Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Update on Cable Programming Changes and Negotiations

It is fall in Glasgow. The leaves and landscape are changing, and some changes are coming to EPB’s cable television lineup as well.

Like so many times over the last few months, our negotiations with the programming providers are causing us to reconsider what channels we offer. The first change is about to result in G4 (EPB Channel 147 and HD Channel 552) being dropped from our system on November 30.

As in most programming changes, the reason for this change comes down to money. NBC Universal owns G4, and has announced they will discontinue it in the near future. They also own NBC Sports Network. NBC has just purchased rights to some NASCAR races and has increased the cost of NBC Sports Network to cover the cost of this programming. In order to help us pay the increased cost, they gave us a chance to drop G4, and we are going to take it so as to keep our programming cost increases down.

This is not the last change you will see before the end of the year. We are in discussion with the broadcast stations in Bowling Green, Louisville, and Nashville. The early indications are that the broadcasters are going to ask for whopping increases in the fees we must pay to carry many of those stations. Already one broadcaster has asked for a nearly 400% increase! Simply put, we are not going to pay such ridiculous fees because we would simply have to pass them along to you. Any station that makes such a demand will very likely be dropped from our system at the end of the year.

These discussions will be going on throughout the month of November. We will keep you posted, and even ask for your advice, via our social networking sites so we can make sure to represent your feelings correctly in these discussions.

Stay tuned. The programmers are not through socking it to us through their fee demands. In January we will have to adjust our cable rates to reflect all of our new costs for programming agreements signed during the last half of 2014. We will tell you how all of this is going as soon as we have deals completed.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Criminal Activity in Glasgow -- Wire Theft

There is a new criminal activity taking place around Glasgow and that activity can interrupt your electric service, damage your appliances, and could possibly prove deadly to those committing the crimes. The activity is the theft of copper wire off of the poles up and down your street and in your back yards. Unfortunately, some unsavory characters have begun to notice that wire and they have begun cutting and stealing the wire, and likely selling it for scrap to collect the money.

The dangers in this activity are many. Insufficient current path to ground near your home can cause the voltage supplied to your appliances to swing wildly. Of course, this can cause dramatic failure of your equipment. The activity of cutting the wire can be dangerous as well because those wires do carry current at times.

If you see folks stopping and performing some sort of work on a Glasgow wood pole, and if those folks are not wearing an EPB, SCRTC, or Windstream uniform, then you are likely witnessing illegal activity that can adversely affect your home. Please be on the look out for this kind of activity and call the Glasgow Police Department and report it immediately.

Thank you for your help with this expensive and dangerous new threat to our community.
Monday, August 11, 2014

Peaks and Valleys - A New Electric Rate Structure Must Help Tame Them

On Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at 3:00 in the afternoon, the City of Glasgow likely set its maximum peak electrical demand for the month. We recognized this a day ahead of time, based upon our understanding of Glasgow’s electric power customers and the weather forecast for the day.

Though we used nearly every method at our command to notify everyone and ask for help lowering this demand, as you can see from the graphic below, we still set a peak demand that was sharply higher than the previous peak for the month. That means that EPB will pay TVA a lot more money than we would if the demand had remained lower.

This is not the result we need if we are to lower our costs and keep rates the same. But even though the overall result was not what we needed, many folks did comply with our request and lowered their electric power demand during the afternoon hours, mainly by altering their air conditioning settings and avoiding the use of other large appliances during the afternoon. Their average load shape for Wednesday afternoon looks like this:

 This reveals a problem in the way our present electric rates work. Customers like these heeded our call to raise their thermostat setting and avoid other afternoon electric usage. Note how their demand dropped sharply during the time just before and after the time of Glasgow’s 3:00 peak demand. Glasgow EPB’s payment to TVA for the energy required to serve a customer that responds like this is far less. In fact, the approximate wholesale demand charge we incurred to serve this customer on August 6, 2014, was only about $18.

But thousands of our residential customers had a load shape that averaged out looking more like this.

As you can see, this load shape is actually the reverse of what we needed to lower costs. The average residential customer’s demand for the day actually was higher during the afternoon period, and that is the reason why we set a new peak demand. The wholesale cost of the demand from TVA to serve this average customer for that day was about $35.

However, over the whole month of August, both the customers who responded and those who did not, because of the antiquated nature of our retail rates, will pay about the same amount for their electric power for the month. This situation represents an inequity that we must resolve with a new rate structure. It is clear that asking for help is not going to be the ultimate solution to this problem. Eventually we will be putting a new retail rate in place that collects the proper revenue associated with serving each customer, depending on the actual costs created by the way each customer uses energy.

When such a rate structure is in place, there will clearly be winners and losers. For those that can respond to peak demand predictions and lower their consumption during the peak period, like the ones represented by the purple line below, a lower electric bill will be realized. We expect to be able to help people do that through the research we have been doing on water heaters, appliances, and thermostats for the last few years. For those that cause higher costs due to their high demand during Glasgow's peaks, like the ones represented by the blue line below, higher bills will result. 

We will continue this conversation as we learn more and more about how usage patterns impact everyone’s costs. This is only a prelude to the way electric rates will need to evolve over the coming months.However, you can start participating in this new way to think about how you use electric power right now. You can sign up for our EPB Meter Portal and get real-time information on how your home, or business, is  using energy. Just call us and we will help you get signed up for it. You can also apply for our ongoing research project with TVA, wherein we are furnishing, free of charge, a very effective ecobee WiFi enabled thermostat, to study how these devices can be used to help you become a member of the purple line instead of the blue one. Again, if you want to be a part of this early trial of these new concepts, just give us a call at 270-651-8341.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Round-Up time!

About a year ago, your Glasgow EPB began a “round-up” program. You’re familiar with the concept: You decide to participate in the program and the amount of your monthly bill is “rounded up” to the next nearest dollar (the most that could be contributed in a year’s time is $11.88). That additional amount is put into a separate fund where it’s used for a specific purpose.

In the EPB’s case, the money is given to CERF, the Community Emergency Relief Fund. “Community Relief,” as they’re usually known, helps a great number of people in Glasgow and Barren County. They assist with utility bills and other important bills, deposits – they even get people in touch with other agencies for help with things that they don’t handle themselves.

Community Relief has helped many EPB customers, especially when the bills tend to go up in the summer and the winter, when usage is usually higher because of weather extremes. We appreciate the assistance that Community Relief gives to our customers.

We could give Community Relief more money, and give it more often, if more of our customers took part in our Round-Up Program. Out of all of the EPB’s customers, fewer than 100 are currently part of the Round-Up Program. You’ll never miss the small amount you give, but when it’s added to what others contribute, it adds up to a lot of help for local people in need. Please consider becoming a part of the program. You can join with only a phone call to (270) 651-8341. Help spread the word in your family, in your club or at your church: Everyone’s pennies can add up to a lot!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Farewell Janice Crenshaw

Janice Crenshaw was not a long term member of the EPB team. She did not join us because of her education and experience at operating complex networks or business systems. One might think that her unexpected passing on Monday, June 9 wouldn't have a big impact on us, but that would be far from true. Both Janice’s life, and her passing, will have a profound impact on our team, and on our community.

Janice Crenshaw joined our team initially as a member of our Cable Television Programming Committee. She earned a reputation there as a thoughtful and active representative of our customers as we wrestled with tough decisions relative to programming choices and the cost of those choices. A little over two years ago when we needed a temporary employee to fill in for another team member on maternity leave, we were able to convince Janice to take that job. That decision was not a simple one for Janice because she was also very involved in helping others through her work for American Red Cross. Janice had agreed to be one of the folks that Red Cross sends in to help folks in neighborhoods afflicted by some sort of disaster. She was a natural for that kind of work.

Somehow we pulled her away from that assignment and Janice joined the EPB team. After that, she immediately began to change us all with her limitless concern for others. We learned from her about solving conflict with love instead of brute force. She taught us how to sow calm and harvest understanding. She also taught us about the pure joy of sharing, and we are all a bit heavier because of her favorite thing to share – wonderful home cooking delivered when you least expected it, and for no reason other than the joy of friendship.

The lessons of love that Janice taught us at Glasgow EPB were also shared with scores of friends and family throughout our community. Together, we all grieve her unexpected, and far too early passing. For our part, we hope to honor her by adhering to her example and passing her caring ways along to our community. Godspeed to you Janice Crenshaw. Thanks for the many lessons you taught us

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Of EPA, Coal, Greenhouse Gases, and Glasgow

Monday’s announcement that EPA will soon implement new restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants seems to have already caused everyone to chose a side and decide who they should hate relative to this new initiative. Just in case there are any local folks who have not yet chosen a side, I offer some non-political thoughts on what EPA is trying to do, and how it might impact us all, nationally and locally.

Since Monday it seems that nearly all of Kentucky’s congressional delegation (and those who are presently trying to enter that delegation) is 100% committed to opposing the new regulations. Since these sides and positions were chosen so quickly, one must infer that this is done to gain the favor of an industry that often gives big dollars to political campaigns – the coal industry. Make no mistake, the positions already taken by our legislators can have nothing to do with making the lot of us Kentuckians better, because they have not had the time necessary to totally understand the impact of the new regulations. That has to make us all feel that they take this position as the spokespersons for the coal industry, not as representatives of our welfare. I am about to suggest that there is a middle ground.

Beyond the elected folk, there is already great opposition to the new regulations because we have been told that electric power rates will soar. Even if that were true, should we not also take into account the nagging little issue that burning coal causes a warehouse full of health and climate issues, most of which, if properly monetized in the same recognizable form as our monthly power bill, would dwarf the economic impact of higher electric bills? Don’t take my word for it. I am not a climate expert. I’m not even a chemist, but I know there are such folks in the world, experts who have earned the right to warn us about climate change, and one must be consciously drowning them out not to hear, and recognize, that we probably are slowly destroying everything we love with each kWh produced by burning fossil fuel.

Just how much might our monthly electric bills change under this new regulatory environment? Well, that is a subject I am qualified to speak on. Like most things, the answer depends on how you ask the question. For example, if the electric power industry continues to do tomorrow, pretty much what it did yesterday (that is the favorite method of operating for my utility fraternity), the impact on your electric bills, locally and nationally, would be staggering. But in the real world, we ought to expect that new economics would bring about new solutions, new ideas, and an evolution of thinking about how electric power should be supplied to our communities. Auto makers responded to evolving fuel costs and pollution regulations by producing cleaner and more efficient cars and trucks. Surely the electric power industry can do as well as they have done. In 2014 and beyond, we should be able to design electric power solutions that are yearning to become viable, needing only a little change to the status quo to flourish.

If you happen to be a customer of Glasgow EPB, you already know how we have been changing our relationship with you over the last couple of years. We are attempting to predict when our peak demand might occur and we are telling you about that, and researching technologies that will allow us to work together to help mitigate those peaks, with very little impact on the way we live our lives. Coming soon will be a totally new retail rate structure that will amplify those peak predictions and assign costs to customers based upon the time of day when they use energy. These are solutions that are designed to work with more stringent regulations on TVA and other utilities, and help them accomplish the goals of these new regulations. These experiments we have been doing are proving that we can reduce our dependence on coal fired, and other less efficient forms of generation, by learning how to moderate the way we deliver, and charge you for electric power, effectively reshaping the demand which generation resources must deliver. So, there are ways to move ahead and utilize cleaner electric power generation resources. There are solutions that will allow us to enjoy life and electric power, while we also turn back the clock on the impact we are having on our air, water, and climate.

Before you chose a side and start lambasting the other side for its lack of sophistication, remember there are possibilities that are available today. We are not bound by the way we operated utilities for the last century. We have a chance to use this chaotic time to our advantage. We are ready, at least as ready as any community in our country, to move toward a lasting peace, instead of joining in a war that seems already to be declared.
Monday, March 31, 2014

Dark Channels in Glasgow, Why We are Fighting

Monday, March 31, 2014
Dark Channels in Glasgow, Why We are Fighting

Now that the biggest basketball game of this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is over, we have an important update about the big battle going on between Viacom and all small cable systems in the United States. The odds are that all of the channels on our cable system which carry Viacom owned programming, may go dark.

In fact, by the time you read this, they might already be gone. Click on this link for a full listing of the channels involved in this confrontation.

The reason why these channels are likely to go dark is very simple. Contrary to their onscreen messages, negotiations are continuing daily. However, we have been unable to negotiate a reasonable deal for a new contract with Viacom, so they are now attempting to drag you into this conversation by interrupting their programming. Viacom is asking for rate increases for these channels that are so staggering they are laughable. On your behalf, we are refusing to pay what they are asking, because we would then have to pass those increases along to you. We are certain that you would find the increases they are asking for totally unacceptable.

This conflict does give us a chance to review a simple fact about the cable television business. Nearly every single channel of programming you purchase from us, must be, in turn, paid for by us. The worst part of this reality is that the technology is in place to allow each customer to only purchase the channels that they are interested in and willing to pay for. We call this "a la carte" programming, and we think our Congress should mandate that programmers must sell their product this way. But, that is not the situation we are in today. Rather, all programmers force us to deliver their basic programming to everyone if we are going to have access to it for anyone. That means we have to pay for the programming for each of our customers, even though many might not be interested in the programming at all. It is a very greed driven system and it drives up the costs for everyone.

Twenty six of Glasgow EPB's cable channels carry Viacom programming. So, if they go dark, you are very likely to notice, but for many of the channels, there are ways to access the programming online. Please refer to the link for information about how this can be done. If the Viacom channels go dark and stay dark such that our cost of programming goes down, we will pass those savings along to you. If we negotiate an acceptable deal with Viacom at the last minute, then this message will have been unnecessary and you won't experience any missing channels.

As they say in the television business, stay tuned for updates!