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Now that all of the contracts have been signed among the parties, our work to choose the right homes for this pilot is now in high gear. We have gotten a lot of applications for participation in the Smart Appliance Pilot over the last several weeks. The appliances being offered by GE for this project are all their top-of-the line latest products, and may be viewed by clicking here. If you think you would be interested in hosting the pilot project in your home and possibly receiving this full suite of the GE appliances and new thermostat, then click on this link and fill out the application for the project now. The final choice of homes invited to participate in the initial pilot will be made in mid-January!
Our work has been with the broadcast television stations (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW) located in Bowling Green, Nashville, and Louisville. Like the football games played by our Glasgow Scotties, the games with the broadcast stations have been hard nosed and hard fought. However, unlike the football games which have sensible rules, these games are designed by the broadcasters, for the benefit of their stockholders, and implemented by legislators and regulators who feel the need to keep the broadcasters, and their huge staff of lobbyists, happy. That means that a small, locally owned cable system like Glasgow EPB, and the folks in a community like Glasgow are getting the short end of the stick.
When our local football teams hit the field, they know what we all want from them. They know that we would like for them to play well, not get hurt, honor the rules, and, if possible, score more points than all of their opponents. When the EPB hits the field of battle with the broadcasters, we know what the community wants from us as well. We know that our customers want as many local broadcast stations as possible on their cable system. We know that some of our customers are oriented to Louisville stations, some to Bowling Green stations, and still others to Nashville stations, and that we need to maintain some of these. Finally, we know that, if possible, you want all of this for very little cost. These have been our objectives in these negotiations.
As the EPB team sought to negotiate new “retransmission consent” agreements with the broadcasters so that we can carry their programming for the next three years, we struggled to accomplish your wants. A few of the broadcasters seemed interested in being a partner to the EPB, and the people of Glasgow, and were reasonable in their demands for payment. However, the majority were totally unreasonable in their demands, and some of those broadcasters will cease to be on our cable system on January 1, 2012, simply because the cost would be too much for our customers to pay.
In this time of economic strife, when so many are unemployed and under other economic pressure, it has been eye-opening and quite informative of the actual attitude of these businesses when they ask for 100 - 400% rate increases for their programming when none of us have increased our revenue by even a small fraction of that amount.
Though we feel the whole game is unfair and that the field is clearly tilted to the advantage of the broadcasters, we still must play the game in order to live up to the expectations of our customers. As a result of the decisions made on your behalf the following changes to our cable lineup will take effect on January 1, 2012, both channels to be dropped and a few to be added:
|Channel||Currently||Jan. 1, 2012 Programming|
|Ch. 09||WSMV-NBC||EPB 24/7 Weather|
|Ch. 16||WDRB-FOX||AntennaTV substituted in place of FOX programming|
|Ch. 25||WHAS-ABC||Wazoo Sports substituted in place of ABC programming|
|Ch. 42||EPB 24/7 Weather||WNPT-Nashville Public Television|
|Ch. 43||WLKY-CBS||Create TV sub-stream of WKYU|
|Ch. 128||YouTOO Social TV||RetroTV sub-stream of WBNA|
|Ch. 143||New Channel||My Family TV sub-stream of WMYO|
|Ch. 176||Ion Life (WNPX)||The Light sub-stream of WBNA|
So, to make it totally clear, we are dropping WSMV, WLKY, WBKI, and WNPX. We are keeping everything else, but during the network programming hours we will replace the FOX and ABC programming with new content on WDRB and WHAS respectively. These changes will impact our HD tier some as well. Since we are dropping WLKY, channel 540 on our HD tier will disappear. Since we are dropping WSMV, channel 541 will disappear. Finally, since we are dropping the ABC portion of WHAS, channel 542 will disappear on the HD tier. Channel 516 will still be there but the FOX programming will come via WBKO instead of WDRB. The primary HD network feeds will continue to be 513 for ABC, 514 for NBC, 515 for CBS, and 516 for FOX.
Taken together, these stations, and the increased rate demands they are putting on the people of Glasgow, will take an additional $45,000 per year out of our local economy, even though we are dropping some of the broadcast channels we carry now. If we had chosen to keep all of our present broadcast channels and if we had paid the rates they asked for those channels, the increased cost to Glasgow folks would have been over $250,000 per year more than we are paying today. That is why we are dropping some stations as we have been told by our customers to eliminate duplicate channels, refuse to bow to the unreasonable broadcasters’ demands, and help hold the rates as low as possible for our community. When implementing our recent rate increase we tried to plan for the broadcasters’ demands, and it will not be necessary to increase the rates you pay at this time.
We fought hard for the small victories we achieved on the retransmission consent battlefront, and will continue to do so to serve our customers. This same battle will loom before us next year for some of the major satellite channels and again in 2014 for the broadcasters. This process seems to be without end. If you are tired of being at the mercy of these large companies, contact our legislators and demand that the retransmission consent laws be addressed prior to that time so that the consumers they were elected to serve will be protected, rather than the highly compensated lobbyists and network executives they currently serve.
Look for these changes to take effect on New Year’s Eve. The new channel lineup will be there waiting for you when you awaken on New Year’s Day 2012.
Once again, the Glasgow EPB, is facing some difficult decisions about our cable system. Every three years we, along with every other cable system in America, must negotiate with the broadcasters in our area (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and CW) to be able to deliver their signals to your homes. We are now in that negotiating period and it appears that this might be a tedious, and possibly very costly, process during this term. In fact, some of the early offers from the broadcasters have them trying to extract 100% to 400% increases in what you ultimately pay for their programming.
Just so you will understand this process, here is a quick summary for what is a very complicated matter. The programming on EPB’s cable service is provided in three different ways. EPB Cable6, the GHS Advantage Channel, and the BCHS Trojan TVare all local origination, meaning that everything that is seen on this channel is produced either through the EPB, GHS or BCHS. The overwhelming majority of other channels are purchased. Let us repeat that fact – all channels that you view, other than the three local origination channels and a very small percentage of “less popular” channels, are on our system only because we pay a monthly fee to some distant company based upon our total number of cable subscribers.
The majority of the channels (Fox News, CNN, ESPN, TNT etc.) are delivered via satellite. If you have passed by our building, you may have noticed the huge satellite dishes behind our main office used for this purpose. This technology works very well and is usually only interrupted twice a year when the satellite receiver, the satellite 24,000 miles out in space, and the sun, all line up for a few hours. This is what is called solar outages, and unfortunately there is no solution for this problem for the EPB or the thousands of other cable services who all experience the same disturbances.
This leaves us to the final method of delivery – broadcast – which is the real reason for this discussion. This is the most common delivery system since it has been available even before cable television was invented. For those of you who can remember, homes used to have antennas and, depending on how you set your antenna, or could convince someone to go outside and move the antenna, a broadcast station such as WBKO or WTVF would magically appear on your television. Of course, it was sometimes poor quality signal, particularly when attempting to pick up signals from distant Louisville or Nashville stations.
Today things are much different. The signals are now converted to digital signals and processed through local cable systems. While the digital system usually provides far better picture quality, there are still problems if the cable system reception system is located more than 50 miles from the transmitter for the broadcast signal. Since we are more than twice that distance from Louisville and Nashville, we try to compensate by placing very sophisticated antennae on top of a very, very tall tower. However, even those measures sometimes just aren’t enough. Digital signals either come through perfectly, or they simply don’t come through at all, leaving you with nothing but a frozen image or the dreaded blue screen. On top of that, there are now also laws which can provide Bowling Green broadcast stations (WBKO and its affiliates and WNKY and its affiliates) the right to keep us from carrying Louisville and Nashville stations that our customers desperately want.
As frustrating as that is, the really maddening part is that we now have no choice but to accept this situation, and pay all of the broadcasters dearly for what we used to receive as a free service in our homes. This is all thanks to a very effective lobbying organization for the broadcasters that successfully won over Congress and the FCC. The fees charged by broadcasters, while starting out at a few cents per sub, have now become insanely expensive and are showing no sign of receding, even in this economy. While we are still in the midst of negotiations, it seems clear that we may be unable to agree on the increased fees that some of the broadcasters are demanding, and that some channels presently available on our system may no longer be there on January 1. We will work hard to make sure our customers’ interests are protected, but we must admit that between the laws and the fees, we find ourselves in a painfully vulnerable position to be exploited by certain broadcasters.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this television drama…..
We envision a multifaceted project that would include a biomass fueled power generator, development of a methane recovery system for the Glasgow Regional Landfill that would gather and route the combustible gas into the boiler for the generator, and using the effluent from the Glasgow Waste Water Treatment Plant for the boiler's make-up water. Further, we think that alterations to Glasgow’s WWTP could be made to allow local beef, dairy, chicken, and pig farmers to transport animal wastes to the WWTP for conversion to combustible gases which would also be routed to the boiler.
Of course, we would not move forward with this project unless we could be guaranteed that the power could be sold back to TVA for more than the cost of building and maintaining the facility. But, if this project can be designed to be economically feasible, Glasgow would be largely energy self-sufficient and we would make dramatic improvements in our local environment. The use of the WWTP effluent in the boiler would dramatically decrease the residual organic compounds presently being dumped in South Fork Creek. Moreover, if animal wastes could be transported to the WWTP instead of languishing in scores of agricultural animal waste lagoons in Barren County, the purity of the ground water and surface water which drains into Barren River Reservoir should increase. Other positive results would include improving the health of aquatic life in our streams and lowering the cost of treating our drinking water supply. This sounds utopian, but Glasgow might be unique in that we already have a well developed timber harvesting and transporting infrastructure combined with a waste water plant, mature landfill, and electric transmission lines all on the same site. This definitely can work. A preliminary study by Johnson Controls, Inc. has already affirmed that this is possible and economically viable, if the energy can be sold to TVA through Glasgow EPB for about ten cents per kWh.
Barren County is the most productive dairy and beef cattle county in Kentucky and ranks quite high in the chicken and hog production in Kentucky. This proposed Glasgow Energy Campus could help make these businesses more profitable and less damaging to our environment by diverting the waste to a productive and beneficial process. The Glasgow Regional Landfill is collecting municipal solid waste from Barren County and several surrounding counties so a constant stream of methane producing fuel is already available. The biomass aspects of the project would increase the life of the Regional Landfill by diverting wood products that are now going into the facility, or being wasted in other ways.
The RFP process we are now starting will help move the project from a sketchy idea to one which is fully fleshed out and priced. While this further study is needed, preliminary findings predict a $195 million facility that will be carbon neutral, very clean burning due to the availability of combustible gases to enhance the boiler and smokestack efficiency. Glasgow has the resources, and certainly has the need, to plan a sustainable energy economy for the life of our community well into the future. Stay tuned to these EPB postings for more information on the Glasgow Energy Campus as our work progresses.
A part of the increased cost will come from TVA’s recent decision to increase the wholesale rates they charge the distributors of TVA power like Glasgow EPB. Their increase of 2% comes on the heels of their change to Time Of Use (TOU) wholesale rates which became applicable to Glasgow in April. Even though TVA’s monthly fuel cost adjustment keeps their wholesale rates variable each month depending on their luck in generating power with hydroelectric dams and the market conditions for the coal, natural gas, and uranium it takes to fuel the generators which provide our power, this increase is applicable to their base rates. Their increase will go toward TVA’s plans to idle 18 coal fired generation units over the next five years and replace those units with additional natural gas and nuclear generation facilities. Some of this money will also be used to place additional environmental controls on the coal-fired units they are going to maintain. It is virtually certain that we will see continued increases in our wholesale costs each year as they work through their aggressive plan to transform and clean up their generation resources.
Of course, the best steps that TVA can take to clean up their generation portfolio are those relating to TOU rates which can convince us all to use less power during peak times and more power in the off-peak times. You have surely heard us talking about this a lot over the last six months, and even though most have heard about it, and some have really gotten on board with the plan to change the times of day that we use electricity, most have not yet begun to change their usage patterns. The problem has been right in front of us all each day during the hot summer. A graphic showing our daily energy usage has been in the upper right hand corner of the Glasgow internet homepage all summer, and every afternoon we have had dramatic peak demands – the kind that makes the cost of generating electricity much higher. Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do!
While TVA ponders their revenue needs and how they will further implement TOU rates, locally, Glasgow EPB has been continuing its preparations for the TOU environment. We have been steadily investing and building our electric system and our broadband system to be capable of delivering TOU rates to our customers as soon as TVA makes them available. The local electric rate increase, amounting to about 4.6%, that we will implement on October 1, which is in addition to the TVA mandated increase, will be used to fund projects that continue those system upgrades, and a few other things as well.
We will use the additional revenue to put more technology in place which we hope will make us more successful at convincing customers to change the way they use electric power. TOU rates are already being charged to Glasgow EPB by TVA, and one prime reason for our need to increase electric rates is the poor participation we got from most customers this summer as we asked them to conserve on summer week day afternoons. Since the cost of power from TVA is also going steadily upward, we will use some of our additional revenue to rebuild certain electrical circuits with larger conductors. Some energy is lost in transmission and when the cost of energy goes up, it makes great economic sense for our future to install larger conductor that is less prone to losses than the older, smaller conductors. We also have additional expenses that must be funded. One of those is the large increases in our annual in lieu of tax payments we make to local governments and schools. The addition of our new East Glasgow Substation and the transmission lines coming and going from it have dramatically increased the value of our system. When that happens, just like when the value of your property increases, we are required by law to increase our payments to local schools and governments proportionately.
So, even though no one would wish for electric rates to increase, as you can see these increases will result in additional investment in the local network which is so essential to life in Glasgow, as well as improvements in the TVA network which is so important to our region. Unlike some segments of our country’s highways, bridges, airports, and other infrastructure, TVA and EPB are continuing to invest and rebuild our networks such that they remain modern and increasingly reliable. This is the way we make life in Glasgow better than life in other communities. That is what we are here for and we are determined to do this work for you.
We’ve talked about the convenience of using our e-bill system before, but there are still plenty of folks who use our internet service, but do not use the simple e-bill system. Hopefully this post will remind you of this great option available to all EPB customers. Once you have tried it, you are certain to like it!
You can sign up for e-billing in a number of ways. First, you can click on THIS LINK and follow the simple directions to set your home or business up for e-billing. You can also use the link on Glasgow’s homepage at www.glasgow-ky.com , the e-bill link is there on the left side of the page right under the EPB logo. Just click on that e-billing logo and follow the directions to set up your account. Of course, if you want to call and talk to one of our customer service folks at 651-8341, they would be glad to help you get set up on e-billing as well.
Here is what comes with your agreement to use the e-bill system. First of all, you will not get a paper bill anymore so your home will be more neat and your trash can will be less full. Next, the e-bill system comes with its own credit card payment interface so you can go on-line and pay your bill from your credit card without incurring additional credit card processing costs from EPB. (We allow up to $1000 in credit card payments per month without charging additional fees if you use the on-line credit card system. After August 1we will be charging a labor fee of $10 per transaction if you call in on the phone to make a credit card payment!) We also give you a $1 per month credit on your bill to reflect the savings we realize from not sending out a paper bill when you sign up for e-billing.
The e-bill system also allows you to review your bill on-line and compare it to previous bills. It is a truly feature-rich and convenient way to manage your accounts with Glasgow EPB. Of course, the ultimate in convenience is to set up your account to automatically debit your checking account. This feature makes sure your bill is paid even if you forget about it or if your are out of town for a period of time. You will still get your e-bill summary long before your account is debited for the payment so you will have plenty of time to see what the bill is going to be and make sure sufficient funds are available.
If you use the internet and have an email account, there really is no reason for you to not take advantage of this service. It cuts down on the paper in your life. It reduces fuel costs associated with driving into the office to pay your EPB bill. It improves your access to information about your bills and gives you easier ways to pay your bill. If you have any questions about getting set up to utilize our e-bill system, please give us a call. We want everyone to take advantage of this powerful option!
Get out your favorite pen, crayon, or marker and make a very large “S” and then cut out that S and lay it over on its side. You now have a graph of the power consumption in the TVA region over a one day period. Congratulations, you are now a scientist! Now your graph can be combined with the real graph of power consumption at my house on a day last week and a day last year with identical temperatures which is shown above and you can see some of the problems and opportunities for solving the issues presently confronting the power business.
Half of the time, generally during the night, power demand is too low and that means that generation plants have to be cycled back or totally shut down. The other half of the time the demand is too high and even after firing up every unit TVA has in its arsenal, they still fall far short of what is needed to meet the power demand. To keep the lights on, TVA must go out and buy additional power from its neighbors during the peak times. Both the constant cycling up and down of their plants during the daily “valley” of demand and the constant daily purchases of power during the daily “peak” cost staggering sums of money and create many other negative environmental impacts. Everyone in the power business is looking for ways to smooth the peaks and valleys of the daily load cycle in pursuit of the perfect situation – a daily load shape that would look like a flat horizontal line.
Though the perfection of that horizontal line will likely never be realized, we certainly can improve on that recumbent “S” situation we have today. Several years ago TVA made a giant move in that direction by building their Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant. This facility, just outside of Chattanooga, uses a lot of power during the valley portion of the daily demand curve by pumping water from the Tennessee River up to the top of Raccoon Mountain where TVA hollowed out the top of the mountain to create an artificial lake. This allows them to keep other base load plants operating efficiently during the night instead of shutting them down. Once the lake is full, TVA can turn the pumps into electric generators and drain the lake back down into the river while generating about 1,600 mW of power to offset the peak portion of the next day’s load curve. It is a brilliant project. It works as designed. Today, TVA needs several more of these projects to help further flatten the daily load shape.
In Glasgow we have discovered that they might accomplish this without any construction crews and without hollowing out another mountain. It turns out we all have a little Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant in our home! Over the last couple of hot weeks I have been experimenting with programmable thermostats and general changes of power consumption habits in my home and the graphic included here represents the sort of change I have been able to accomplish during a recent 24 hour period (the reddish line) compared to a similar day when I made no effort to shift my consumption (the blue line). Like Raccoon Mountain, I stored energy during the off-peak hours by heating water and pre-cooling my home below our normal set-point. During on-peak hours, instead of draining an artificial lake, we allowed the temperature to rise to 78 degrees and we refrained from running clothes drying and dishwashing. The resulting difference in on-peak power usage at my house last year (the blue line) and this year (the red line) is pretty stunning. As you can see, compared to a day with the same temperatures but without any effort being made to avoid on-peak hours, my simple changes resulted in an average on-peak power reduction of about 4 kW. This is a very big deal.
Now, my measly 4 kW is totally insignificant compared to Raccoon Mountain’s capacity of 1,600,000 kW, but this is 2011 and a lot more is possible by using the latest technology. Today all of the homes which harbor these little bits of Raccoon Mountain can be connected via the internet. In those homes the thermostats, water heaters, appliances, and electric meters can also be connected to create a virtual power plant many times larger than Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant. Let’s do the math. Let’s say that the average on-peak demand reduction capacity is only half of what I have been able to accomplish at my house. So, if 2 kW is available in each home and since TVA serves roughly 4 million homes, then about 8,000,000 kW is possibly available in our virtual pumped storage plant! That means we discovered five pumped storage plants of the same size as Raccoon Mountain in our homes! It means that this capacity is available basically for free. It means that this capacity would require no fuel, would generate no greenhouse gases, and would require not one shovel of earth to be disturbed to tap that capacity. Who knew we were hiding infotricity generators in our houses?
Accomplishing the on-peak reduction depicted here in my house was not without some sacrifice. When the house is being pre-cooled to about 72, it can get a little chilly. In the afternoon when it is allowed to warm to 78, it is noticeably warm. We have to remember to run the dishwasher and clothes dryer after 8:00 p.m. and to not use the electric oven in the afternoons. But really, after a couple of weeks the changes are not much of a burden and when you compare the possible benefit of gaining all of this clean energy from simple changes in habit, the burden/benefit ratio is ridiculously canted toward the benefit side. We have been talking about infotricity as a replacement for today’s electric power for many years. Now we have more proof that it is viable. As soon as we learn how to compensate everyone for generating this infotricity and making it available to TVA, every electric power user may also become an owner of the most efficient generation technology ever devised. We are convinced this is a real possibility and we continue to have you to thank for giving us the latitude to explore these ideas.
First and foremost, the new rate is not being directly applied to anyone at their home or business in Glasgow. The new rate is applicable only to Glasgow EPB for the power we buy from TVA for our customers to use in Glasgow. Of course, if we have to pay it, that means we have to collect the money from our customers. The plea we are making is for you to cut back your afternoon usage of energy so that we can minimize rate adjustments which are necessary to cover the wholesale rates TVA charges us. Our plea for community action is to save the community money.
The idea of TOU rates did not originate with TVA. This rate concept is a long held response to real world events relative to electric power supply versus the demand for electric power. In a very real sense, we have all created the need for TOU rates. We celebrate growth. We are gleeful at the opening of a new big box store in our community even though it consumes gobs of energy. The same goes for the expansion of an industry or the construction of a new school, but we don’t feel the same about the construction of a new nuclear or coal fired generation plant in our town (or anyone else’s for that matter). Therein lies the problem. We celebrate the growth of electric demand but if anyone is paying attention to the news, all of the announcements from the electric utility industry seem to be about decisions to shut down existing generation plants and defer the construction of new ones. This is an inconvenient truth, but a truth nonetheless. We all face a future in which electric power is in shorter supply than it was in the past.
This short supply of energy might not be as ominous as it sounds. In reality, we still have plenty of supply most of the time. In the summer, the exception happens to be on weekdays, from about noon until about 8:00 p.m. During those hours TVA presently depends on its neighbors as TVA does not have adequate generation capacity to make all of the electric power we are demanding. When they go to the neighbors, the neighbors can demand whatever the market will bear for the power TVA purchases from them. As a result, the power is very expensive. This situation will only get worse in the coming years as TVA recently announced plans to shut down several more of their coal fired generation plants.
Now, different utilities have chosen different ways to pay the added expense of this “on-peak” energy. The most popular and simplest habit is to simply move these extra expenses into an account and charge for the purchased power through a monthly “fuel cost adjustment.” No matter whether you get your power from EPB, FRECC, or KU, you have been paying this fuel cost adjustment so, in effect, you have already been paying sort of a TOU rate for years – it just was not called that. The problem with this method is that it socializes the cost of electric power. It provides no incentive for folks to operate more efficiently and move load away from the on-peak time. Instead, all costs are evenly spread across all customers in the form of rate increases. This disguises the truth and penalizes all for inefficiency that could be corrected if folks were given enough information and incentives. After all, if energy is the same cost no matter what time of day it is used, why would anyone take action to move away from the hot afternoon hours with their consumption?
TVA and Glasgow EPB are moving in the direction of providing information and incentives as an opportunity for folks interested in saving money and living more efficiently. This move is not meant to be punishing nor are we forcing folks to swelter on hot summer afternoons. We do not plan to ever force anyone to move to a TOU retail rate, but we do plan on giving those who are interested in modifying their consumption patterns a reward for that change. Those who are not interested in this will likely always have the option of ignoring TOU, but they should be prepared to continue the upward spiral of energy cost. Living in a world of cheap and abundant energy as we have for the last fifty years, is simply no longer going to be an option.
So, all of this discussion about TOU rates is about Glasgow getting prepared for a future that we feel is coming just as predictably as the changing of the seasons. We have invested in a broadband network and advanced electric meters capable of exchanging information between us and your home around the clock. We believe we can work together to change the way energy is used in Glasgow and exploit the coming changes in the rates we pay. We are working to make our community sustainable in whatever fashion that the coming changes in energy supply and weather present themselves. We feel that we are ahead of other communities in preparing for the future. If any of this still leaves you confused, just let us hear from you.
The summer heat is here and we need your help. Starting today, and running through September 30, we must conserve as much electricity as possible between the hours of noon - 8pm on week days. This is based on two factors, first, effective June 1 the EPB will be on a Time of Use Rate from TVA. This means that there will be an increased charge for power used during the weekday afternoons mentioned above. The second factor is the damage done to the TVA transmission system during the recent tornadoes in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. This heat wave creates stress on an already damaged system, and TVA has asked for assistance to lower the usage as much as possible. Check back here for tips on lowering your usage and helping the community spend less on its power bill to from TVA. Thanks for your help!
The problematic part of my remarks related to downed conductors during storms. No matter what the tone of my remarks was in the meeting and in the article, the one thing that must be remembered is that any downed conductor should be treated as if it were energized and deadly. Although my remarks sounded fine to me as I said them (I'm sure this surprises no one), when I read them in the Glasgow Daily Times, they sounded terrible.
I was trying to explain the problems of having enough personnel to respond to the many calls about downed conductors during several days of intense storms. While it is true that we often can make a judgement about whether a conductor is energized or not from our dispatch center using our telemetry, we still want to get someone out to look at each of them before anyone touches, drives over, or comes near any downed conductor. The problem is, when we have thousands of folks without power and it is 2:00 a.m. and we have only a limited number of folks to respond, it is likely to take a while for us to get there to take a look at a downed conductor. Calling 911 instead of our number does not help the situation at all, it fact, it endangers folks who may have critical information to get to the emergency services folks.
This line of intense, day-after-day weather taxes our team that is designed to be responsive to the sort of weather we get 98% of the time. The only message we meant to get out is that unusually violent weather can cause our response to take longer than usual and we all need to recognize that. But, even if you have to wait a while, treat all downed conductors as deadly energized hazards until someone from our team can arrive to survey the situation.
The biggest expense we have in providing your television service is what we pay for the programming you enjoy, and that big expense is getting so big that it can no longer be ignored. When we started our cable service in 1988, we charged $13.50 per month for classic basic cable. In the next twenty three years we increased the price we charge for classic basic by just over 100% while the programmers increased their fees 650%! You do not have to be a financial wizard to see how much pressure the programming cost puts on the rates you pay for cable. Just last month, one of Glasgow’s favorite channels, Fox News, increased their fees by 300%! And you thought the oil companies were greedy?
Before the end of this year we will get a chance to strike back against some of the programmers, the broadcast stations to be specific, as they all have to decide if we can carry them on our cable system for the next three years and what that privilege will cost us. You can actually participate in this decision as it will be made right here in Glasgow and we will do what the majority of our customers demand. Should we continue to roll over for the likes of WBKO and WNKY and the many other broadcast stations we carry out of Nashville and Louisville, or should we get tough and drop them if they cannot control their greed? We have until the end of the year on these decisions, so you have time to think about it and get back to us. Could we live with only one ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox station? Must we have duplicates from Nashville and Louisville? Could we live with an ABC from Nashville instead of WBKO in Bowling Green? Here is your chance to be empowered. What will you decide?
Since the cable television side of our business is presently delivering a steady stream of news about the disasters in Japan, it is only fair that we talk about the electric side of our business and how it is impacted by the total failure of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. We all want to know what this means for us here in Glasgow, and we think there are a few outcomes which are certainly possible.
While we have no idea how things will play out from here with the doomed plant in Japan, and we don’t know anything about the potential health effects for us here in Glasgow from that plant so far away, we do know a bit about the TVA operated nuclear units. TVA has six working nuclear units today. They are: Browns Ferry (at Wheeler Reservoir in North Alabama), Sequoyah (near Chattanooga, TN), and Watts Bar (at Spring City, TN). TVA is also working on a new reactor at the Watts Bar site which will bring them up to seven units total. None of these sites is ever going to be affected by a tsunami, but a well placed tornado or two, even an earthquake, might cause some issues.
The attached video was produced this week by TVA to address many of the questions that area residents might have about their units and what they are doing in the wake of the failure of the plant in Japan. We encourage you to watch this video.
In the longer term, we need to discuss what happens if this disaster causes widespread dissatisfaction with TVA’s use of nuclear power. That is the real issue which we think will impact us in Glasgow. The truth is, there really is no way to generate large amounts of electric power without negative impact on our water, air, soil, and our health. For the last several decades, we, as a people, have been content to trade the comfort and convenience offered by relatively cheap electric power for the health issues created by producing that cheap power. While this is a fact, when one puts that in a sentence it is really unbelievable. We have been trading our health for cheap electric power? And we did this of our own free will? Amazing. What is wrong with us?
TVA has been recognizing the health and environmental issues associated with coal-fired generation of late and they have been moving toward more nuclear generation, and a half-hearted effort to reduce electric power demand, to replace the aging coal-fired fleet. Until this week, it was a consensus opinion that this was a good move, even though new nuclear units are frightfully expensive and TVA’s coming Time Of Use electric rates offer little incentive to get folks motivated to reduce demand. This week, no one knows if that consensus will hold. One this is certain though; Glasgow EPB’s preparation for converting to infotricity is still a viable solution and it will not have any negative impact on our health or environment.
We still believe that there is a vast reserve of electric power available through using the product wisely. We believe our electric network, broadband network, and other technologies can, with the cooperation of our customers, orchestrate a system whereby water heaters, thermostats, and major home appliances can work together in one system to live on ever smaller amounts of electric power generation capacity. We believe it makes much more sense to spend the money that would be spent on new nuclear generation, on better technology, smart appliances, and thermal storage HVAC devices for our homes and businesses. The net effect would be the same additional capacity for the electric grid, but it would be distributed across the region with investments made in millions of homes, instead of just at one address where new reactor vessels and containment buildings would rise.
What scenario will actually unfold as a result of the Japanese tsunami? You get to decide. Will you demand to maintain your home at the same temperature, winter and summer, as you have for the last fifty years? If so, you are voting for the “just build more expensive generation plants” solution. If you are willing to modify the way you have been using power and adapt to our infotricity concepts, you are voting for moving away from the solutions of the past and embracing a future which may be more wonderful than we can even imagine. How will you vote?
The EPB took the plunge last Saturday! Well… Maybe we should say one brave soul did. Check out this video footage from the 2011 Penguin Plunge, where EPB Engineering Tech. Chris Smith braved the rain and plunged into the ice cold water, to help raise money for Junior Achievement!
On the occasion of Don Doty’s departure from the board of Glasgow EPB, it is fitting for us to review the impact he has had on Glasgow in general, and on the EPB in particular. For those of you who know Don, you will already know how much of an impact he had on the direction of the EPB. For those of you who do not know him, this post will attempt to inform you about this man’s work to forge this place we call home.
Surely most of us have seen the award winning movie Patton. While I never knew Gen. Patton, knowing Don Doty has given me a glimpse into what the General must have been like. My favorite line in the movie comes during an exchange between Gen. Omar Bradley and Brig. Gen. Hobart Carver. In the scene Bradley says, “What we really need is... someone tough enough to really pull this outfit together.” Carver responds, “Patton?” Bradley replies, “Perhaps.” Then Carver delivers the line, with a smile, “God help us!” Even though I wasn’t yet out of high school when Don was dispatched to Glasgow to oversee the creation of the Eaton Axle plant in 1971, and I wasn’t yet at the EPB when he took a place on the board in 1982, I am pretty sure those words were also uttered in both instances.
Don Doty came to Glasgow to oversee the design and construction of the Eaton Axle plant. After it was constructed, he took over as Plant Manager and made the facility a shining star in the Eaton universe until it was sold to Dana. That facility provided jobs and a life for thousands of families during his tenure there. In contrast to the management trends for large industries in Glasgow today, Don and Jamie moved here to Glasgow and became part of the fabric of the community. They created a family here and that family too became a part of the community and they continue to serve and improve our corner of the world. After being sent here, Don passed on several opportunities for further advancement because of his dedication to this place he chose to call home. Greater riches were not enough to convince him to abandon the work he was doing in Glasgow, and all of us benefit from his dedication to our community.
In 1982 Don’s interest in the community and his belief that the needs of the very largest of EPB’s customers (Eaton Axle was then the second largest consumer of electric power in Glasgow - in fact, Eaton’s successor, Dana, is still the second largest) should be represented on the EPB board, lead him to seek appointment to the board. Mayor Twyman agreed and appointed Don to fill the unexpired term of Luke Wells in 1982. At that time Glasgow EPB was scarcely twenty years old.
I met Don about a year later when I had dinner with he and Robert Lessenberry and Norma Redford at the old Bolton’s Landing Restaurant. It was supposed to be a job interview, but Don’s presence and his tendency to ask exceedingly difficult questions, for which there was no apparent correct answer, turned it into cruel and unusual punishment for me. Don is an imposing physical and verbal presence. When I was offered the job and I realized I would be working for him and four other board members, I too said, “God help us!”
Over the next twenty eight years, Don Doty provided the wise counsel and leadership, and the steel backbone, that was essential to form the Glasgow EPB that exists today. He helped me learn how to build and maintain a team of professionals. He gave us valuable insight into the workings of a major industry and helped us understand how to serve them well. He provided the rock solid foundation of confidence that made us believe we could conquer the cable television and broadband worlds. He thought us capable of pulling away from TVA and a few years later, when the power business just did not unfold for us as we thought, he was a crucial element of reversing that decision.
Today, as Glasgow EPB looks at its 50th birthday, Don is passing the torch of leadership on to another capable member of our community, Cheryl Berry Ambach. We look forward to her leadership and we feel confident that the EPB will continue to grow in its mission to serve the community during her tenure. But, we will miss Don and wish him well in whatever battle he chooses next. One thing is certain, when he decides what project to take on next, somewhere there will be someone saying, “God help us!”
When I got my most recent electric bill for my house, I was a bit surprised, and I am supposed to be an expert on such things. So, it would likely be a good time for us all to discuss the electric and gas bills you are getting right now, and the ones you will get next month too. While we all know this winter has been one for the record books, the memory of the snow will melt long before the sting of the cost of staying warm this winter fades away. The truth is, Glasgow EPB is sending out some of the very largest residential electric bills we have ever mailed.
The reason for these sizable bills is pretty simple. It has been colder, for longer, this winter than nearly any other winter on record. . .and it is not over. When you combine sustained low temperatures and day after day of strong winds to go along with those temperatures, the heating systems in our homes struggle to keep us warm. Since the capacity of the heating systems is fixed, the only way they can make up for the demand for warm air is to run longer, and that sucks down a lot more energy. If you heat with electricity, that results in much larger electric bills. If you heat with gas, you already know that this winter has produced staggering gas bills and higher electric bills just from running the blower for the gas heat system.
What can a person do to reduce this financial shock? Well, in the short term for what remains of this winter, not a lot other than keeping the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees (for every degree you set the thermostat higher than 68, your monthly heating cost goes up about 3%), and looking for more cracks around windows and doors that can be quickly sealed with caulk or weather-stripping.
In the longer term, to get ready for this summer and the next winter, TVA has a couple of options to help. First, you can go to www.energyright.com and complete the online energy evaluation. You’ll get a range of ideas and suggested improvements you might make to improve the energy efficiency of your home and lower your electric bills. After you complete the online audit, you will receive a free energy conservation kit you can put to use immediately, as well as a free customized energy report to help you see where your home is wasting energy.
The second, and much more aggressive, option is to contact TVA and ask for an in-home Energy Evaluation. There is a $150 charge for this extensive evaluation but you might be able to get that refunded easily. Once you contact them and pay the fee, they will send a certified evaluator to inspect your home and make easy energy efficiency recommendations. You can reduce your power bill and receive a cash rebate for installing the recommended home energy improvements. To sign up for the In-home Energy Evaluation, visit this link and follow the instructions to schedule your visit. Once you’ve received your audit and completed the recommended energy efficiency upgrades, you’ll be eligible for a reimbursement of the cost of the evaluation, as well as up to $500 in reimbursement for the upgrades you make! You can find all of the details when you call to schedule your In-home Energy Evaluation.
In the mean time, just remember to plan for an electric bill that is quite large compared to your normal winter electric bill. Remember, this is far from a regular winter.