Co-op's electric supplier adds 108 megawatts of wind energy
Put safety first this month and throughout the year
Two linemen joining effort to electrify more Guatemalan villages
First Electric sponsoring three juniors on Youth Tour
Five seniors selected to receive First Electric scholarships
Maintaining rights-of-way keeps people safe, prevents outages
Co-op crews follow system when restoring power
Use Co-op Connections Card to save money on prescriptions
Members now can pay bill using MoneyGram
New standards could affect members buying water heaters
Rider helps recover transmission costs
Member Basics: Joint vs. Single Membership
Help First Electric Cooperative battle copper crime
GenerLink™ provides safe, easy way to connect generator
Protect home electronics from electrical surges
Operation Round-Up funds donations to 12 nonprofits
First Electric returns $4.4 million to members in December
Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation has secured a long-term agreement to purchase 108 megawatts of wind energy from the planned Drift Sand Wind Farm. The farm will be located about 60 miles southeast of Oklahoma City and is scheduled to be in service by Dec. 31, 2016.
AECC provides wholesale electricity to First Electric Cooperative.
“AECC will be the sole recipient of energy from this wind farm,” said Duane Highley, president and chief executive officer of AECC. “Collectively, AECC will have more than 309 megawatts of wind energy once the new wind farm is commercially launched. As a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative, we are committed to provide our members with the lowest cost electricity available.”
This is AECC’s third wind power purchase agreement since 2012. The generation and transmission cooperative also receives wind energy from another wind facility in Oklahoma and one in Kansas.
“The wind energy agreements provide our distribution cooperatives and their members with energy resources that are geographically diverse, reasonably-priced and price-controlled over a long-term period,” Highley said. “AECC has long been dedicated to pursuing investments in a diverse generation portfolio to shield members against fuel cost spikes and shifts in federal energy policies.”
AECC owns three run-of-the-river hydroelectric generating stations located along the Arkansas River, three natural gas/oil-based plants, four natural gas-based-only plants and co-owns portions of four low-cost coal-based plants.
First Electric Cooperative is celebrating National Electrical Safety Month. Safety for our members and employees is top priority throughout the year, but Electrical Safety Month is a time to acknowledge the importance of safety excellence.
This year, we’re focusing on electrical safety in the home. Electricity is the cause of more than 140,000 fires each year, resulting in more than 500 deaths, 4,000 injuries and $1.6 billion in property damage, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International.
There are many measures you can take to ensure the safety of your loved ones. Use these helpful tips from ESFI to safeguard your home.
In the kitchen
- Vacuum refrigerator coils every three months to eliminate dirt buildup that can reduce efficiency and create fire hazards.
- Ensure all countertop appliances are located away from the sink.
- All appliance cords should be placed away from hot surfaces. Pay particular attention to cords around toasters, ovens and ranges. Cords can be damaged by excess heat.
- The top and the area above the cooking range should be free of combustibles, such as potholders and plastic utensils. Storing these items on or near the range may result in fires or burns.
Light the way to safety
- The wattage of the bulbs you use in your home should match the wattage indicated on the light fixture. Overheated fixtures can lead to a fire.
- Check lamp cords to make sure they are in good condition – not damaged or cracked. Do not attempt to repair damaged cords yourself. Take any item with a damaged power cord to an authorized repair center.
- Extension cords should not be used to provide power on a long-term or permanent basis. Have additional receptacles installed by a professional to provide power where needed.
- Nearly two-thirds of fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be located on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
- Test smoke alarms every month. Batteries should be replaced at least once a year – or sooner if indicated in the manufacturers’ instructions. All smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years.
- Talk to your family about an emergency plan in the event of a fire in your home. If you have small children, include them in planning an emergency escape route – they are more likely to remember the plan if they’re involved in creating it.
Electrical safety awareness and education can save lives. For more tips and information about electrical safety, visit Electric Safety Tips webpage.
First Electric's Kirk Kempson and Kris Rankin will join a group of Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas linemen departing Arkansas on April 29 to continue a mission that the cooperatives began in 2013 to provide electricity to remote Guatemalan villages. Arkansas electric cooperative linemen have assisted in providing electric service to more than 770 rural Guatemala residents.
According to Duane Highley, president and CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, the current mission will involve the villages of Sepamac, Jolom I’Jix and Zapotal and result in bringing electricity to more than 1,390 rural Guatemalans. The villages are located in northeast Guatemala.
“Arkansas electric cooperative linemen are changing lives with each mission that is completed,” Highley said. “Our men that volunteer their time and expertise for the electrification missions often say that the work changes their lives also. There is no way to explain the emotions involved with seeing someone flip the switch and have power with their homes for the first time.”
Highley said that Arkansas electric cooperatives and ERMCO, a manufacturer of transformers, are donating materials, labor and funds to assist with the project. Cooperative crews will assist in construction of electric distribution line, related infrastructure and provide some training to local line workers.
The 2015 mission also will involve electric cooperative linemen from Indiana. Linemen from Indiana have worked in Guatemala in the past, too.
“The Indiana crews will work and then the Arkansas crews will continue the electrification process,” said Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Salem and president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association board of directors. “Just like during outages, the men will work together in a common effort to deliver power to those in need. Both crews should be commended for their willingness to volunteer for the mission.”
Linemen and their respective cooperatives that are participating in the project are: Matt Lairamore and Kyle Metcalfe with Arkansas Valley Electric of Ozark; Andy Caywood with Carroll Electric Cooperative of Berryville; Michael Counts and Andy Ward with Clay County Electric of Corning; Brent Hufstedler with Craighead Electric Cooperative of Jonesboro; Kirk Kempson and Kris Rankin with First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville; Joey Burk and Paul Garrison with North Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Salem; Ryan Hayes with Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Texarkana and Will Glover with Woodruff Electric Cooperative of Forrest City. Doug Evans, safety manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., will assist the crew during the trip.
First Electric Cooperative is sponsoring three high school juniors on the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, an all-expense-paid trip to the nation’s capital June 10-18. Jacob Hill of Perryville, Laura Rawls of Heber Springs and Anna Turpin of Benton will explore Washington, D.C., with students from the 16 other Arkansas electric cooperatives. The group will join 1,500 students from across the country, learn about electric cooperatives, tour historic sites and museums and meet members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation.
The three were selected from among 23 applicants based on information provided in an application as well as an interview. First Electric thanks all applicants and encourages students to apply beginning Feb. 1 for the 2016 Youth Tour.
First Electric Cooperative will award a $2,000 college scholarship to five high school seniors. Recipients are: Lauren Barnett of Casscoe, Jaden Daniels of Carlisle, Allison Edwards of Perryville, Bridget Muse of Heber Springs and Sally Owens of Mabelvale.
Scholarships are funded by the co-op’s Operation Round-Up program. First Electric members who participate in Operation Round-Up volunteer to have their monthly electric bill rounded up to the next even dollar amount. That money is held in a trust and given as scholarships to high school seniors and as donations to local nonprofit organizations. Members may enroll in Operation Round-Up here or by calling 800-489-7405.
Keeping trees and other vegetation away from First Electric Cooperative’s 10,000 miles of power lines is necessary to keep the community safe and to help minimize power outages.
“All lines are maintained on at least a five-year schedule,” said Tim Felty, right-of-way maintenance supervisor. “In more populated areas, First Electric employees and contractors maintain the 15-foot clearance on either side of the line on a four-year schedule.”
Trees and other vegetation touching lines conduct electricity and can cause power quality issues, such as blinking lights. Trees also cause outages when they fall and take down lines and damage equipment. Most importantly, trees touching lines pose a safety hazard to anyone who comes into contact with them. Members are asked to call First Electric at 800-489-7405 if they notice a tree or other vegetation in or close to lines. A right-of-way crew will evaluate the situation and determine if tree removal or branch trimming is necessary.
In 2015, right-of-way maintenance is scheduled in the following areas: Drasco, Tannebaum, Romance, Rosebud, Seaton, Cabot and Mountain Springs.
First Electric members can help the co-op maintain its rights-of-way in several ways. First, consider the mature height of a tree before planting. Second, contact Arkansas One-Call at 811 at least 48 hours before digging so that underground utilities may be marked. Third, avoid planting fast-growing trees near the right-of-way. Gum, sycamore, locust and pine are trees that Felty does not recommend be planted within 40 feet of lines. Lastly, consider clearances needed to perform maintenance on underground facilities before landscaping near pad-mounted transformers.
Right-of-way maintenance is a priority at First Electric and necessary to provide the best service possible. Members can assist the co-op by following planting guidelines and reporting potential problems to 800-489-7405. As always, we appreciate your cooperation when working in your area.
For more information, please visit the Vegetation Management page.
Restoring power during widespread outages involves much more than flipping a switch or removing a fallen tree off a line. At each stage of the restoration process, First Electric crews work to restore power safely to the greatest number of our members in the shortest time possible.
Remember to report an outage, even if you think a neighbor already has. This helps co-op employees isolate and repair the problem. Just call 888-827-3322 or use SmartHub.
Here are the steps we take when restoring power:
- High-voltage Transmission Lines: Transmission towers and cables that supply power to transmission substations (and thousands of members) rarely fail. When damaged, though, these facilities must be repaired before other parts of the system can operate.
- Distribution Substation: First Electric has 43 substations, each serving up to thousands of members. When a major outage occurs, line crews inspect the substation to determine if problems stem from transmission lines feeding into the substation or the substation itself or an issue down the line.
- Main Distribution Lines: If the problem cannot be isolated at a distribution substation, distribution lines are checked. These lines carry power to large groups of members in communities or housing developments. When power is restored at this stage, all members served by this supply line could see the lights come on, as long as there is no problem farther down the line.
- Tap Lines: If an outage persists, supply lines, also called tap lines, are inspected. These lines deliver power to transformers, either mounted on poles or placed on pads for underground service, outside businesses, schools and homes.
- Individual Homes: If a home remains without power, the service line between a transformer and the home may need to be repaired. This can explain why you have no power when your neighbor does. This illustrates why it is important for you always to report an outage.
Sometimes an outage is caused by a problem with the service installation on your home, business or other building. First Electric can’t fix anything beyond our equipment, so a licensed electrician is needed in those cases.
Individual households may receive special attention if loss of electricity affects life support systems or poses another immediate danger. If you or a family member depends on life support, please call 800-489-7405 before an emergency arises. When widespread outages occur, First Electric crews will fix the problem as soon as possible.
First Electric Cooperative members can use their free Co-op Connections Card to save from 10 percent to 85 percent on most prescriptions at participating independent pharmacies and national chains, such as Walmart and Walgreens.
In 2014, First Electric members used their cards to save $85,000 – or 44 percent – off the retail cost of their prescriptions.
To locate providers in your area, you can:
- Call 800-800-7616.
- Look on the back of your Co-op Connections Card, find the group and member numbers and use them to log in here. Next, enter your ZIP code to search for nearby pharmacies.
You can use the card as many times as needed. Please note that pharmacy discounts are not insurance and are not intended as a substitute for insurance.
The Co-op Connections Card also can help you save on chiropractic, dental and vision care as well as lab work and hearing aids. In addition, First Electric recruits local businesses – restaurants, auto shops, hair salons, fitness centers, florists and more – to offer discounts to our members.
Touchstone Energy, a national alliance of more than 600 electric cooperatives, has recruited more than 100 national chains, such as Sprint, Best Western and Shari’s Berries, to offer cooperative members national discounts.
Click here for participating businesses and their deals. Any local business that is interested in offering a discount to co-op members may call 800-489-7405 and ask to speak with the marketing department.
Need a new card? Stop by a First Electric office, or click here to print your own.
Here’s how to pay with MoneyGram:
1. Find a MoneyGram location that accepts bill payments, such as Walmart. Click here to search by city or postal code.
2. Bring the following:
- Enough cash for the electric bill plus the $1.50 MoneyGram fee
- First Electric account number
- Receive Code: 15148
3. Complete the MoneyGram ExpressPayment® blue form, use the red MoneyGram phone or use the MoneyGram kiosk to complete the transaction. (Payment processes may vary depending on the location. Ask an associate for help.)
If you have to install or replace a water heater in the coming months, then you’ll want to know about the new energy efficiency standards. Beginning April 16, the Department of Energy will require higher Energy Factor, or EF, ratings on most residential water heaters. A higher EF means a more energy efficient unit. Click here for details on the new standards. These changes will save energy and cut Americans’ water-heating expenses in the long run.
At First Electric Cooperative, we sell Marathon water heaters at our five offices and online. They range from 15 to 105 gallons and already feature durable construction, high efficiency and great warranty protection. As a member, you receive $50 off the price of a Marathon if installing it in a location First Electric serves.
Here’s how the new standards will affect the Marathon water heaters we offer:
- The standard 85-gallon and 105-gallon models will be replaced by the heavy-duty models of those sizes. The tank warranty will be 10 years instead of as long as you own the home. Also, the parts limited warranty will be five years.
- The 50-gallon short and 75-gallon models no longer will be manufactured.
- Models that are 50 gallons and smaller still will be warranted not to leak for as long as you own your home and have the six-year parts limited warranty.
Depending on your needs, you could benefit from purchasing a Marathon now. If you have any questions about the new standards or about Marathon water heaters, please give us a call at 501-985-4543 or email email@example.com.
First Electric tries to keep our members’ electric bills affordable. You might have noticed a line on your bill in the past few months that says “TO/RTO-Energy Cost Adj”. It is a rider being used to recover costs related to transmission service.
Money collected through the rider pays for transmission construction and expanded services provided through Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation’s participation in regional transmission organizations, which oversee the use of the nation’s electric grid. AECC is First Electric’s wholesale electricity supplier and uses the transmission systems constructed and owned by four other utilities. Those utilities are part of two RTOs, the Southwest Power Pool and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. Through integrated computer systems, the two RTOs automate the process of matching power needs with power supply in order to ensure that the most economically priced energy is delivered to its electric utilities. This efficient, real-time operation of the electric grid is intended to lower energy bills, including lowering fuel costs. Any fuel savings is passed on to First Electric’s members.
People who are served by First Electric Cooperative can have a joint or single membership.
A single membership lists one name on the account and bill. Only that person will be able to inquire about specific account information or make changes to his or her service. In addition, only the person listed may vote in the cooperative’s annual election, and any capital credit refunds will be issued in only that person’s name.
A joint membership has two names listed on the account and bill. This is most often a spouse. Both people may inquire about account information or makes changes to the service. Although only one vote is allowed per membership, either may cast the vote. Both are entitled to receive any capital credit refunds issued to the account.
Members who would like to add or remove a person from their account may call 800-489-7405 during regular business hours. A member service representative will be able to explain what form and document(s) are needed to make the change. Documents might include a valid photo ID, divorce decree or death certificate.
Copper thieves increasingly are targeting First Electric Cooperative’s system in Arkansas, Jefferson, Lonoke and Prairie counties.
We request your help to keep our equipment safe, prevent outages and save lives. If you see anyone other than First Electric personnel or contractors around substations, poles or other electric equipment, please immediately call First Electric at 800-489-7405 or the nearest law enforcement agency.
“To would-be thieves, stealing copper may seem like a quick way to make a buck,” said Jerry Driskill, First Electric’s vice president of operations. “But it’s illegal, it’s costly to our members, and it’s not worth gambling with their lives. Working with any metal and electricity is a dangerous combination, even for trained employees using proper equipment.”
Driskill said the key to getting this stopped is members of the public alerting the electric utility or authorities when they see suspicious activity.
Members wanting a safe, easy way to connect a generator during power outages can purchase a GenerLink™ from First Electric. The device is installed on your electric meter by a marketing representative. Once installed, you simply connect the generator to the GenerLink™ with the included cord. Then, use your household main circuit panel to select the circuits and appliances you want to operate based on the generator’s capacity.
For pricing, sizing and compatibility, call 800-489-7405 or click here. Qualifying members can pay $200 down and have the remaining balance included on their electric bill for the next 12 months.
Computers, refrigerators, TVs, washing machines, phones and heat pumps are only a few of the electronics and appliances that can be damaged by electrical surges, such as those caused by lightning strikes.
First Electric members can enroll in Surge HELP® for financial protection from surge damage for their homes’ electronics and appliances. The Surge HELP® (Home Electronics Loss Protection) plan is offered to members through Dominion Products and Services Inc.
Making a claim is hassle-free. The toll-free claims number may be called 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The plan also covers up to $125 in diagnostic/service fees for a valid claim. Other Surge HELP® benefits include:
- Protection for electronics and appliances starts for as little as $3.95 a month.
- The homeowner is reimbursed up to the program limit if damaged equipment can’t be repaired.
- No hidden fees.
- No equipment or installation required.
To enroll in Surge HELP® or get more information, please call 877-727-2938 or click here.
Twelve nonprofit organizations received funds in December thanks to the generosity of members enrolled in Operation Round-Up.
Receiving $1,000 donations were: Antioch Fire Department, Cabot Christmas Alliance, Community Action Program for Central Arkansas, DeWitt Senior Center, Fish Net Missions of Jacksonville, Lonoke County Single Parent Scholarship Fund, LRAFB First Sergeants Council, Pope-Yell County Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Rose Creek Community Building and Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Grant County.
Receiving $500 donations were Valentine/Wooten Road Council/Dick Jeter Park and The Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff.
Members may enroll in Operation Round-Up by clicking here or by calling 800-489-7405.
The First Electric Cooperative Board of Directors approved a refund of $4.4 million to members this year. Any revenue that is not needed to maintain the cost of providing service is assigned back to each First Electric member in the form of capital credits. Capital credit refunds are one of the major differences between a not-for-profit electric cooperative, such as First Electric, and an investor-owned electric company.
Capital credits are assigned to each account annually and refunded when financial conditions permit. How much members receive is based on how much electricity they used during the year or years that are being refunded. This year's calculation represents a complete retirement of 1987 and a portion of all years thereafter through 2013. Capital credit checks were mailed Dec. 10. Members whose refund was less than $20 receive a credit on their December electric bill.
Throughout First Electric's 77-year history, more than $71.4 million has been refunded to members.