Message from Member Services

Solar energy is a hot topic in the electric cooperative world, and we want to ensure our members have the information they need to make an informed decision regarding this type of investment. Rooftop solar panels are decreasing in cost, and more companies are offering solar panel installation in our member communities. As attractive and popular as rooftop solar may appear, we want our members to fully understand the true costs, the operational reality of this form of energy, and actual energy savings.

We’re here to help.

To determine whether rooftop solar is right for their particular situation, homeowners must undertake their own due diligence. The Energy Cooperative can offer a candid assessment of your specific situation. After all, we strive to find new ways to help you use energy more efficiently.

Is rooftop solar right for you?

  • To help determine whether rooftop solar is right for you, The Energy Cooperative’s energy advisors will look at the:
  • Overall energy efficiency of the home/building
  • Age and pitch of the roof
  • Orientation of the sun in relation to the home/building
  • Tree coverage near the home/building
  • Weather patterns for the region

Unlike a solar company that has one objective––to sell their products and services––we can look at the total energy picture to help you determine the best options for your home. While rooftop solar certainly works for many people, it’s not the answer for all. When helping co-op members determine whether rooftop solar is right for them, a co-op energy advisor will also discuss the many financial considerations:

  • Is there a large, up-front payment required or are fees spread out over time?
  • Will the homeowner own the panels or will they be leased?
  • Are there any hidden costs, i.e., does the roof need to be replaced before installing the panels?
  • Are there ongoing maintenance fees?
  • Are there rebates or other financial incentives available?
  • Is the estimated energy savings worth the investment?
  • Is it more cost effective to invest in other energy saving measures?

Most importantly, our energy advisor can provide perspective on the total energy puzzle. They can help your family determine whether rooftop solar is the best choice given your current energy consumption, the home “envelope,” age and efficiency of the HVAC system, and home site.

Detecting a leak

Use your senses of sight, hearing and smell, along with any of the following signs, to alert yourself to the presence of a gas leak.

Smell

We add an organic compound called Mercaptan to our natural gas and propane before it is delivered to your community. Mercaptan smells like rotten eggs.

Look

Look for a damaged connection to a gas appliance; dirt or water being blown into the air; dead or dying vegetation (in an otherwise moist area); fire or explosion near a pipeline; exposed pipeline after an earthquake, fire, flood or other disaster

Listen

An unusual sound, such as a hissing, whistling, or roaring sound near a gas pipeline or appliance.

Investing in Reliability

Written by Pat McGonagle, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Investing to improve and replace aging infrastructure is critical for our cooperative to remain reliable and safe.

Like many utilities, The Energy Cooperative built large segments of its distribution system for both the electric and gas divisions during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In recent years, the cooperative found itself needing to invest more heavily in its older infrastructure to improve system reliability and reduce interruptions.

The board of directors was updated on the aging infrastructure at our September 2018 board meeting for both our electric and gas operations. Management and the board continue to balance how to effectively refurbish, replace and modernize components of our older system while preparing for new growth through our annual capital budgeting process.

Capital Expenditures by Year*

2014 $18.0
2015 $21.6
2016 $20.1
2017 $18.7
2018 $19.2
Total $97.6
*Millions Spent

This matter is highlighted by looking at The Energy Cooperative’s most recent audited financial statements as net property, plant and equipment comprise nearly $226 million (M) of the $293M of total assets for the combined entities.

The modernization of our electric system is even more urgent because of the increasing dependence on electricity for modern life. During 2018, the electric cooperative spent approximately $3.6M towards the replacement and installation of new distribution lines and nearly $3M on the replacement of transmission lines. During 2019, the cooperative plans to spend over $8.5 on capital improvements for our electric division. Nearly $3M will be spent on line replacement and $2.4M to update electric meters (as discussed on the previous page) which should help both system reliability and reduce service interruptions.7

President/ CEO Joins Farmer Mac Board

The Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, also known as Farmer Mac, has added Todd Ware, President & CEO of Licking Rural Electrification, Inc., dba The Energy Cooperative to its board of directors.

Mr. Ware has been a member of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) Board of Directors since 2015.

Mr. Ware graduated from The Ohio State University in 1987 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. In 1993, he began his career with NGO Development, a subsidiary of National Gas & Oil. In 1998, Licking Rural Electric acquired National Gas & Oil and its subsidiaries and began doing business as The Energy Cooperative. In January of 2012, Mr. Ware was appointed the President & CEO of The Energy Cooperative. The Energy Cooperative is a 64,000 member cooperative providing electric, natural gas and propane in east central Ohio.

Additionally, Mr. Ware serves as a board member for Buckeye Power and The Ohio State University-Newark.

Commenting on the appointment, Farmer Mac's chairman Lowell Junkins said, “On behalf of Farmer Mac, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Todd Ware, the newest member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Ware will bring valuable skills that will enhance the expertise of Farmer Mac's Board as we strive to fulfill our Congressional mission.”

Mr. Ware was elected to Farmer Mac’s board by the holders of Class A Voting Common Stock. He officially joined the board of directors May ninth at the Farmer Mac Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.

We focus on providing our members with safe, reliable and affordable energy. In addition to our core mission, it is also important for us to develop a relationship with our members. This is important because we want you to understand the level of service we provide, and know what to expect as you interact with our employees. When you get to know your cooperative, it is easier for you to recognize someone who is attempting to act on our behalf yet has no affiliation with The Energy Cooperative. Unfortunately, scammers are targeting utilities. Cooperatives have not been an exception to this disturbing trend. Part of our job to spread awareness about scams to our members, helping you to recognize and avoid them. If you receive a call or visit from a scammer claiming to be an employee of The Energy Cooperative, immediately report it at us by calling 1-800-255-6815.

One of the most common scams is to use “spoofing” app to create fake caller ID numbers. This could trick you into thinking you are being contacted by The Energy Cooperative. If you suspect this is the case, hang up and call us at 1-800-255-6815. Our member service representatives can identify if one of our employees has contacted you. Scammers often claim a member is behind paying their bill and request payment immediately before their service is disconnected. It is common for the scammer to request payment in person or over the phone, and they might suggest you purchase a re-loadable debit card immediately. Some scammers encourage the member to deliver them cash in person. Others come to the member’s front door and claim they need to read their meter for money. Our employees do not accept payment in the field. Instead, we ask members to mail their payments; pay them in person at The Energy Cooperative office; pay over the phone with our secure automated payment system; or pay it online through SmartHub.

We do not want our members to fall victim to these utility scams. If you are ever unsure if you are being scammed from someone claiming to be an employee of The Energy Cooperative, give us a call. We are here to help.

Important Tips for Avoiding Scams

  • Our employees have our official logo on their hats, vehicles, and employee identification.
  • Never give out or confirm confidential, personal, or financial information over the phone. The Energy Cooperative will never call you and request that type of information over the phone.
  • If you believe you are being scammed, collect as much information about the situation as possible, including the phone number the scammer asks you to call back, and report it to us immediately at 1-800-255-6815.
  • If you have any questions about your payment or bill status, please call us.
  • Remember that scammers can make their caller ID look like it is The Energy Cooperative calling, call us to ensure safety.
  • Never let anyone claiming to be an employee of The Energy Cooperative into or around your home without asking to see their issued photo ID (or call us at 1-800-255-6815 to confirm).

May is National Electrical Safety Month, and here at The Energy Cooperative, we think it’s a great time to look around your home and check for potential safety hazards.

Remember, every electrical device has a purpose and a service lifespan. While we can extend their operations with maintenance and care, none of them are designed to last or work forever. When electricity is involved, failures can also present electrical hazards.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

Outdoor outlets or those in potentially damp locations in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room should include GFCI features. They are designed to sense abnormal current flows, breaking the circuit to prevent potential electric shocks from devices plugged into the outlets.

The average GFCI outlet is designed to last about 10 years, but in areas prone to electrical storms or power surges, they can wear out in five years or less. Check them frequently by pressing the red test button. Make sure you hit the black reset button when you are finished. Contact a licensed electrician to replace any failing GFCI outlets.

Loose or Damaged Outlets or Switches

Unstable electrical outlets or wall switches with signs of heat damage or discoloration can offer early warnings of potential shock or electrical fire hazards. Loose connections can allow electrical current arcing. If you see these warning signs, it may be time to contact an electrician.

Surge Protectors

Power strips with surge protectors can help safeguard expensive equipment like televisions, home entertainment systems and computer components from power spikes. Voltage spikes are measured in joules, and surge protectors are rated for the number of joules they can effectively absorb. That means if your surge protector is rated at 1,000 joules, it should be replaced when it hits or passes that limit. When the limit is reached, protection stops, and you’re left with a basic power strip.

Some surge protectors include indicator lights that flicker to warn you when they’ve stopped working as designed, but many do not. If your electrical system takes a major hit, or if you don’t remember when you bought your surge protector, replacement may be the best option.

Extension Cords

If you use extension cords regularly to connect devices and equipment to your wall outlets, you may live in an underwired home. With a growing number of electrical devices connecting your family to electricity, having enough outlets in just the right spots can be challenging. Remember, extension cords are designed for temporary, occasional or periodic use.

If an extension cord gets noticeably warm when in use, it could be undersized for the intended use. Extension cords should be replaced if they show any signs of being frayed, cracked or heat-damaged. If the grounding prong is missing, crimped or loose, a grounded cord will not provide the protection designed into its performance. And always make sure that extension cords used in outdoor or potentially damp locations are rated for exterior use.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 51,000 electrical fires are reported each year in the United States, causing more than $1.3 billion in annual property damage.

Electricity is essential for modern living, and we are committed to providing safe, reliable and affordable power to all of our members. We hope you’ll keep these electrical safety tips in mind and respond to any potential hazards before damage occurs.

The Energy Cooperative is upgrading meters for our electric members, beginning in July of 2019. The upgrade is intended to increase efficiency and reliability of our electric system. Improving the efficiency of operations and how we deliver electricity helps to keep costs down for members. The meter installations will begin in the Hazelton Substation area and will continue throughout The Energy Cooperative’s service territory until completion in 2020.

Why Are the Meters Being Upgraded?

The Energy Cooperative is upgrading its meters to provide additional functionality, including increased remote options and hourly data retrieval.

Five Benefits You Will Notice

  1. Quicker Outage Response Times: The new technology will help our team monitor our electric grid in almost real-time. We will be able to quickly identify service issues such as increased usage issues, outages, and momentary outages. The team can then respond to those outages more efficiently than we can today. We will know your electricity is out before you report it.
  2. Lower Costs: The new meters will help The Energy Cooperative reduce costs by providing important efficiencies to the distribution grid, and reducing our response times and management—savings we pass on to our members.
  3. Power to Save: The meters, which provide hourly data about your power use, can help you understand how and when you are using electricity. This information can help you better manage and control your energy usage. Armed with this data, our member service representatives will have more information to help you address billing inquiries.
  4. Less Access to Your Property: Once the new meters are installed, The Energy Cooperative will be able to disconnect and reconnect service remotely, further limiting the need to access your property.
  5. Safety: Improvements in the distribution grid will secure the overall safety of cooperative employees.

How Will the Meter Replacements Work?

The Energy Cooperative is working with Anixter Power Solutions to install the new meters. We will notify members by phone in advance of their meter exchange. The installation process should take approximately ten minutes and will result in a brief outage. Members do not need to be home during the replacement, but should ensure there is a clear path to their meter and that pets are secured on the day of installation.

At The Energy Cooperative, taking advantage of new technologies is one more way that we can offer you new and creative services. This new meter system opens the door to future services we can offer our electric members.

Installation Timeline

To estimate when your new meter will be installed, find your location on our electric service territory map below. Questions? Give us a call at 1-800-255-6815.

View Timeline

Safe digging starts by knowing where the underground utilities are located in the area of your proposed excavation. For most excavations, state law requires the excavator to mark the proposed area with white paint or flags, than contact OHIO811 at least 48 hours prior to the start of the excavation. Local utilities receive notification of your proposed excavation from OHIO811, and respond to mark their lines. To accurately mark our underground pipeline, The Energy Cooperative uses a conductive locator.

A conductive locator requires a direct connection to the underground line or tracer wire, and applies a radio signal which can be detected by an above ground portable receiver. The receiver follows the path of the buried utility line. This is the same technology used in underground pet fences. The buried wire gives an audible warning when the receiver is approaching the buried underground wire. The approach works great when everything is connected, however if the buried wire is broken the receiver does not get a signal and the process doesn’t work.

The Tracer Wire

We typically do not have difficulty locating our metallic gas lines or electric lines, however we can run into issues locating our polyethylene (plastic) gas lines. Since a radio signal cannot be induced on plastic lines, we bury a copper tracer wire with the gas line at the time of installation.

Why it’s important

The tracer wire is accessed at the time of the locate. When connected to the locator, a signal helps us identify the underground gas lines. To gain access to this wire, we typically bring it above ground in our service line valve boxes located near the curb or at your property line; at your home’s meter setting; at the main line valves; or the line marker locations. It is very important to identify and protect the integrity of this buried wire. You may see this yellow locate wire at your meter setting or attached to a line marker in your yard. The tracer wire does not have any current or electrical charge on the wire and is not dangerous or harmful. It does, however, perform an important safety function for The Energy Cooperative, our members, and local excavators.

If the tracer wire is damaged during an excavation, let us know. We will respond at no cost to make repairs to the wire and ensure it is in place and ready to be used when needed for the safety of our members, employees, and local excavators.

As you plant your flowers this spring, mulch your landscaping, mow your grass, and weed-eat around our line markers, you may notice this wire. When you do, remember the important safety function it has in keeping us all safe, and help us to protect the wire so we can work to keep our lines accurately located.

The Energy Cooperative exists to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy to our members. As one of those members, you have a perspective that is valuable to us––and we invite you to share it throughout the year. There are two important ways you can do this in the coming months. The first is to participate in cooperative elections. The second is attending our annual meeting in May.

Cooperative principle number two is democratic member control. Each year, members elect a Director from three of our nine districts. Directors are entrusted to provide strategic direction for the cooperative and to ensure it is governed appropriately. Directors are also members– just like you. This year, Directors for district 3, 4, and 7 will be elected. You will receive letters, emails, and notifications to help cast your ballot. The election results are announced during the annual meeting.

At the annual meeting, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the members of the Board of Directors, and myself as we share priorities and challenges for the coming year. Every energy bill you pay helps to ensure better reliability for you and your neighbors. Your dollars are reinvested locally into improvements that impact the service and affordability of your energy.

There is no substitute for in-person engagement. If you’ve never attended our annual meeting, or if it’s been awhile, we invite you to attend this year. Our cooperative family looks forward to hearing from our members. We’ll bring the food and door prizes. We will also give each member household who attends the annual meeting a five dollar credit on their energy bill. Mark your calendar for the annual meeting at the Reese Center on the Ohio State Newark & Central Ohio Technical College Campus on May 20th at 6:00 pm.

Todd Ware, President & CEO

Join us on Sunday, April 28 • Noon to 4:00 p.m.

As part of our efforts to fulfill the seventh cooperative principle, concern for community, we look forward to hosting our annual Earth & Energy Day celebration for you. Be sure to bring your family to John Geller Park on Sunday, April 28th from noon to 4:00pm. Along with several community partners, we will provide our members with a FREE day filled with great educational activities focused on earth science, conservation, energy efficiency, recycling, safety, and much more! Pick up a tree, lunch, and a bag of goodies while supplies last.

FREE event for members of The Energy Cooperative and their families. Bring a copy of your bill or the ticket in the newsletter for entry.