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Illinois Country Living


Co-ops lead industry in smart grid meter installs

According to a new report released in February by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the nation’s electric cooperatives are aggressively deploying advanced meters, demand response programs and time-of-use rates to meet the challenges of rural service territories and increasing demand.

More than a quarter of the nation’s electric cooperatives have deployed advanced meters on some or all of their systems, according to the report.

The survey says, “As in previous surveys, electric cooperatives have the largest [advanced meter] penetrations, nearly 25 percent, among categories of organizations.”

The report indicates that investor-owned utilities have replaced 6.6 percent of the old electric meters with new smart meter systems, also called advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Municipals on average have replaced 3.6 percent of their old meters with smart meters.

In addition to providing automated meter readings, smart grid meters can monitor power quality, outages, and provide new rate options that will help lower costs for utilities and their customers.

Bulb battle heating up in Congress

There’s a battle brewing over the iconic incandescent light bulb, you know, Edison’s invention and symbol of all bright ideas. On one side are energy efficiency arguments and on the other the consumer’ right to choose. Legislation aimed at repealing energy efficiency provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 would cost consumers billions of dollars and risk disrupting the national lighting standards now in place.

But a bill, introduced by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and dubbed the Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act, is portrayed by its sponsor as a defense of individuals’ ability to choose what type of light bulb they prefer. Critics contend that the 2007 legislation’s stringent efficiency requirements would effectively eliminate use of incandescent bulbs.

On the energy efficiency side of the argument the Department of Energy’s Kathleen Hogan says, “It (the BULB Act) could cost consumers and manufacturers money and detrimentally affect the nation’s economy, energy security and environmental imperatives.”

DOE new analysis shows advances in electric car deployment

The U.S. Department of Energy in February released One Million Electric Vehicles by 2015, an analysis of advances in electric vehicle deployment and progress to date in meeting President Obama’s goal of putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

The Obama Administration is proposing a three-part strategy that supports electric vehicle manufacturing and adoption through improvements to tax credits in current law, investments in research and development (R&D), and a new competitive program to encourage communities to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure. The strategy includes:

• Make electric vehicles more affordable with a rebate up to $7,500 that will be available at the point of sale, instead of having to wait for tax returns to be filed.

• Advance innovative technologies through new R&D investments in electric drive, batteries and energy storage technologies.

• Reward communities that invest in electric vehicle infrastructure through competitive grants and remove regulatory barriers.

Illinois delegation among leaders attending Cooperatives’ National Legislative Rally

Illinois electric cooperative leaders met with members of the Illinois Congressional delegation May 2 - 4, in Washington, D.C. They joined nearly 3,000 other co-op board members and managers representing electric cooperatives from around the nation during the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Annual Legislative Conference.

The locally elected co-op board members spoke with Illinois leaders such as Congressman Randy Hultgren (IL-14) about important issues impacting the cost of electricity. The key legislative goals for electric co-ops include:

• Maintaining the successful partnership between the Rural Utilities Service and electric cooperatives

• Providing renewable energy development incentives to co-ops

• Ensuring the continued beneficial reuse of coal combustion residuals (coal ash)

• Acting to protect consumers from uncompetitive shipping practices where monopolies exist.

Filling the generation gap

As the economy rebounds, so will our nation’s hunger for electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts when the final 2010 numbers are tallied, energy use will shoot up 5 percent from 2009 levels.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the nation’s bulk power grid watchdog, estimates we need to build 135,000 MW of new generation by 2017 to meet demand. Generation facilities on the drawing board, though, will only deliver 77,000 MW-leaving a generation gap. Compounding this issue, some of our current power plants may soon be shut down by federal regulations. One NERC-commissioned report claims new government rules could force utilities to retire or retrofit 33,000 MW to 70,000 MW of generating capacity by 2015.

South Dakota electric co-op leading in renewable and clean coal energy

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in February announced the selection of Basin Electric Power Cooperative to receive a loan guarantee to construct over 100 wind turbines to produce 151.5 megawatts of electricity. When completed the turbines will join the cooperative’s other electric generation projects to meet the needs of 2.8 million customers served by 135 distribution systems in nine states. The loan guarantee will provide financing for the PrairieWinds wind farm energy project in central South Dakota.

Since 2001 Basin Electric has developed more than 450 megawatts of power in the Dakotas. When the South Dakota project is completed, Basin Electric will have more than 700 megawatts of wind generation.

This electric cooperative is also an international leader in efforts to generate cleaner energy from coal and gas while capturing and sequestering resulting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Its subsidiary, Dakota Gasification Company, operates one of three facilities worldwide that already capture, compress and sequester some of its CO2 emissions.

The Co-op Connections Card: The gift that keeps giving

Everyone likes getting something free, especially when that something also saves money. So, if your electric cooperative participates in the Touchstone Energy® Co-op Connections program, and you’re not using your free member benefit card, it’s like not opening a gift your co-op sent you.

The Co-op Connections Card, offered by more than 350 Touchstone Energy Cooperatives across the country, 16 of which are in Illinois, provides savings of 10 percent to 60 percent off prescriptions at most major pharmacies. That includes Kroger, Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreen’s, as well as many locally owned pharmacies. Since the inception of the Co-op Connections program in 2007, Illinois co-op members have saved more than $900,000 on their prescriptions. Nationally, co-op members have saved over $30 million through the program. The card does not replace an insurance card, but even if you have insurance, your pharmacist can compare the price using your insurance card to that of your Co-op Connections Card to see which is lower.

In addition to the prescription savings benefit, the Co-op Connections Card offers discounts on a wide range of products and services at more than 20,000 businesses nationwide, as well as an array of national offers.

Members of co-ops that participate in the Co-op Connections program receive a free card and two key fobs per household. The cards can be shown at checkouts to receive the participating vendor’s discount. For the more tech-savvy, the program even has an iPhone application that gives cardholders a virtual version of the card they can present to link to savings at pharmacies and participating local businesses.

For a complete list of participating local and national businesses or other questions about the program, contact your local Touchstone Energy Cooperative, or go to

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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