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Co-op leading the way to a smart grid

A new type of electric meter will be one of the keys to cutting energy use and improving reliability. “Smart meters” are also being called automated meter reading systems (AMR) or automated metering infrastructure (AMI). Whatever they are called they are smarter and networked like a computer network. The difference is like between an old wind up clock and a new digital clock.

Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. homes have smart meters now, but the U.S. Department of Energy is supporting efforts to increase that substantially by 2015. Here in Illinois 50 percent of the electric cooperatives have already installed smart meters. Most of the rest will be doing so in the next few years.

Smart meters can transmit information on how much energy a house is using at any given time, allowing utilities to change the electricity price at peak times and letting customers choose when to cook dinner or turn on the air conditioner. Because they are part of a communication network they can also help solve outage problems and pinpoint power quality issues. They are kind of like a multimeter and a remote alarm system, not just a kWh counter.

Besides improving reliability, the main goal of building a smart grid is to encourage people to cut their electricity use during high-demand periods, which will spread power consumption out more evenly. Power plants can then run more efficiently, cutting cost and emissions.


State Representative Brandon Phelps receives IEC Public Service Award

At the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperative’s annual meeting held July 30, State Representative Brandon Phelps received the 2010 Illinois Electric Cooperatives Public Service Award. Rep. Phelps (D-118) has served in the Illinois House since 2003, and is Chairman of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee. He also serves on the Illinois House committees on Electric Generation and Commerce, Labor, and Environment and Energy.

Working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring economic development and prosperity to downstate Illinois continues to be his top priority. Prior to his election to the Illinois House, Rep. Phelps worked for the Illinois Treasurer’s office and as an organizer for the Midwest Region of the Laborers’ International.

Rep. Phelps said, “The 118th District is the southern most 11 counties in the state and a lot of my colleagues from Chicago can’t believe I serve about 106,000 people in 11 counties when they have maybe 11 streets. If you haven’t been down there believe me it is God’s country. Please come down and spend money. We need it.”

Phelps told the electric co-op leaders that the state financial problems have made this one of the toughest years of his eight years as a state representative. He said, “When you are $13 billion to $16 billion in the hole, with $6 billion in unpaid bills out there it is going to get even tougher. I see it everyday in my office. We know politics is involved in this so we are not going to hear anything until after the election. But I believe both sides are going to come to an agreement. We can’t keep going down the path we are going.”

Phelps said he is concerned about the major employers in his district like prisons, agriculture, coal and education. “I’m worried everyday that some of those facilities may close. I’m a member of the Coal Review Board and coal is a huge employer in my area. Some of my colleagues from Chicago don’t want me to say it, but I want to tell you I’m kind of glad we’ve backed off on cap and trade federally, and if it comes to the state I’ll be right there to try and stop it.”


Vandals hit Southern Illinois Power Cooperative during heat wave

On Monday July 5, vandals cut through a fence at Southern Illinois Power Cooperative’s (SIPC), Hamilton Substation located in rural Hamilton County, Illinois and opened the sample valve on a large power transformer to drain its oil. SIPC dispatch center received various alarms indicating a serious problem was unfolding. Dispatchers, fearing the transformer would soon overheat and possibly explode, acted quickly to open circuit breakers remotely. Had the transformer failed it would have cost between $1.5 to $2 million dollars for the replacement and prolonged the time period of potential blackouts.

The transformer was removed from service to determine what internal damage had possibly been created. Unfortunately, during this period warm weather was also prevalent; thus, creating a stress on the transmission grid in Hamilton, Williamson, Franklin and Saline counties. With the large power transformer out of service, the grid was only one more event away from a multi-county blackout.

During the same time frame several transmission poles were cut down. Destruction of equipment on the electrical grid is very dangerous and can cause outages covering a large area, especially during a heat wave.

“We absolutely must protect our power system during this crippling heat wave, especially for our seniors and other customers whose health and safety depend on a dependable power supply and staying cool,” said Scott Ramsey, President and General Manager at Southern Illinois Power Cooperative. “This is a public safety issue and is the reason we are increasing the reward from $10,000 to $25,000 per incident for tips from the public leading to the arrest of the vandals.”

Such tampering and destruction is a federal offense and can carry jail terms of 5 to 20 years. This event remains under investigation and a reward is being posted. For details please contact the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office 618-643-2511.


Prairie Power, Inc., joins the National Renewables Cooperative

In July, Prairie Power, Inc. (PPI), the electric energy and transmission services supplier for Adams Electric Cooperative, Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative, Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, Farmers Mutual Electric Company, Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative, McDonough Power Cooperative, Menard Electric Cooperative, Shelby Electric Cooperative, Spoon River Electric Cooperative and Western Illinois Electrical Coop. joined the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO).

NRCO is an innovative organization developed by the nation’s electric cooperatives to promote and facilitate the development of cost effective and reliable renewable energy resources. PPI becomes the 25th electric cooperative in the country to become a Class A member of NRCO.

NRCO was created in 2008 and is comprised of 20 generation and transmission cooperatives and four unaffiliated electric distribution cooperatives. These cooperatives represent 20 states and over 11 million consumer members. Southern Illinois Power Cooperative and Jo-Carroll Energy were founding members of NRCO.

NRCO provides the co-ops with centralized market intelligence; renewable energy project evaluation; facilitation of transmission constraint modeling and engineering studies; renewable energy credit market analysis; aggregation of member co-ops’ renewable energy needs, and analysis of requests for proposals.

PPI is currently evaluating a variety of renewable energy projects including the conversion of its Pearl coal generation facility to a biomass generation facility, execution of power purchase agreements for renewable energy and support for member cooperatives’ investments in consumer member-owned renewable energy generation projects.

For further information about NRCO, please go to www.nrco.coop.


New Safe Electricity website provides teaching resources

More than a thousand people are killed and tens of thousands injured each year in electrical accidents and fires. The vast majority of these accidents can be prevented if people understand the dangers and steps they can take to be safe around electricity.

Understanding how electricity works can be challenging, but understanding how to stay safe around this powerful energy just became easier with the launch of the re-designed Safe Electricity website at www.SafeElectricity.org. There are even more resources to learn about electrical safety and teach others about preventing accidents, which is the heart of the “Teach, Learn, Care: TLC” campaign.

From a streamed live power line demonstration and videos, to interactive games for children, teacher lesson plans and classroom experiments, to a massive library of articles and other resources, the site provides life-saving information to all kinds of consumers. Safe Electricity is a program of the Energy Education Council (www.EnergyEdCouncil.org), a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to enhance lives by promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency.

“The new site represents a massive overhaul of the most comprehensive electrical safety website on the Internet,” says John Meng, CEO of Clay Electric Cooperative and Chairman of the Energy Education Council (EEC) Board. “It reflects our deep and shared commitment to provide consumers with a one-stop location for comprehensive, science-based information.”

© 2014 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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