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Illinois Country Living


NRECA offering teachers Mini-Grant Program

Ten teachers in rural parts of the U.S. will be the recipient of $500 to be used during the 2012-2013 school year for student-based projects, offered through the Mini-Grant Program, sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Any rural teacher K-12 whose school or community is served by a rural electric cooperative, or whose students are served by a rural electric cooperative, may apply. All applications will be considered.

Criteria for awards will be based on the following:

  • A project design that demonstrates cooperation between students;
  • Appropriateness for age and grade levels;
  • A project design that encourages a high level of student involvement;
  • A project design that indicates coordination with your local Rural Electric Cooperative;
  • A project design that focuses on student learning;
  • Overall quality of the application and adherence to grant guidelines.

An eligible project should feature an investigation of the science of energy or electricity. Project ideas could include a study of the local geology, the history of hydroelectric generation in your community, or alternative sources of energy for the next generation. The project should be limited only by the imagination of your students and the resources you have available. Deadline is July 15.

For complete application/proposal instructions, please visit

Green jobs for 700 weatherization specialists

Earlier this year the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced that capital funding will be given to 10 organizations who will train nearly 700 weatherization specialists across the state. This is the first phase of a multiple-year green jobs initiative. For more information about this program please visit

Water efficiency starts in the bathroom

Some 60 percent of our household indoor water usage happens in the bathroom. As such, updating old leaky fixtures and changing a few basic habits could go a long way toward saving fresh water, energy and money.

Undoubtedly, the toilet is the biggest water hog in the bathroom. Those made before 1993 use up to eight gallons of water per flush, five times what modern toilets use. If it’s older you use a two liter soda bottle filling it partially with some water and sand or pebbles and then putting it into your toilet’s tank, and force your toilet to use less water with every flush.

Plumbing leaks account for some 14 percent of the total water usage in an average U.S. home. Toilets are often a major culprit, but the shower can also be problematic as a water-waster, especially if the shower head in question was made before new regulations went into effect in 1992 mandating lower flow. A new shower head costs around $10 and is a great investment.

Know when to replace carbon monoxide detectors

The Office of the State Fire Marshal warns everyone to pay special attention to the distinct signals sent by carbon monoxide alarms when their life has expired. Frequently, people may believe that a beep coming out of their CO alarm means it’s time for a battery change, when in fact it means that the device needs to be replaced.

“It is extremely important to pay attention to the different beeps that come out of a dead CO alarm. We want to ensure that our residents understand the difference in order to take immediate action and prevent a tragedy,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis.

Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the nation according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Because CO is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas, it can kill people before they realize its presence. It can be produced by gas or oil appliances such as furnaces, clothes dryers, water heaters, ovens, space heaters or, in some cases, by fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

For additional information go to

Prairie Power, Inc. leaders keep eye on power portfolio risks in changing energy market

The members of Prairie Power, Inc. (PPI), a generation and transmission cooperative serving 10 central Illinois distribution cooperatives, held their Annual Meeting, Feb. 8 in Springfield. President and CEO Jay Bartlett said the generation and transmission cooperative (G&T), serving 10 Illinois distribution co-ops, is working hard to improve system reliability and manage rates, while building fiber optic infrastructure for smart grid communications and economic development, and investing in coal and wind energy.

Bartlett expressed optimism for the future of the co-op but also concern for the economy and energy markets. “U.S. debt, the European economy, all of these factors could lead to shocks without options. All of this is impacting energy markets and making risk-management key,” said Bartlett.

ACES Power Marketing, owned by 19 member cooperatives including PPI, helps keep rates stable by managing power portfolio risks. David Tudor, President/CEO of ACES, told the members at the PPI meeting that transmission congestion would be a growing issue. Tudor told the members, “You are in a really good position. My advice is look for portfolio diversity and be patient.”

PPI and Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC), along with co-ops and municipal utilities in other states have invested in Prairie State Energy Campus, which is ready to go online now. Both PPI and SIPC along with the Indiana G&T, Wabash Valley Power, have invested in the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm, a 150-megawatt wind farm in Ford County, Illinois. Diversified power portfolios along with the services of ACES Power Marketing, will help the co-ops manage power supply risk.

April is Financial Literacy Month

Americans carry more than $2 trillion in consumer debt, and 30 percent of consumers report having no extra cash, making it impossible to escape the burden of living paycheck to paycheck. Because too many Americans are insufficiently educated about their personal finances, April is devoted to helping everyone get a fresh start on taking control of their money. Go to the Money Management International website for more information.

Get out of debt one step at a time

Debt can feel like a load of bricks on your chest, slowly crushing you. You can’t throw it off in one big shove - you’ve got to dismantle it brick by brick. Take these steps to reduce your debt burden and start breathing easily again:

  • Figure out where you stand. Debt can seem overwhelming unless you cut it down to size. Make a list or spreadsheet of your creditors, and note how much you owe each one. You’ll find it easier to deal with smaller sums of money one at a time.
  • Set some priorities. Identify which debts need to be paid off, or at least paid down first. Pay attention to debts with the highest interest rate - they’ll cost you more in the long run if you delay taking care of them.
  • Cut back on spending. Select one spending item, such as buying new clothes or eating in restaurants, and eliminate it for a specific period of time. Use the money you save to pay down your debt. You’ll start reestablishing smart spending habits at the same time.
  • Get tough with credit cards. It may be impossible to cut up your credit cards these days, but make an effort to limit their use unless you have a real emergency. Make yourself wait at least 24 hours before buying anything; most of the time you’ll realize that your “need” was really just an impulse that you can ignore.
  • Start a plan for saving. Get into the habit of putting a little money away each week. Even a small amount will add up over time, giving you more flexibility and easing your anxiety about financial worries.

Congress likely to sign bill for 54.5 MPG

After years of wrangling on the issue, auto companies, regulators and policymakers have finally come to terms on increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for vehicles traveling American roads. According to the plan, automakers will double the average, unadjusted fuel-economy rating of their car and light truck vehicle fleets to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 from today’s standard of 27 miles per gallon. Congress is likely to sign the new bill, which will start taking effect for the 2017 model year, into law this summer.

According to the White House, the higher standards will likely lead to price increases of some $2,000 per vehicle to cover the costs of more expensive technology, but drivers should save an average of $6,600 in gas over the life of a vehicle.

Critics point out that no one can be sure how much new technology will add to the cost of vehicles, let alone how fluctuations in gas prices, consumer tastes and the overall economy could impact what types of cars people want to drive. While the new rules represent a gamble in regard to these variables, enough Americans see the benefits of more fuel-efficient vehicles outweighing the trade-offs.

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

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