First Electric prepared for possible outages due to winter storm
Proposed EPA regulations will raise rates, affect reliability
Nonprofits receive $17,500 through Operation Round-Up
Cooperatives work hard to minimize potential electric outages
SmartHub bill payment system replaces E-Bill
Jacksonville man arrested in connection to attacks on power grid
e-SMART kids entertains, educates young minds
Five members win energy efficiency mini makeovers
Get virtual audit with Home Energy Calculator
Cooperatives to bring electricity to Guatemalan villages
Co-ops urge common sense on climate regulations
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the majority of First Electric’s service areas beginning Thursday afternoon and continuing through Friday. (To read the full winter weather message issued Tuesday, click here.)
First Electric crews are ready to restore power as quickly as possible in the event of outages caused by any freezing rain, sleet or snow.
The fastest way for members to report an outage is to call 888-827-3322. Restoration updates, when available, will be posted on First Electric's website and Facebook page.
Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas leaders warned the Environmental Protection Agency that proposed carbon reduction regulations would result in increased rates for electric cooperative members and impact the reliability of the nation’s power grid at an EPA “listening session” in Dallas on Nov. 7.
“Targeting electric utility generators for the majority of future carbon reductions puts an unfair cost burden on electric consumers,” Duane Highley, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation. “We believe that any federally mandated carbon reductions should include all sectors of the economy, not just electricity, and should reflect an equitable and proportionate share of each sector's contribution.”
He said that the EPA’s proposed regulation of carbon under section 111(d) expressly allows only those measures that have been "adequately demonstrated and achievable" by affected generating units. “Under this standard EPA cannot require carbon capture and storage, fuel switching or revised, non-economic dispatch of the generating fleet,” he said.
Highley said policies, which require the premature retirement of generating units, put the reliability of the grid in jeopardy. “As states develop their compliance plans, the EPA should require them to consult with regional transmission organizations, power pools and other affected parties to assure that electric reliability is maintained,” he said.
Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, added that short compliance timelines reduce flexibility and raise the cost of energy for electric cooperative members. “The EPA should allow states adequate time and flexibility of at least six years to design programs that minimize costs to ratepayers,” he said. “The Arkansas electric cooperatives have and will always be good stewards of the environment, but the proposed regulations lack common sense. Electric cooperatives across our nation are face-to-face with people who already have trouble paying bills. Without coal-based generation in the mix, this situation will only worsen.”
Highley said approximately 27 percent of the world’s coal is located in the United States, more than any other nation. “The EPA’s meetings bypass 16 of the top 20 coal-producing states. The proposed rules in these states could force layoffs, plant closures and result in major economic harm to one of these states’ most important industries. “The 11 selected locations for the ‘Listening Tour’ do not include most of the states that largely use coal for power,” he said.
AECC owns a portion of the cleanest and most efficient coal-based plant in the United States, the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant, which is also the nation’s only ultra-supercritical plant. “It is unfortunate that, while China will continue to deploy this ultra-supercritical technology, the EPA’s new unit rule will effectively prohibit the construction of this highly-efficient technology in the U.S.,” he said.
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives, including First Electric Cooperative; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.
To send a message to the EPA, visit www.Action.coop.
Nineteen nonprofit organizations received funds recently through First Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round-Up program. Community members on the Operation Round-Up Board of Trustees approved $17,500 in donations.
Recipients by county include:
- In Arkansas County, Arkansas County Single Parent Scholarship Fund and DeWitt Senior Center each received $1,000.
- In Cleburne County, Care Cap Connections/Volunteer America-1776 received $500 and Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Cleburne County, Wilburn Volunteer Fire Department and Drasco Fire Department each received $1,000.
- In Garland County, Hot Springs Village Walk for Cancer Research received $1,000.
- In Lonoke County, Arkansas Waterfowl Association received $500 and Lonoke County Museum, Lonoke County Safe Haven and Scott Fire Protection District each received $1,000.
- In Monroe County, Monroe County Single Parent Scholarship Fund received $1,000.
- In Perry County, Perry County 4-H Foundation received $1,000.
- In Pulaski County, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and Valentine/Wooten Awareness Council each received $1,000 and North Pulaski Community Center received $500.
- In Saline County, Christian Community Care Clinic received $1,000.
- In White County, Antioch Fire Department and White County Single Parent Scholarship Fund each received $1,000.
The program is possible thanks to the generosity of First Electric members who enroll in Operation Round-Up and agree to have their electric bill rounded up to the next even dollar amount each month. That money – more than $655,500 since 1998 – funds nonprofit donations and student scholarships. To sign up or to apply for funds, visit the Operation Round-Up page or call 800-489-7405.
Although power outages occasionally occur, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, including First Electric Cooperative, work diligently to minimize the number of outages and ensure against the disruption of service.
On Sunday, Oct. 27, the National Geographic Channel will air “American Blackout.” This film, debuting a few days before a new television series of the same nature launches, envisions a national power failure across the United States caused by a cyber-attack throughout a 10-day period.
According to Duane Highley, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Inc., the movie appears to be more of a dramatization than an illustration of a realistic event. Although a few blackouts in U.S. history have been of a regional nature, the grid is designed to be able to keep most outages localized. Moreover, with the high degree of planning and preparation that the electric industry has engaged in throughout the past several years, Highley said that the electric utility sector is more prepared for cyber-terrorism than any other critical infrastructure sector in the United States.
“Electric utilities work directly with officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government through the Department of Homeland Security to ensure threats are detected, shared and neutralized,” he said. “Utilities work with the government to improve the ability to restore the grid, should any interruption occur. The electric utility sector is the only critical sector that has mandatory, enforceable cyber-security standards designed to protect the bulk electric system.”
On Nov. 13 and 14 more than 200 electric utilities and government agencies from across the nation will participate in GridEx II to test emergency response and restoration plans. This exercise includes the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.
“Government and industry work together by sharing threat information in real-time and through confidential briefings, by developing and enforcing mandatory cyber-security standards, by identifying individuals to receive government security clearances to allow for confidential dialog and by conducting joint preparedness exercises, such as GridEx II,” Highley said.
Although electric providers cannot guarantee that power interruption will not occur, the providers are ready to protect against outages, whether cyber, weather or equipment failure. It is important keep in mind that weather causes most outages, and most outage issues are local or regional, according to Highley.
“Ultimately, our people are dedicated to ensuring that our cyber security and our reliability levels are the best in the world,” he said. “Electric power sector experts are routinely deployed to improve cyber security standards and address regulatory directives and best practices, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology standards.”
First Electric has launched SmartHub, its new bill payment system. It replaced the payment system known as E-Bill.
SmartHub not only allows members to pay their electric bills, but it also lets them monitor daily usage data on their account or accounts.
In addition to the web-based SmartHub, members can download the free app for their smartphones or tablets. Simply search for “SmartHub” on either the Apple Store or Android Market. Once the app is open, type in “First Electric Cooperative” as the provider.
Those who used E-Bill will be able to access SmartHub using the same E-Bill login and password. Others may sign up by visiting the SmartHub webpage or by clicking “New User” on the app’s login screen. The login information is the same for both the web and mobile app.
Members with questions about using SmartHub on the web or the app may call 800-489-7405 during business hours, and a member service representative can help.
Jason Woodring of Jacksonville is facing a charge of destruction of an energy facility after agents from the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force gathered information allegedly connecting him to the recent central Arkansas power grid attacks, which include an attack to First Electric Cooperative’s transmission lines Oct. 6. If indicted and convicted of this charge, Woodring faces a possible sentence of no more than 20 years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000 followed by three years of supervised release.
First Electric thanks the FBI as well as the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that worked to protect the power grid and ensure the co-op can provide safe, reliable electricity to members. First Electric asks the public to continue to report any suspicious behavior near a substation, power lines or other equipment by contacting the co-op at 800-489-7405 or the nearest law enforcement agency.
Click here for the complete release distributed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Oct. 12.
With First Electric’s new e-SMART kids program, students can be entertained as they learn about electricity, safety and energy efficiency. Click here to explore the free games, videos, tutorials and activities.
The website also provides resources and activities for teachers and parents to enrich what students learn on the website. First Electric is working with administrators and teachers to incorporate the e-SMART kids program into curriculum at schools across the co-op’s 17-county service area.
If you would like more information on using e-SMART kids materials, call 800-489-7405 and ask to speak with a marketing representative about the program.
“First Electric is providing this program at no cost in an effort to help students learn about electricity and to help the schools address some of the core curriculum requirements,” said Doug Brandon, marketing representative in the Perryville and Stuttgart districts.
Be sure to try the Voltinator game, ask the electricity expert a question, download an energy word scramble and more!
Five First Electric members have won energy efficiency mini makeovers worth up to $5,000 for their homes. Winners were selected from the applications submitted for the 2013 Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas $50,000 Energy Efficiency Makeover Contest.
The goal of the mini makeover program is to show how a modest investment can make homes more comfortable and more energy efficient, which can reduce members’ energy bills.
Mini makeover winners were: Charles and Jan Carty of Benton; Ron and Lynne Sharp of Quitman; Billy and Rosalyn Ballard of McRae; Thomas and Carmon Box of Perryville; and Billy and Sandra Clark of DeWitt.
Check out the mini makeovers webpage for photos and information on the improvements being made to each home.
Learning more about your energy usage and ways to save never has been easier. Apogee’s Home Energy Calculator application allows First Electric members to give their homes a virtual energy audit from the convenience of their computer.
“It’s an excellent tool for the member to use to see how and where their electrical usage is being consumed,” said Anthony Galloway, the Heber Springs district’s marketing representative. “The process only takes a few minutes and is easy for members to complete.”
The calculator is located here. You choose either a quick home energy checkup or a more detailed home energy audit. After entering information about your home and usage, the application generates a personalized energy analysis. In it, you can see how much savings is likely on your energy bill by making home improvements, adjusting your thermostat or taking other energy efficiency measures.
“The audit has no-cost and low-cost recommendations that members can implement,” Galloway said.
|First Electric employees, from left, Kevin Riddle, Randy Evans and John Hawkins will join the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas mission to Guatemala beginning Oct. 16. They are pictured with Larry Harp, vice president of operations.|
First Electric employees Randy Evans, John Hawkins and Kevin Riddle will join linemen from five other Arkansas co-ops on a two-week mission to Huehuetenango, Guatemala, starting Oct. 16. The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas are assisting the NRECA International Foundation in bringing electricity to four remote villages in the Central American country.
“First Electric is participating in this mission because we want the villagers who have gone so long without electricity to experience how it can improve the quality of their daily lives,” President/CEO Don Crabbe said.
For more on the mission, click here.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association released a video this week that gives a voice to the 900-plus electric cooperatives and their 42 million members that oppose the President’s climate proposal using the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide during a fragile economic recovery.
“Rural communities have a great story to tell about how they are innovating, using new technologies and leading in energy efficiency. It’s our responsibility to communicate the importance of affordable energy to the communities cooperatives serve and tell their story on how we are pursuing our energy future,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of NRECA. “The next few months are a critical time to unite behind that message and let policymakers know where we stand on the issues, as well as how important affordable energy is to us and the American economy.”
The two-minute video is the first action in a coordinated campaign that underscores the dramatic impact new regulations could have on much of the country’s electric generation and calls on consumers to join the united campaign. See the video and campaign announcement at Action.coop.
NRECA is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperatives, including First Electric Cooperative. They provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.