Northland Connection

March 2017

Platte-Clay Northland Connection Newsletter March 2017

Call before you dig – call 1-800-DIG-RITE

Dig RiteIt’s getting to be the busy season for Missouri One Call, the free service that protects those who are digging and those whose facilities are below ground.

It’s hard to know what to emphasize.

Do we point out that it’s the law, the Missouri Underground Facility Safety and Damage Prevention Act, RSMo Chapter 319.010-319.050? And that there are fines for not complying with the Missouri One Call statute. The first fine is $1,000.

Do we point out that cutting lines and cables, especially a fiber optic cable gets expensive?

Last year Platte-Clay recovered thousands of dollars for damaged facilities.

That idea seems to shock people who cut lines, run over transformers or damage poles to the point that they need to be replaced.

The cost gets higher when it happens in the middle of the night and crews are called out to restore service. It’s not fair to pass along those costs to all co-op members.

Or do we point out that individuals who come in contact with a live electric line could be electrocuted? So it’s safety first.

One construction foreman was fired on the spot when the company found out that he hadn’t bothered to call Missouri One Call; fortunately there were no injuries.

The number to call is 1-800-DIG-RITE, 811, or go online, www.mo1call.com and click on the proper heading: Homeowners, Excavators, Utility Members, Enforcement or Resources.

To complete the form or explain the location to the Missouri One Call dispatcher—at least three working days (Monday-Friday, not including holidays)—diggers and contractors will need:

  • Start date (The day you plan to start digging)
  • Your contact information
  • On-site contact information
  • Type of work you will be doing
  • Type of equipment you will be using
  • Who the work is being done for
  • If there be be trenchless excavation or explosives involved
  • The depth you plan to dig
  • Where on the property the underground utilities need to be located (example – front, rear, or sides of the property).
  • The county, city and nearest cross street to the dig site.
 

The cooperative difference

Dave Deihl Platte-Clay Electric Coop General Manager

Dave Deihl
General Manager

From the General Manager

Over the next few months I’m going to be using this space to talk about what makes your co-op different, what makes your co-op special in the world of business and the world of rural electric cooperatives.

We frequently hear the question, “what’s a co-op?”

And that’s understandable, because in many ways a cooperative, even a rural electric cooperative, looks like any other business providing products and services, taking cash or credit cards, some even providing 24 x 7 x 365 availability and excellent customer service.

But for Platte-Clay, it’s member service, not customer service.

And there’s the key difference: anyone who has Platte-Clay Electric Service is a member of the co-op, and that makes them an owner of Platte-Clay, first and foremost.

We all understand how corporations worry about paying their shareholders a dividend every quarter, and we see that concern on fluctuating prices and frequently changing management.

But as a nonprofit cooperative, Platte-Clay has no need to generate a high profit, to gouge members.

Any excess monies after operating expenses are returned to members each year as a capital credit check distributed at the annual meeting or mailed out to members who can’t attend.

There’s another important difference too.

Cooperatives operate using the Seven Cooperative Principles as their operations foundation.

The first principle is Voluntary and Open Membership. Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

When we talk about how co-op membership differs from other businesses, we’re talking about the values of how Platte-Clay operates.

Values include showing members how they can save energy and keep costs low. Values include understanding the challenges busy families face. Values include making an extra phone call to make certain that a family’s lights are back on.

Values include treating co-op members like the friends and neighbors they are. Values include being involved in our communities and local organizations, giving back and sharing.

Next month we’ll talk about democratic member control.

Thanks for your time today, and please let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to contact me at generalmanager@pcec.coop or call the office, 628-3121.

 

7 Cooperative Principles

1.) Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the
responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2.) Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the
services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

3.) Members’ Economic Participation

Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in
proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.

4.) Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.

5.) Education, Training and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.

6.) Cooperation Among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7.) Concern for Community

While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.

 

Go native this spring

Go Native This Spring

Missouri has celebrated Arbor Day since 1886, when the General Assembly named the first Friday in April the day to plant trees.

In most springs, the timing is right, which is a great opportunity to plant the state tree, the Flowering Dogwood, shown above, courtesy Powell Gardens.

While there are many choices when it comes to trees, state naturalists and many area garden clubs recommend planting natives and treating the soil carefully.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) points out that because wildlife species and native plants have evolved together over time, they are mutually dependent for survival.

Planting natives, trees, shrubs and flowers increases opportunities for wildlife diversity.

Unfortunately for our birds, bees and other ecosystems, their habitat has been replaced in many areas by lawns that rival golf courses in their manicured look.

And unfortunately the chemicals that kill natives, such as dandelions, also poison the ground, killing other beneficial insects, including native bees and earthworms.

Let’s talk about these little wigglers, and for now we’ll rule out the role they play in fishing, and another reason to want to have them in abundance in our yards and gardens.

Earthworms are important because their burrows allow oxygen and water to get into the soil; their castings improve the soil and help hold moisture longer.

With more water entering the soil to water our lawns, there’s less runoff, less need to water our yards.

Because earthworms eat “bad” microbes, such as fungi and bacteria and increase the good, beneficial microbes, it makes sense to encourage them.

Earthworm tunnels also break up compacted soil, a huge benefit for our plants, allowing roots to easily expand.

For those who want figures, tests show that soil with earthworms produces increased yields of from 25 percent to 300 percent over sterile soil—for our grass, flowers and even commodity crops.

Think of the benefits these wigglers provide.

By planting perennial native plants, already acclimated to our region, once planted and established, we’ll be supporting our wildlife species that now live on the fringe of yards and in an ever decreasing amount of space.

It’s pretty easy to be green once we make the decision because the earthworms, birds, bees and plants will do the work on their own and we can simply enjoy the benefits, and even the fruits, of their labor.

 

Get your very own solar array… or enjoy PCEC community solar

PCEC Community Solar
Above left, Platte-Clay crews assemble the solar array during February, 2015. Right, Hawthorne students came to see the solar array as a field trip. Jared Wolters, staff engineer with his hands in the air, is explaining photons and how solar energy gets onto the grid and to their homes.

Swagger. Some of us like the idea of being a rebel, of displaying our independence.

Both values and advertising help us make buying decisions based on the image we want to project. It’s a great way to say that we appreciate the characteristics of a brand.

For example, Harley-Davidson has made a fortune on motorcycles and attitude.

The Ford F-150 says tough–and now, with the Kansas City built aluminum-alloy body and steel frame, a fuel efficient choice.

To a large extent we identify ourselves by our ideas and how we see the world, and everything from our T-shirts to our cars tell others what’s important to us.

The brand resonates with us.

But values are something else. Many aren’t easily expressed on a shirt or bumper sticker.

So knowing how members feel about renewable energy and solar panels is different.

To better understand co-op members, Platte-Clay conducted three surveys to find out the level of support for solar energy in general and specifically for a co-op based community solar array.

We learned tht co-op members were ahead of the game.

A majority of members said they wanted solar energy and would pay more for it.

To save on installation costs and gain experience with solar panels, experienced Platte-Clay technicians and line crews built the first Missouri co-op solar array at the Kearney office.

There’s a great time-lapse video, including a snow storm, on the web site that shows the crews building the solar array.

Platte-Clay now offers the energy output of solar panels at .1571/ kWh up to the average monthly consumption.

Members also can enter into a long-term, flexible lease at $815 per panel and only pay for distribution and maintenance at .0607 based on solar output each month.

As a point of reference, a panel produces on average 44 kWh a month. Based on average consumption, the co-op’s 416 panels provide enough energy for 14 households.

The co-op solar contract for both the lease and buying the energy output is on the web site, www.pcec.coop

If it looks like you’ll want your very own solar array, download the Net Metering interconnection agreement, complete and return, noting all of the safety and insurance considerations.

For more information on the solar array and contracts, visit www.pcec.coop

The net metering contract is in the Services section; for community solar contract, scroll down to the solar section of the web site, call the office, 816-628-3121 or stop by either office.

 

The demand learning curve

Demand Learning Curve“My bill went up. I didn’t do anything different and it went up 17 percent. It’s a scheme to just make more money.”

That’s a direct quote from an unhappy member who stopped by the Platte-Clay booth at the Remodel and Garden Show. We would have attributed the quote but he wouldn’t give us his name.

Actually, breaking out demand isn’t a scheme to make more money. It’s a way to show individual household demand and bill accordingly, rather than averaging demand across the entire cooperative membership.

Breaking out demand and billing each member according to household demand is fair.

In the past, when demand was simply part of the cost of electric service, all members paid for the blended demand cost. Technology now allows your co-op to bill each member based on individual demand.

In the past, and for many with other electric service providers, those with low demand were subsidizing others with high demand—as in the member who complained that his bill went up 17 percent.

Platte-Clay pays for its wholesale energy based in part on demand. And both demand ane electricity consumption go up with cold weather, which we had in December and January.

Each household demand, rolled up into total co-op demand signals Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., AECI, how much power to produce.

Peter Drucker, the man credited with inventing modern business management said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

Now knowing what our household demand is, we can, if we choose, manage our appliances and for some families, not use everything at one time.

That’s not going to work for everyone.

For some busy families the time after work and school is “all hands on deck” to get everyone fed, laundry washed and dried and homework completed. And that’s just the way it is for busy families who are short on time.

Other members may find it easier to manage power costs, especially since the rate for electric service dropped to $.079, down from the blended rate of $.1125.

So if someone is concerned about their bill going up because of demand it’s possible that by thinking ahead, and not using all devices or appliances at the same time, their bill could drop.

To recap, members are billed at half of their highest demand or the current month’s demand, whichever is higher. That way we aren’t penalized when the entire family comes over for a big family dinner and distant relatives arrive with their RV and plug it in.

For that one month, that higher peak demand rate may be the full amount, but the next month it will be cut in half and the member will be billed at half of peak or the current month’s demand, whichever is greater.

So for those who do not understand demand—we agree it’s a new concept and takes a while to fully understand—we ask that you call the office or stop by for an explanation.

Plus there’s always the Frequently Asked Questions and the Energy Demand Video on the web site, www.pcec.coop And there’s always energystar.gov

No internet? Stop by one of the local libraries and they’ll get you going.

While it’s great to vent with the neighbors, and we all appreciate a sympathetic ear, it probably isn’t the best way to learn how to manage demand and lower our bills.

 

Yours, mine and ours

Poles

It’s the time of the year when garage sales pop up and in the interest of selling all of their treasures, neighbors post their signs.

On Platte-Clay Electric Coopertive poles.

Three words: don’t do it.

There are any number of reasons, and here are just a couple. At times, crews may need to climb a utility pole at any hour of the day or night, in all weather conditions.

Anything attached to utility poles can create hazards for co-op line personnel. Sharp objects, like nails, tacks, staples or barbed wire can puncture rubber gloves and other safety equipment, making line crews vulnerable to electrocution.

Unauthorized pole attachments violate the National Electrical Safety Code, the accepted manual of guidelines for safe electrical engineering standards.

The code includes a section that reads, “Signs, posters, notices and other attachments shall not be placed on supporting structures without concurrence of the owner (in this case, Platte-Clay). Supporting structures should be kept free from other climing hazards such as tacks, nails, vines and through bolts not properly trimmed.”

 

Meter change outs

Platte-Clay will continue changing out meters for the next three years as part of an integrated system upgrade.

To save on labor costs, Platte-Clay crews will change out meters as time allows during regular work hours.

Members will lose service for a few minutes when the meters are replaced and crews will leave a door hanger if no one is home.

 

Meter, transformer safety

Because of safety concerns, do not cover, build around or attach anything to the meter or transformers.

Treat the utility meter and transformers like a refrigerator door and don’t block it or put anything in front of it.

Crews need about 3’ around co-op electrical equipment, a shock protection boundary, for a safe work space.

 

Platte-Clay annual meeting May 11

The Platte-Clay annual meeting will be held Thursday, May 11 at the Kearney office, 1000 W. State Route 92. Doors open at 4.

The co-op will have a display area and an opportunity to register for prizes and to learn about products and services Platte-Clay provides.

In addition, representatives from area communities and nonprofit organizations will be on hand to share information about local towns and attractions in our own backyard.

 

The Northland Connection is published monthly by Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative, Inc., 1000 W. 92 Highway, Kearney, MO 64060. Postmaster: Please send address changes to: Northland Connection, PO Box 100, Kearney, MO 64060 or mail@pcec.coop.

Platte-Clay is an equal opportunity employer.

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