News & Events

by Charly Markwart Anyone who’s ever purchased a new vehicle knows there are seemingly countless factors to consider before deciding upon the model that’s right for you. Should you go for space or fuel economy? Manual or automatic? What options should you add? And now, an added key question on the minds of many consumers is this: “Should I go electric?” For HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative CEO Mark Kappler, the answer to that question, in reference to both his own personal vehicle and a new fleet vehicle for the Co-op, was a resounding “yes.” Kappler purchased an all-electric Chevy Bolt for himself in the summer of 2017, and approved a purchase of the same model to replace an aging Cooperative fleet vehicle in December. “I thought it was time to purchase an electric vehicle for the Co-op because the technology has finally matured to the point that the economics work,” said Kappler. “We want to continue to reduce the Cooperative’s carbon footprint, and this was a great way and a great time to do that.” When it came to buying a new personal vehicle, Kappler and his wife had to carefully consider what their primary use of the vehicle would be, among other factors, before deciding to go electric. But once they did their research and weighed the pros and cons, Kappler says all signs pointed towards the Bolt. “As we analyzed the way we used our existing small car, for short trips to the grocery store, to work and school, to events at Michigan State, etc., we found that the Bolt’s maximum mileage range of 238 miles per charge would more than meet our needs,” he said. “We worked it out and realized the lower operating costs of the vehicle would result in a cost savings for us. After that, the decision was easy.” That’s an analysis currently being conducted in many households across America. According to Inside EVs, a newsletter and website dedicated to publishing information about electric vehicles (EVs), U.S. sales of EVs increased by more than 25 percent last year in comparison to 2016. In total, nearly 200,000 EVs were sold in the United States last year (about one percent of the total vehicles sold). That’s an upward trend that HomeWorks Energy Advisor Brandon Trierweiler expects to continue through 2018 and the years to come. “Going forward, electric vehicles are going to continue to play a more vital role in the auto industry,” he said. “With recent news that other countries like France and China are going to stop the sale of petrol-fueled vehicles over the next couple decades, and with manufacturers increasing the range of electric vehicles to make it possible for the general consumer to consider electric as a viable option, I think the sales are just going to keep increasing.” EVs have a battery instead of a gas tank, and an electric motor rather than the internal combustion engine that powers traditional vehicles. Most EVs can be charged by plugging into a standard 120 V outlet, but for a faster charge, many owners opt to install a specialized 240 V charging system in their garage. While the driving range varies considerably among models, notes the average midsize EV has a range of about 150 miles per charge. (The Bolt, a small hatchback with a driving range of up to 238 miles per charge, far exceeds that average.) “Probably the biggest misconception regarding electric vehicles is the range anxiety that can come from not understanding how people use their current vehicles,” said Kappler. “Studies have shown that most people use their vehicles for shorter trips most of the time. My wife and I have a small SUV that we use for long trips and more carrying capacity, but for short trips, which make up the majority of our driving, we use our electric car exclusively.” Potential EV consumers especially concerned about driving range might also consider a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). PHEVs have a battery and an electric motor, but they also have a gas tank and an internal combustion engine to provide back-up power when the battery runs low. Kappler notes that public charging stations are becoming more prevalent, especially in urban areas, making it easier to recharge away from home. (On average, a full charge of an EV with a range of 150 miles takes about 6 hours.) Most EVs have an app built in to locate nearby charging stations, and the app can be downloaded to smartphones, as well. While some EVs are more efficient than others, notes the average midsize EV needs 28 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles. At HomeWorks’ current electric rate, that would make the average cost of driving an EV about $0.04 per mile, and the average cost to fully charge an EV with a 150-mile range about $6.65. Annually, the typical midsize EV driver spends less than $600 to charge their vehicle, compared to the approximate $1,300 the average driver spends on gasoline in a year (based on current Michigan gas prices). In addition, electric rates are historically more stable than gas prices, meaning EV owners typically don’t have to worry about sudden spikes in their driving costs. Another concern EV drivers don’t have to worry as much about is vehicle maintenance. EVs have no oil, transmission, spark plugs, fuel filter, or other parts known to commonly cause headaches for drivers. Generally, the only parts requiring regular maintenance are the tires and brakes. (Eventually, an EV’s battery pack does need to be replaced.) “Even the brakes last longer due to the regeneration technology built into the car,” said Kappler. “Electric vehicles are very high-tech, the performance is great, and due to the low center of gravity with the battery, they drive and ride very well. For my wife and I, the experience of going electric has exceeded our expectations.” Currently, EVs run a bit more expensive than comparable petrol-fueled vehicles, but those prices are expected to even out over the next few years as EVs become more prevalent. There is incentive to get in on the technology ahead of that curve, though. At least through 2018, new EVs and PHEVs may qualify for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500 (credit amount may vary based on the capacity of the battery used to power the vehicle). Additional state and local incentives may also apply. And, of course, there are the environmental benefits of driving an EV. With no tailpipe emissions, EVs produce far less pollution than petrol-fueled vehicles. Charging the car still generates emissions, but with our electric power supply from Wolverine Power Cooperative reaching 56 percent carbon-free this year, the total greenhouse gasses emitted to power an EV remain significantly lower than petrol-fueled vehicles. “As a new EV-owner, I would encourage any HomeWorks member purchasing a new vehicle to consider an electric vehicle,” said Kappler. “Part of the reason for us buying an electric vehicle for the Co-op was so we could speak intelligently to interested members about them and have it available for them to see. I would also be happy to speak personally with any member considering an electric vehicle.” To reach Kappler, call 517-647-1281. You can also learn more about electric vehicles at
The Tri-County Electric People Fund is celebrating 25 years of service to mid-Michigan this year! In that time, $2.2 million has been granted to help 629 individuals or families, and 873 organizations. That’s an average grant of $1,464.47 to help with housing or medical expenses, put books on library shelves, provide radios or protective gear to ambulance and fire services, and so much more! And it all starts with you, our member-owners, rounding up your monthly energy bills to the next dollar. The difference averages just 50 cents a month but look at what that has added up to since 1993! Thank you to every person who has supported the People Fund with monthly round-ups, cash contributions, or even using our Amazon Smile link ( when they shop online. One of the best things about the Tri-County Electric People Fund is that it keeps your money close to home. Some people have confused the People Fund’s Operation Round Up on their bill for the new Low Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF) charge of 93 cents a month. Here are some of the differences: Your People Fund contribution is voluntary and tax-deductible. LIEAF is neither. People Fund grants are decided by local people – your neighbors – and stay here in our service area to help more neighbors. LIEAF goes directly to the State of Michigan, which then disburses it to the Department of Health and Human Services and 2-1-1 agencies, all across the state. People Fund grants are meant to be a one-time helping hand. LIEAF funds is a public safety net; funds may be paid out to families several times, up to a pre-determined cap, over a heating season. I want to say a special thanks to all of our board members since the beginning: Richard Palermo, Jerry Supina, Ed Heffron, Mary Ellen Heffron, Peg Brown, Paul Main, Lisa Johnson, Jan Amsterburg, Peggy Pirhonen, Jim Mull, Dick Donley, Patti Sharp, and Jerrilynn Strong. If we added up all the hours these wonderful people have spent voluntarily reading thousands of applications, presenting checks, and talking about the People Fund, it would be another huge number! It is a real pleasure for me to support the People Fund and its board members. Thank you for your help in making the People Fund a success. by Tanya Schneider, People Fund Administrative Assistant March, 2018 Michigan Country Lines
This winter has been one of the coldest on record, even colder at times than 2014’s Polar Vortex. Extended cold weather mean we’re all using more energy to heat our homes, and spending more time indoors. This adds up to higher energy bills, especially since last winter was milder than normal. For instance, average temperatures were 13 degrees lower in January 2018 versus January 2017. Additional factors that could affect your bill include: The number of days between meter readings in a billing cycle. We try to keep the average number of days billed each month to 30, but a few days more or less could make your bill higher or lower than previous months. Having a new person living in your home. Remodeling or adding a new appliance. Anything that creates heat (tank heaters, heat tapes, portable space heaters, etc.) will use more power to maintain temperatures against the colder weather outside. We can help with payment arrangements, and we offer several payment options to save time, postage, and even the cost of checks. Assistance options are listed on our website here. If you're struggling to pay your bill, 2-1-1 will connect you with local helping agencies. Dial 2-1-1 or visit
by Missy Robson, Manager of Customer Service My team’s job at HomeWorks Tri-County is to help you get the most value for your energy dollars. We have a number of low or no-cost tools that can make a difference for you. Sign up for budget billing and minimize monthly bill spikes by averaging your payments over 12-months. You can start any time of year, once you have established 12 months of usage history in your own name. Pay As You Go prepaid electric service lets you make smaller, more manageable payments throughout the month, rather than one large payment on a predetermined due date. You’ll never pay late fees or reconnect charges, and prepaid service eliminates the need for a security deposit. People who use the service tell us they are more conscious of their energy use so they actually use less power, lowering their energy costs. Use SmartHub, online or with our free smartphone app, to keep an eye on your use. You can actually mark your account when something significant changes, such as family visits or new appliances, then compare use before and after. Or compare this month’s use to the same month last year, with weather information to put the use in context. SmartHub will help you understand your energy bill. Automatic bill payment through your bank or credit card, paying by phone or paying online, eliminates checks and stamps or a trip to the office! With paperless billing, you’ll receive an email alerting you to the bill amount, and you can see or download a copy of your bill at If you’re ready to upgrade appliances, lights, or your heating system, our Energy Optimization rebates can lower your upfront costs so you’ll save even more over the life of the item. You can learn more at Finally, if your energy usage seems higher than usual and using SmartHub's tracking doesn't help you figure out the reasons, call us! Our customer service reps will work with you to review your account as energy advisors. Part of recognizing the value of electricity is being aware of just what work it’s doing for you. Whether we’re building stronger power lines, going out to make repairs at 2 am, answering your phone calls with a smile, or finding ways to use technology to keep our costs (and rates) stable, as the electric utility YOU own, we are always working for you. (February, 2018 issue of Michigan Country Lines)
How will the new federal tax changes affect HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative? They will have very little impact on us - because as a not-for-profit electric cooperative we do not pay federal taxes on electricity sales. For-profit investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) pay federal taxes. Therefore, the federal corporate tax reduction will result in lower expenses and higher profits for them. That’s just one difference between the two business models. Another difference is what the companies do with their profits. IOUs pay their profits in the form of dividends to shareholders/investors, who may not even be their customers. Electric co-ops like HomeWorks, owned by the members we serve, don’t have shareholders or investors. Instead, we return profits to our member-owners in the form of capital credit refunds. We returned nearly $2 million in capital credit refunds to our members in April, 2019, and nearly $24 million since the mid-1980s. That’s the cooperative difference. 
Are you a customer of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric? Or are you a member-owner? If you purchase our electric service for your mid-Michigan home or business, you're BOTH! We are a member-owned and controlled electric distribution cooperative. As a member-owner-customer, you are invited to take part in the business of the cooperative in many ways, including board elections and district membership meetings. Each year at least two board seats come up for election. This year it's Districts 3 (Clinton County, except for Bingham, Duplain and Greenbush townships) and District 6 (Clare and Isabella counties). Learn more about the candidate nomination and election process here. In May of each year, we host a member-owner meeting in each district. We bring dinner, information and prizes to share with everyone who attends. Learn more about our district meetings - they're already scheduled for this coming May! - here.
The Tri-County Electric People Fund approved seven grants at their December 20 meeting, including: $2,100 to Gratiot County Commission on Aging, to provide mobile ramps for senior homes; $1,500 to Ionia County YMCA, to purchase water safety equipment for the 3rd grade, senior, and special needs water safety programs; $1,000 to Sunny Crest Youth Ranch in Sunfield as a matching grant toward a wood shop dust collection system; $2,500 to an Isabella County family, for housing expenses; $600 to an Isabella County family, to help with housing expenses; $2,500 to a Montcalm County family, to help put in a new well; and $1,787 to another Isabella County family, to assist with furnace repairs. How to Apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund Grant The Tri-County Electric People Fund provides grants to individuals and organizations in the co-op's service area for food, shelter, clothing, health, and other humane needs, or for programs or services that benefit a significant segment of a community.  Write to 7973 E. Grand River Avenue, Portland, MI. 48875, for an application form and grant guidelines, or visit the People Fund tab at Note: Applications must be received by Jan. 15 for the January board meeting, and by Feb. 26 for the March board meeting.
Right-of-way clearing is the SINGLE most important thing we can do to keep your electricity reliable. We've invested millions of dollars into keeping trees, branches, and brush away from power lines over the past 15 years, and we're seeing the difference. We've still got a long way to go. Trees keep growing across the 2,916 miles of overhead lines that we maintain. The eight-year clearing cycle we've worked up to is much better than we used to have but needs to be better. We contract with large companies like Asplundh or Wright Tree to do this work for us. It's hard, dangerous work, and requires a lot of training on trees and equipment to be done right. Nobody wants to do that kind of work for low pay, and with the economy improving, these crews have plenty of employment choices that are less dangerous and pay more. The bottom line is that the cost of accomplishing the tree-clearing for 2018 has nearly doubled. It's not going to cost less the year after, or the year after that. This is the new reality, and we hope that most of the money is going to the hard-working folks who do this job so well. With this big increase in a major budget item, among other reasons, we needed a small rate increase to keep your Cooperative financially stable. Your board of directors approved a 4.9 percent rate increase at the November board meeting. The monthly charge will go up by $7 a month for most of our residential and general service member-customers. This will cover the fixed costs for operating and maintaining the electric system, including buildings and trucks; repaying interest and debt on the capital costs of building and updating power lines with wire, poles, transformers, and meters; plus storm repairs and other maintenance. Meanwhile, the actual cost of your energy - the kilowatt-hour charge and the Power Supply Cost Recovery factor, will go down a little bit, as power supply costs are forecast to be stable for 2018. Read more about the board’s decision on page 13 this month, and watch for more information in the months to come.
Are you still looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for loved one on your list? What about giving them the gift of energy? HomeWorks offers gift certificates, which can be used toward paying a Tri-County Electric or Tri-County Propane bill, at our Blanchard and Portland offices. Purchase one for a friend or family member in our service area to give them a gift that's guaranteed to be used and appreciated. Or, in the true Christmas spirit, you can purchase one to donate to our People Fund to help pay the bills and ease the load for a local family in need this season.  To buy a HomeWorks gift certificate, simply stop by our Blanchard or Portland office or call us at 800-562-8232. Happy shopping, and Merry Christmas from the HomeWorks family!
It's not that HomeWorks Administrative Assistant Denise Weeks has a retirement countdown going or anything, but in a recent discussion, she just happened to be able to rattle off the exact amount of time, down to the hour, between her and endless days of Florida sunshine. "I think it's down to 67 days and one hour," she said with a laugh. But who's counting, right? Her Dec. 1 retirement date looms even closer now, and despite her excitement for the freedom it will bring, she knows leaving the organization she has been with for more than 27 years will be bittersweet. "Through the years, the people here have become like family to me, so it's going to be tough," said Weeks. "I'll miss the people most of all." Those warm feelings extend, she says, to HomeWorks staff, the board of directors and the cooperative's members. In her position, the friendly and engaging Weeks has interacted on a personal level with all three groups. "Through the years, my position has grown and evolved, and there came to be two different aspects of it: working with the directors and working with the employees on the human resources side of the job," she said. "I enjoyed the personal relationships I was able to develop with the directors and the employees, and with our members. I've just enjoyed the human aspect more than anything." Weeks won't give up that human aspect when she retires; she'll just experience it in new ways. She and her husband, Pete, who is also recently retired, plan to travel and spend more time with their children and other extended family and friends. "We plan to spend six months of the year at Recreation Plantation RV Park in Florida, near the Villages, and five months in Ionia at Lakeside Resort," she said. "The other month, hopefully, we'll travel, which I'm really excited about. I have five sisters, and we love to take trips together." She's most excited, she says, about the chance retirement will afford to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it. "Where we'll be near the Villages, there are dances every night," she said. "There is lots of recreation, and a lot of opportunities to do anything you want to do." Don't think her retirement means you'll never see Weeks around HomeWorks functions again, though. "I'll still attend my district meeting and retiree lunches and other events, but instead of an event planner, I'll be a guest," she said. "I'm looking forward to joining that club." Still, it won't be the same at HomeWorks without the lovable Weeks. "Denise has been the Cooperative face to many of the members for the past twenty seven years," said HomeWorks General Manager Mark Kappler. "I know the members who have gotten to know her over the years will miss her sweet personality. Personally, I will miss Denise's positive outlook to work and life that she brought to the office every single day." November-December, 2017 Michigan Country Lines


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