union Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is one of the oldest churches in Litchfield, Illinois, founded in 1856. For a decade, the church served as our church. We made many friends and have fond memories of our days in Litchfield. Thank you.)
Employee safety and public safety is paramount to SEMO Electric Cooperative. We all want the best for the people in our lives – our family, friends, community and others. That includes you, SEMO Electric’s member-owners. I am selfish about safety as I don’t want to visit emergency rooms, hospitals or knock on someone’s front door to provide bad news due to an unsafe act.
It’s why we make safety a top priority at SEMO Electric and devote time and energy to making everyone aware of important safety tips and equipment. For instance, if you’re working with tall ladders, cleaning gutters, trimming trees or undertaking other projects outside, we remind you to look up for and stay safely away from overhead power lines, especially those connected to your home. If a project involves digging, be sure to call 811 a few working days in advance to get underground utilities marked.
We don’t want anyone to take a chance that could end in tragedy. SEMO Electric is a partner in the Safe Electricity program. We encourage you to visit SafeElectricity.org, where you’ll find life-saving information presented in videos, interactive games for children, online teacher resources and more. If you have a group or club and need a guest speaker, call us. We will make time to talk safety. After all, aren’t you and the people you care about worth it? We think so. In fact, we know so.
Christmas shout-outs to you - SEMO Electric member-owners. We (Team SEMO) appreciate your supoort of the cooperative.
Make 2016 a great year.
Be smart. Act safe.
Concern for Community
It was my pleasure to shine the light on SEMO Electric Cooperative’s members, board and employees at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives’ annual meeting October 7-9 in Branson. As you will see on another page inside this month’s Rural Missouri, I participated in a CEO panel to explain how we are working to meet challenges related to safety, grassroots activities and communications. I was able to discuss SEMO Electric’s commitment to safety, show a few photos from various cooperative events and talk about our strategic initiatives. As I have said in the past, we aren’t perfect but we are paying attention as we work harder and smarter to deliver safe, reliable and low-cost electricity to your home, farm or business. It is nice to be able to show and tell – humbly – others about the cooperative. Plus, I learned some new ideas during the roundtable discussion.
2016 Increase Capped at $2 per Month
SEMO Electric Cooperative’s base charge – service availability charge – will increase a flat $2 per month for all service classifications in 2016. The co-op’s charge per unit of energy (or kilowatt-hour) will remain the same for all service classifications. All adjustments will be reflected on bill statements due February 10, 2015. The base charge gives the cooperative a way of recovering fixed costs versus the up and down kWh charge that fluctuates with hot or cold weather. Regardless if electricity is used, the cooperative must cover fixed costs such as transformers, line maintenance, taxes on property, administrative costs, etc. The base charge is a more consistent method of recovering fixed costs and it helps the cooperative hold its overall rates down. There is video to explain the service availability charge at gosemo.com. As a side note, SEMO Electric has not increased its charge per unit of energy – 8.79 cents per kilowatt-hour – for residential members for nearly three years.
Simple, but Complex
“It’s more complex than I thought.” This was the reaction from a SEMO Electric member-owner who recently toured the operations center at Sikeston. “I was thinking it was just a few people answering the phone and a couple of linemen.” When visitors get a behind-the-scenes look at the teamwork and collaboration across the cooperative’s departments that is required to provide electric service to SEMO’s member-owners, it seems the reaction is often “wow.” At the end of the day, you just want to flip the switch. Eat the meal. Wear the jeans. How the power gets to your home, how the burger gets on your plate or how the cotton gets in your jeans, good businesses make it seem simple. Like most businesses, we work to make it seem simple. If you would like a tour of our operations center, please ask the next time you visit or call for an appointment.
Thanksgiving shout-outs to Doug Libla, Kyle Aubuchon, Mike Ice, Tim Woods, Don Rone, Gary and Alice Towe, Robbie Cochran and M Kay Supply. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Be smart. Act safe.
While visiting Yoder's Garden Shop and Deli, a SEMO Electric Cooperative member-owner at Aquilla, another SEMO member-owner stopped and asked me about the cooperative’s electric rates for 2016. He said: “I heard SEMO’s rates are going up fifty percent next year.” I replied by saying the information was news to me and we are working hard to keep our residential rate per unit of energy (known as a kilowatt-hour) at 8.79 cents, which has not changed for nearly three years.
As we talked, it was clear the attention on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final, nearly 1,600 page Clean Power Plan, has coffee shops talking about future electricity prices. The plan was full of surprises – most of them not good for Missouri and several other states. The EPA’s final plan calls for a 32 percent reduction in power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. The final plan is extremely complex and three times the length of the draft plan. The EPA will face numerous legal challenges, which means uncertainty will continue for some time. This uncertainty makes it hard for SEMO to predict future electric rates based on regulations and outcomes in federal courthouses. Ultimately, the final rule will reduce the use of coal to generate electricity and increase the cost of producing electricity for member-owners. Is a 50% rate increase possible in the coming years? Only time will tell.
So what do we do? I don’t know, but I know we need to be forward-looking and make sure we are engaged in the debate surrounding federal regulations. Like many of you, I want clean energy, but also I want safe, reliable and low-cost energy. Did you know SEMO is already delivering electricity that is generated from other sources than coal? In my analysis of our recent electricity generation mix report, SEMO member-owners are receiving nearly 25% of non-coal electricity from hydro, wind and natural gas. SEMO and its electricity generator – Associated Electric Cooperative (AECI) – have been and will continue to be forward-looking. Our approach is already providing clean energy for your home, farm and business. Additional regulations will more likely create additional jobs in Washington, D.C. rather than real jobs in southeast Missouri.
Back to Yoder’s, I did indicate that the cooperative is in its final stages of developing capital and operating and maintenance budgets for 2016. We may increase the service availability charge by $2 per month (a total increase of $24 for 2016), but SEMO’s residential rate per unit of energy will remain at 8.79 cents. Therefore, no large increases are predicted for 2016.
Looking ahead to 2016, SEMO will contract for $18 million (approximately 67% of 2016's operating budget) of electricity to deliver to thousands of homes, businesses and farms in southeast Missouri. Similar to an automobile that requires oil changes and safety inspections, SEMO’s complex delivery system – which includes about 2,600 miles of distribution lines – demands constant inspection and routine maintenance to keep the lights on. Our capital investment projects will be around $3 million as we update facilities and replace poles and wires. We will invest $1.75 million for vegetation management and tree trimming. Other expenses include the co-op’s day-to-day operating costs, which includes member service representatives to welcome you in Bloomfield and Sikeston and the mechanic who keeps the fleet in good working order so linemen can restore the power after a storm.
As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, each business decision we make impacts our member-owners’ electricity rates. Team SEMO works hard to contain costs and make prudent business decisions. For example, we are streamlining our warehouses for more efficient order fulfillment, we are reducing paper usage by utilizing iPads for service orders and we have taken a more hands-on approach with vegetation management to reduce outages and enhance reliability. We aren’t perfect, but we are paying attention.
Halloween shout-outs to members-owners Dave Kieffer, Melinda Masters, Dan Rice, Gale Gaither, James Garner, Leeman Shirrell, Gerald Owens, Ralph White, Hugh Hunter Byrd, Pete Ritter and River Ridge Winery and Martin Rice Company.
Be smart. Act safe.
At SEMO Electric Cooperative, our goal is to provide safe, reliable and low-cost electric service to our members. As part of that commitment, we must be good stewards of the financial resources we manage on behalf of our members.
Among the resources that we manage are the funds paid to the cooperative by members through their monthly electric bill. Those funds are also called capital. The majority of these funds are used to pay for electricity purchased from our wholesale cooperative supplier – M&A Electric Power Cooperative. A portion of your bill pays for salaries and operating expenses of the cooperative. A portion of each monthly bill pays for the network of lines, transformers and substations.
Most electric companies use their profits to pay Wall Street investors. SEMO Electric is different because we are a member-owned electric cooperative and a not-for-profit business. Technically, every customer is a member and every member owns a share of the network of lines and poles, based on the number of years someone has been a member. This is also known as the member’s equity share or their capital credit.
Explaining capital credits is complicated. A capital credit is not cash on hand, but rather equity in the system. It does, however, show up on our financial filings, which further confuses many people. Based on the value of our system, the cooperative is able to borrow money to grow our system to serve the needs of new members or to restore the system after thunderstorms.
Each year SEMO Electric’s Board of Directors make a decision as to whether the cooperative will retire capital credits based on the financial condition of the cooperative. During some years, the co-op may experience lower growth in the number of new accounts, or co-op expenses may be lower than expected because of fewer severe storms or system repairs. The Board also evaluates the method, basis, priority and timing of all capital credits retirements. Then, the Board may vote to retire capital credits by essentially making a cash payment to people who were members during a certain period of time.
For 2015, the Board has authorized distribution of capital credit retirements to member-owners in the amount of $804,925. This amount includes 100% equity from 1979, 50% equity from 1980 and 10% equity from 2014. Therefore, people who were members in 1979, 1980 and 2014 may receive a capital credit payment. Roughly 10,500 active and former members will receive a check this year. If the amount is $10 or less, the amount will be carried over to the following year. Most checks for residential members will range from $10.01 to $50. Checks will be mailed to member-owners’ most current address listed on the Cooperative’s records during the first two weeks in October.
If you are a newer member this year, you will not receive a capital credit check this year. It is important to notify the cooperative if you have moved or intend to move. Even if you no longer have electric service with the cooperative, we will continue to keep up with the capital credited to your account, and you will still be eligible to receive a capital credit check in the future.
At the end of the day, co-op members are co-op owners. For the past 21 years, SEMO Electric has paid back capital credits – a total of nearly $12 million – as we strive to provide safe, reliable and low-cost electric service.
September shout-outs to members-owners Ronnie Elliott, Carol & Jim Russell, James Abner, John Bixler and Lambert's Cafe.
Be smart. Act safe.
I want to take a second to thank our employees – Team SEMO – for responding to several storms this summer. I would also like to thank all of the many people who have responded from law enforcement and emergency responders to assist us when necessary. When severe weather occurs, we appreciate your patience in giving us time to find and assess the damage before we can – safely – begin service restoration. The outage reason could be simple, or it could be downed wires on cars, tractors or on roads. In most cases, your electricity will come back on before Team SEMO goes home to their families. Our goal is to provide a safe workplace for our employees and provide you safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
Several months ago, I asked SEMO Electric Cooperative’s members to call or email us regarding their interest in the cooperative building a community solar project. We only received a few calls. However, several members asked: What role does solar play in SEMO’s future? The ultimate outcome is unknown at this time, but here is a viewpoint with input from Aaron Bradshaw, a cooperative friend and general manager of Intercounty Electric Cooperative in Licking, Mo.
The electric delivery industry is trying to answer the solar question, not just SEMO. Aaron says that cooperatives have generally been at the forefront of generation technologies. In Missouri, their leadership is apparent when you consider that the cooperatives brought the first wind farms to the state and most recently supported the development of small-scale nuclear reactors in Missouri. SEMO’s electricity supplier, Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., has 750 megawatts of contracted wind energy from six wind farms in its portfolio. That generation is projected to produce electricity equivalent to that used by about 181,000 member households in a year. The addition of wind energy was part of an extensively researched and carefully deliberated plan. A chief consideration of that plan was maintaining reliability and affordability for the cooperative members who still have to pay a power bill each month.
Associated and Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, including SEMO, are taking the same approach with solar. Renewables as part of an overall strategy to diversify generation sources are a good thing. Leaping into a technology without doing due diligence is a bad idea. Currently, the electric cooperatives are reviewing and evaluating several real world utility scale projects including a community solar project at Platte Clay Electric Cooperative in Kearney, Missouri. We expect that the data generated by these projects will provide the information we need to make the right decisions going forward.
Aaron, who has a Certified Energy Manager designation from the Association of Energy Engineers, said while it may significantly cheaper to install utility scale solar (due to economies of scale) than individual distributed generation, he expects to see more member-owned solar panels as the price comes down. The thing to remember, however, is that solar power is not free. Members still have to pay for the equipment. For those members interested in reducing their carbon footprint, interested in disconnecting from the grid or just interested in renewable generation, solar is an avenue worth exploring. If you are interested in solar, the good news is that it is heavily subsidized with rebates funded by tax dollars. The cooperative business model operates for the benefit of all of its members. Therefore, it is unfair to expect all members to further subsidize those who can personally afford to install solar panels. If you decide solar might be right for you, please make sure you select a reputable vendor. Choosing the right solar company is important to ensure that you receive a quality installation and will have someone to service your solar array if it needs repair or replacement. Check them out online and take the time to visit with their existing customers.
So, back to the initial question, for the immediate future, SEMO will continue with its current net metering policy while monitoring several real world projects as we (along with our generation and transmission cooperatives) formulate a path forward. SEMO is exploring building a small solar array to power its office. Long-term, the cost of solar equipment will eventually fall enough to make it a viable source for utility scale production. At that point, you will see more investment in solar in an effort to further diversify and stabilize energy production.
This month’s shout-outs include Billy Washington, Lloyd Kelley, Billy McClure, Jane Jackson and Michael Kasten.
Be smart. Act safe.
In May, SEMO Electric Cooperative’s Carl Eftink, Dennis Fowler, Glen Cantrell and I joined other cooperative leaders from Missouri to take part in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s 2015 Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. The goal of the conference was to meet face-to-face with federal legislators and staff members to discuss various issues facing electric cooperatives and to ask for their support. We had about 10 meetings.
In each meeting, we explained how various issues impact cooperative members – your rates – and asked them to support legislation that would address the issues. The topics included the Ratepayer Protection Act, Waters of the United States, the Endangered Species Act, cybersecurity, coal ash regulations, broadband for rural America and the Clean Power Plan. These are big issues that could significantly impact rates in the future. And force us, as a co-op, to raise rates.
What I found encouraging in these meetings is the level of support that legislators and staff give us. They work hard to understand how the issues impact us. But beyond that, they are willing to do whatever they can to support us. They often sponsor or sign on to bills we ask them to. Or sometimes they write letters, encouraging a government agency to reconsider a position. But they don't do it because of a few people who came to meet with them. They do it because our group represented around 600,000 members – and voters – at the end of the line in Missouri.
Perhaps to summarize the trip, I heard someone say: “If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.” If we don’t stay active in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., we may not have a seat at the table to help protect our access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity for your home, farm and/or business. We need to do our part to keep lawmakers informed about rural Missouri. Learn more about the issues above at mocoopnation.org. Thank you for your support.
Several members have told us that their monthly bills are not arriving in their mailbox in a timely fashion. SEMO Electric hasn’t changed its process and bills are still due on the 10th of each month. It appears the post office has changed its sorting process. We have asked the post office for help and will continue to ask. In the meantime, please call us and request your balance due, click on gosemo.com and sign up for e-bill or stop by our offices in Bloomfield and Sikeston. We will reprint your billing statement for you. We appreciate your understanding.
Shout-outs to SEMO Electric member-owners Varetta Gant, Brenda Gant, Victoria Hastings, Charles Lutes, Scotty Lewis and Larry Cooper. Thanks to all member-owners and guests who attended SEMO's Annual Meeting.
Be smart. Act safe.
Annual Membership Meeting
SEMO Electric Cooperative’s 78th Annual Membership Meeting will begin at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 28 at the Miner Convention Center. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. In accordance with SEMO’s Bylaws, each year the Cooperative holds an annual meeting. At the annual meeting, SEMO members are able to meet with Co-op staff, meet the Board and receive reports regarding SEMO’s activities during the past year. The meeting also brings the annual Board election process to a close, as members are able to cast their ballots at the meeting and hear election results. Plus, about 80 high school seniors will receive Operation Round Up scholarships and there will be a drawing for door prizes. We hope to see you there.
Reducing Postage Costs
This issue of The Powerline/Rural Missouri is SEMO’s Official Notice of its Annual Membership Meeting. It arrived a few days later than normal, but SEMO’s Bylaws state the printed annual meeting notice shall be delivered not more than 25 days before the date of the meeting. Rather than send a separate notification letter, we utilized this publication to save about 8,000 dollars in postage costs.
Quick shout-outs to SEMO member-owners Jeannie Henson, Lee Kent, Ernest Tate, The Metcalf Family, Gary Biehl, Bill Armstrong and Carrie Farley. Thanks to Altec for letting SEMO test its tracked digger derrick.
Be smart. Act safe.
This winter has certainly tested SEMO Electric Cooperative’s delivery system. We are never sure what Mother Nature will hand us, but you should know that Team SEMO has its focus on keeping the lights on. It isn’t easy work and includes long hours with no sleep. The amount of damage determines how long it will take to restore power and if we need assistance from other cooperatives or contractors. So far, Team SEMO has been able to – safely – handle Old Man Winter. We appreciate the first responders, MODOT and other groups that assist us and we appreciate your positive comments.
Community Service Project
During the annual Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Community Service Project, my family had the opportunity to join more than 100 cooperative volunteers from around the nation to work with Rebuilding Together Orlando, a nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing communities. Volunteers embarked on major repairs at four homes, including flooring, weatherization, roof and handrail replacements, and accessibility modifications. Our group caulked, painted, landscaped and installed security lights. This event gives us a chance to help others and develop relationships with other cooperative employees from across the county. While we work, it seems we talk about our home cooperative and share best practices. It is a rewarding experience. The photo above was a last minute selfie as “Ralston” latched on to my hat. His house was the color yellow before the day started.
As your Touchstone Energy Cooperative, SEMO strives to provide dependable electricity at a competitive cost to every member. But as a member, you have the power. The power to energize and enhance your life with information from Touchstone, which is supported by more than 750 electric cooperatives across the United States. The power is all yours. It’s up to you to turn it on. For example, find out how much you can save by taking the energy savings home tour at togetherwesave.com. If you don’t have a computer, tablet or smart phone, visit your local library or stop by our offices for more information.
Annual Membership Meeting
SEMO’s 78th Annual Membership Meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 28 at the Miner Convention Center located at 2610 East Malone Avenue, Sikeston, Mo., and next to the Drury Inn. Your Annual Membership Meeting Official Notice will be on the front page of May’s issue. By using The Powerline/Rural Missouri for the official notice instead of a separate mailing, it will reduce postage costs by $8,000. Please be sure to watch for your The Powerline/Rural Missouri during the first part of May. Mark your calendar for May 28 and join us at the Miner Convention Center.
Shout-outs to SEMO member-owners Revanell McMillan, Beth and Jay Musgrave and Bill Green.
Be smart. Act Safe.
Storm Response Team
Team SEMO is excited about this issue of Rural Missouri. There is a feature article about SEMO Electric Cooperative’s storm response team on page four. Not counting electronic versions, Rural Missouri is mailed to nearly 555,000 Missouri co-op members. Whether it is a local restaurant, a local attraction or your local cooperative, it is nice to see southeast Missouri featured in Rural Missouri. We appreciate the publication and hope you do as well.
200 bills have been filed during the 2015 Missouri legislative session that could impact SEMO’s cost of business and your electric rates. Each winter, SEMO Electric’s board of directors, Glen Cantrell and I travel to Jefferson City to meet with legislators at the Missouri State Capitol. SEMO’s directors, who are member-owners, ensure co-op voices of concern are being heard. These discussions with senators and representatives are essential to SEMO’s future and its ability to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity. When bills are being debated in the Capitol, our relationships serve as a conduit for open dialogue. These relationships offer an opportunity to educate legislators and show them how bills they are crafting will affect member-owners.
We try to educate member-owners about the high cost of using a space heater to heat a home. However, many merchants offer “energy efficient” space heaters. Recently, I heard a sales pitch indicate the cost to operate “energy efficient” space heaters would be less than twenty-five cents per hour. Sound cheap? If left on 24 hours a day, that’s $6 per day or about $180 per month. How many space heaters do you have heating your home?
As a child, we are told time flies. As a child, we brush off the advice. As adults, we learn the hard way. In late December, my wife Debbie and I became grandparents. Ripley Rose was born on December 26. My grandparents were married on December 26, 1943. While Grandpa Walter died in 2006, Grandma Mary continued to live on their farm and stay active. However, her health took a turn for the worst in mid-December. On January 10, Grandma Mary, Mom Charlotte, Daughter Amanda, Granddaughter Ripley and I gathered for a five generation photograph. It is one I will always cherish. On February 9, Grandma suffered a massive stroke and passed away. One could only guess what I would give to milk cows one more time with grandpa and grandma. RIP Grandma Mary. Say hello to Grandpa Walter.
Shout-outs to SEMO’s member-owners Don Tubbs, Don White, Tom Stafford and Elvin Kingree. Shout-outs to Senator Doug Libla, Senator Wayne Wallingford, Representative Donna Lichtenegger, Representative Kathy Swan, Representative Holly Rehder, Representative Don Rone and Representative Tila Hubrecht and their legislative staffs.
Winter Weather Equals Peak Demand
January’s winter weather made its impact on SEMO Electric Cooperative’s system as cold temperatures drove electricity demand higher. At 6:50 a.m., January 8, members combined to set the 2014-2015 winter peak of nearly 75 megawatts (a megawatt is equal to one million watts) of electricity demand. This compares to a peak demand of 76.5 megawatts at 6:15 p.m., January 6, 2014, during the Polar Vortex.
The above graph shows how January’s cold temperatures (in red) had a direct impact on member demand (in blue) for electricity. After periods of extreme cold (and hot weather), SEMO receives numerous calls about high bills.
Often times, SEMO’s member service representatives simply help members understand the relationship between the weather and their appetite for electricity. Since the electric bill arrives weeks after the electricity usage, it helps to stop and review the weather conditions. Plus, on the back of each residential bill statement there is a chart that compares the past 24 months of electricity usage. Many members find the information helpful to understand their electricity usage by month.
Avoid Bill Shock – SmartHub
For those with electronic tablets, computers, iPads and smart phones, SEMO offers the SmartHub app to view daily usage. Please visit gosemo.com, search your app store for “SmartHub” or stop by Bloomfield or Sikeston office for a SmartHub e-tour. Hundreds of members are using SmartHub to pay their bill electronically and view the current billing period and graph it with the weather. SmartHub is one way to help avoid bill shock by tracking electricity consumption.
Energy Saving Resources for Members
SEMO strives to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity to every member. And as a member, you have the power to save money. Flip a switch. Change the air filter. Unplug electronics. Making small changes and using energy wisely can help save energy and money. Visit SEMO’s offices in Bloomfield or Sikeston to find ways to save energy or visit gosemo.com and click away for ideas.
Shout-outs to the following SEMO member-owners: Bob Lasater, CW McDaniel, Tom and Todd Rendleman, Capital Sand Plant, Raymond Ellis, Sarah Messmer, Cecil Hale, Chris Sullivan, Jerry “CIA” Tomlinson and Chris McClanahan. Thank you for your membership.
Be smart. Act safe.
Best wishes to you and your family in 2015. The staff at SEMO Electric Cooperative appreciates the opportunity to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity to your home, farm and/or business. As a nonprofit co-op, our daily goal for 2015 will continue to be to work safe, be tidy and be prudent in serving you – the co-op’s member-owners. Thank you.
SEMO employees – Team SEMO – have worked the past 12 months with zero lost time accidents. The “zero” is significant. Zero means Team SEMO didn’t miss a day of work because of unsafe acts. Zero means daughters, sons, moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents made it home safely at the end of each day. Safety is SEMO’s first job and will continue to be in 2015. If you see a member of Team SEMO, tell them “thanks for working safe.”
SEMO’s property taxes for 2104 totaled nearly $550,000, up about $20,000 over last year. Since the co-op has 2,600 miles of power lines, property taxes equate to about $211 per mile of line.
On the back page of this newsletter is an article about tree trimming and vegetation management. SEMO must trim trees and manage vegetation. Otherwise, we jeopardize the ability to deliver safe and reliable electricity. In 2014, Mother Nature created a tremendous growing season for weeds, vines and other vegetation. If we farmed vines, yields would have been significant. In 2015, SEMO will invest $1.5 million to trim trees and manage vines as we keep the lights on 24/7/365.
During the next 12 months, SEMO will make safety and security enhancements to our facilities in Bloomfield and Sikeston. We will update our facilities to create an environment that is open to member-owners, but secure for Team SEMO and help the co-op mitigate risk. Recently, we updated the co-op’s surveillance system to keep a better eye on the co-op’s assets.
Shout-outs to the volunteers for the Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner based at the Sikeston VFW. The event provided hearty Thanksgiving meals for approximately 700 individuals. SEMO played a small part as Team SEMO donated more than 100 food items and my family spent a few hours on Thanksgiving Day preparing and delivering meals to area residents. It was blessing to help. Thanks again to those who made it possible. Quick shout-outs to SEMO member-owners Harrison Beasley, Chris Kielhofner, Tanya and Brian Lane and LeRoy Davenport. Have a safe 2015!
Be smart. Act safe.
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.
Community Solar Farm
Solar energy has become more popular in recent years as more people are looking for renewable sources of energy. To provide SEMO Electric Cooperative’s member-consumers the opportunity to have their own solar panels without having to install equipment on their property, SEMO Electric Cooperative is considering developing a community solar farm. Interested? We want to know.
The community solar farm, a land area where multiple solar panels are installed, may be an easy and affordable way for members to purchase solar energy for their home or small business. Members would purchase the output of one or more panels and receive a kilowatt-hour (kWh) credit on their energy bill each month. The credit is based on the number of panels the member has contracted for, as well as the amount of the energy produced by the solar array each month. The cost per kWh may be about five cents higher than SEMO Electric’s current rate.
There are at least 38 co-ops in 21 states that have developed or are planning community solar. Community solar fulfills consumer demand and, at the same time, helps diversify the fuel portfolio and build new community partnerships. And it's a flexible model that can be expanded as demand grows.
There are many details – including cost, size and location – that need to be defined to create a business model for SEMO Electric – a nonprofit cooperative – to offer community solar to our members. However, SEMO Electric’s board of directors is curious if member-consumers would like to learn more about a community solar farm by attending an informational open house. If you have interest in a community solar farm, please call SEMO Electric at 800-813-5230 and ask for Marla. Or send us an email at email@example.com. To learn more about solar, please visit www.nreca.coop/solar.
2015 Energy Costs
SEMO Electric Cooperative’s residential base charge – service availability – will increase a flat $2 per month in 2015. The co-op’s charge per unit of energy – kWh – will remain the same. For most other service classifications, there will be incremental increases in monthly charges and, in some cases, demand charges may increase up to $1 per KW. Please see the chart on the front page. All adjustments will be reflected on bill statements due February 10, 2015.
Power Plant Tour
Thank you to our cooperative friends at the New Madrid Power Plant for an interesting plant tour. Each time I visit the plant, I learn more and continue to be amazed at the cleanliness of the facility. Here are six interesting facts about the plant: 1) the plant employs 193 area residents; 2) it takes about a ton of coal to make a megawatt/hour (about the same amount of electricity consumed by about 1,000 homes in an hour ); 3) the plant uses about 4.6 million tons of coal each year; 4) there are 12 miles of boiler tube; 5) some of the piping is five inches thick and costs about $450 per inch; and 6) the plant’s staff works hard to keep electricity safe, reliable and affordable.
Shout-outs to Associated Electric Cooperative’s Roger Neumeyer, Matt Hanson and Laurie Duff; Senator Wayne Wallingford, Representative Donna Lichtenegger and Representative Lyndall Fraker; Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives’ Zach Pollock and Mary Scruggs; and SEMO Electric member-consumers Jerry Menz and Paul Morrow.
Be smart. Act safe.
The Big Pumpkin
A few weeks ago, my family traveled to my in-laws’ house near Deepwater, Mo., along Highway 13 between Springfield and Kansas City. We spent one afternoon harvesting and washing pumpkins and the next day selling pumpkins to travelers along the highway. When my wife, Debbie, and I were first married 26 years ago, it seemed my father-in-law, Larry Neuenschwander, grew pumpkins quite often as her younger brothers were able to help. However, as they graduated high school, Larry’s focus on his dairy operations and crop farming took precedence.
Now, Larry has retired from dairy farming and is, once again, growing pumpkins – big pumpkins. In fact, he received a white ribbon for a 206 pound pumpkin at the 2014 Missouri State Fair. Its waist line was eight feet. As a roadside vendor for a day, it was interesting to the talk to travelers and amusing to watch them take selfies with the “big pumpkin.” This fall’s pumpkin experience reminded me of simpler times and how agriculture – big and small – has the ability to connect generations and create memories.
Your Opinion Counts
During the next 60 days, some SEMO Electric member-owners may receive a phone call to participate in a 15 minute member-owner satisfaction survey. The caller ID will say "Opinion Counts" from area code 336. This is not a scam. If called, I would appreciate your participation. There is no cost to participate. No calls should be made on Sundays. Thank you.
To help determine electricity rates for 2015, the co-op received its 2014 Cost-of-Service Study (COSS) from MidSouth Utility Consultants. The COSS rate study is a necessary responsibility of SEMO Electric’s management and board of directors to ensure the co-op continues to operate in a financially sound manner. The COSS, as the name implies, is an analysis of the cooperative’s costs to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity. With the COSS information, SEMO Electric’s 2015 residential electricity rates may only increase a few dollars per month. Look for more information in next month’s column.
First: Shout-outs to SEMO Electric Cooperative member-owners Ron Shelby, Todd Shelby, Jared Hall, Charles Bauer, Heath Stengler and Tara Hitt. Thanks to taking time to discuss the co-op’s service and talking baseball, education, equipment and hunting. Second: Shout-outs to National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) CEO Jo Ann Emerson and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.). We recently discussed the importance of the Mississippi River and how it plays a pivotal role for agriculture and jobs in southeast Missouri. Third: A big shout-out to past and present veterans as we approach Veterans Day! Thank you for your service.
Be safe. Act smart.
Portable Generator Safety
Since the 2009 ice storm, the popularity of portable electric generators has resulted in many being placed in homes and small businesses in southeast Missouri. Safety for the users of a portable generator system and SEMO Electric linemen cannot be over-emphasized. Properly connecting the generator into the system is a critical step for safe and effective use. A licensed professional can help with proper equipment for safely using a portable generator. Have a qualified electrician install a transfer switch. The transfer switch breaks the path of electricity between the power lines and your main electrical panel. This is the best way to protect you, your neighbors and repair crews from “back feed.” Back feed occurs when an improperly connected generator begins feeding electricity “back” through the power lines. This can seriously injure anyone near lines, especially crews working to restore power.
If installed and operated correctly, use of standby or portable electric generators poses little danger, but improper installation or use could be dangerous to you and threaten the lives of your family, friends, neighbors and SEMO Electric linemen trying to restore service. Let’s get ready for winter, but let’s put safety first.
There seems to be a lot of discussion about electricity rate increases in the news. I have been asked if SEMO Electric’s rates will increase in 2015, and if so, how much? As mentioned in this column several months ago, our power supplier may increase its prices for 2015 but we don’t know at this time. We are working hard to contain costs and make prudent business decisions. As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, each business decision we make increases or decreases our member-owners’ electricity rates. We aren’t perfect, but we are paying attention.
SEMO Electric is in the final stages of developing capital and operating and maintenance budgets for next year. When we look back at 2014, SEMO Electric will have purchased around $18 million of electricity to deliver to thousands of homes, businesses and farms in southeast Missouri. Our capital investments and reliability enhancement projects will be over $2 million. SEMO Electric’s tab for tree trimming and vegetation management will approach nearly $1.5 million. We must factor the co-op’s day-to-day operating costs for the member services representative who greets you to the mechanic who keeps line trucks operating to linemen who restore the power after storm. Similar to an automobile that requires oil changes and safety inspections, SEMO Electric’s complex delivery system – which includes about 2,600 miles of distribution lines – demands constant inspection and routine maintenance to keep the lights on.
Ultimately, it is important for SEMO Electric to attract new consumers and/or member-owners. The cooperative serves an average of six meters per mile. In comparison, investor-owned utilities serve about 35 meters per mile. By adding more member-owners, the level of rate increases could be diminished. This is one reason we work hard to attract new businesses and continue to provide current member-owners with safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Plus, SEMO Electric returns any margins – known as capital credits – to you when it’s appropriate.
In a hurry? Pay 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 option. 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.
Be smart. Act safe.
Beware of Scams
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 (photo below), 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.