News & Events

Last year I asked if you were helping us build a better world. This year my question is similar: Are you making a difference? This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Tri-County Electric People Fund helping out our neighbors here in mid-Michigan. By rounding up your monthly energy bill, you allow us to donate your spare change – averaging just 50 cents per month – to the People Fund. In turn, a volunteer board of seven cooperative members reviews requests for help from individuals and organizations. The smallest grant they’ve given was $60, to a woman who needed eyeglasses. The largest was for $10,000 to support bone marrow testing. During one of the drives the People Fund helped sponsor, a match was found, and a life was saved. Both of these grants – all of the People Fund’s grants, large and small – make me feel like I’m helping to make a difference for my neighbors. You can read all the details in the People Fund Annual Report that’s wrapped around this issue of Michigan Country Lines, but here’s a couple more significant numbers: The People Fund has made 1,175 grants totaling $1,764,266.25 in its first 20 years. The average, per grant, is $1,501.50. Think of how much more the People Fund could do if all of our members rounded up!   If your energy bill rounds up to an even dollar amount every month, you’re already participating, and we thank you for your continuing support. If your energy bill does not round up to an even dollar amount, please consider calling 1-800-562-8232 to tell us you want to help make a difference with your spare change. The neighbor you help might be your own.
Staying In Our Own Lane “Corporate culture” is a buzz phrase that’s been around a while. Lately, it’s been used by co-ops, too, only we call it “co-op culture.” And now, you’re probably wondering why it should matter to you, as a member of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative? Our co-op culture is our way of working together, something that gives people a “feel” for the co-op, from the inside as a participant or from the outside as a guest or observer. It’s based on our shared attitudes and beliefs, on the 7 cooperative principles followed worldwide, and on the written and unwritten rules that have developed in our 75 years of existence. Our culture determines what is considered right or wrong, important or unimportant, workable or unworkable, and it guides how we respond to the unexpected – crises or sudden change. For instance, when we refer to our culture of safety, we mean this statement of policy from Board Policy 201: “The safety of its employees is a matter of vital concern to the Cooperative.  It is a matter of policy that protective equipment will be supplied and used wherever necessary, and that no service to be rendered ever becomes of such importance that an employee be knowingly endangered.” Culture determines how we treat each other and work together. One of the best descriptions used recently is “stay in our own lane.” What that really means is that each of us – board member, employees, and members – have our own set of responsibilities and we should focus on those, rather than getting distracted by what’s going on in someone else’s area. Board elections, which you can read about on the next page, are one “lane” of responsibility. They’re important because HomeWorks Tri-County’s co-op culture starts with the board of directors. These seven men and women provide the direction that makes sure we’re meeting your needs. The board sets the policies which guide our everyday behaviors, from working safely to making our member-owners the focus of our work. By listening to you, our members, they can tell what’s working and what isn’t, and which areas need more attention. You have your own lane of responsibility that contributes to the co-op’s culture. When you come to meetings, volunteer to be a delegate and attend the annual meeting, step up to be a district officer, or serve your neighbors as a district director, you are saying your cooperative is important to you. For 75 years, we’ve been fortunate to have a strong core of members who value their cooperative. Your participation and support will continue that tradition and determine HomeWorks Tri-County’s co-op culture for the next 75 years.
HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative is accepting applications for our 2013 Touchstone Energy Classroom Technology Grants Program. Schools that serve children of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric members can receive a grant of up to $2,500 to fund innovative programs, particularly those involving technology or equipment that enrich students’ education. Teachers and administrators of public or private K-12 schools may apply. Multiple projects within the same school district can be combined to a total of $2,500 per year. We reserve the right to take pictures of the winners and they may be printed in Country Lines, our member magazine, and/or appear on our website or other electronic media. An impartial panel of judges will review the grant applications. Preference will be given to projects and programs involving use of technology or tangible equipment that enhance learning and are not currently being funded through the school’s budget. For more information, please contact Jayne Graham at jayne@homeworks.org, or 517-647-1252 (1-800-821-4956, ext. 1252).
At HomeWorks Tri-County, we have three top priorities: provide you safe, reliable access to electric power; offer that service as affordably as possible; and do both of those things in a fiscally and environmentally responsible fashion. You’ve told us, at meetings and in surveys, that you value these same priorities. That’s why they are the foundation of our strategic plan, our work plans, and our daily activities. What else does “value” mean to you, when it comes to electricity? For instance, cell phones and other digital devices are a part of our everyday lives. Everyone, it seems, is connected—making phone calls, texting, playing games, checking the internet, or reading e-mail. This instant communication is a luxury we pay for, generally without complaint. But when it comes to electricity—a necessity in our modern world—why do so many of us grumble when the electric bill comes every month? We expect electricity to be there at the flip of the switch, and when it’s not, we get angry or frustrated. As your electric co-op, we have a special responsibility to make sure your electric service is safe, reliable, and affordable. But when compared to other commodities, electricity remains a great value. For example, over the past 10 years, gasoline prices shot up 12.66 percent on average annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of a loaf of white bread rose 3.73 percent annually, and a dozen eggs jumped 7.39 percent in price per year. In comparison, electricity has increased just 3.7 percent a year nationally for the past decade. When you consider how reliable electricity is, the value goes up even more. The average HomeWorks member has power 99.97% of the time. That’s a pretty good number, and we’re working every day to increase our service reliability, and control costs through innovative technology. In the past 30 years, the amount of residential electricity used by appliances and electronics has increased from 17 percent to 31 percent. Those cell phones I mentioned earlier? Nearly a third of all U.S. households have four electronic devices, such as cell phones, plugged in and charging, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More homes than ever use major appliances and central air conditioning. Owning digital video recorders (DVRs), computers, and multiple televisions has become commonplace. Clearly, our appetite for electricity shows no signs of slowing down. So the next time you flip a switch, use your toaster, or run your washing machine, remember the value electricity holds. And know that we at HomeWorks are looking out for you by working together to keep electric bills affordable, controlling costs through innovation, and putting you, our members, first. from the January 2013 issue of Michigan Country Lines magazine
We wish you all a safe and joyous holiday season. Our offices will be closed on Tuesday, New Year's Day, to allow our employees to celebrate the New Year with their families. We will re-open at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, for normal business hours. Remember, you can pay anytime by phone, by calling 1-877-999-3395. You can also log into eBill to view your account or pay by check, credit card, or debit card. In case of an electric service emergency, please call 1-800-848-9333. For propane emergencies, please call 1-877-574-2740. Our night and weekend response service will assist you.
Both offices will be closed to allow our families to celebrate Thanksgiving together. We will re-open at 8 am Friday, Nov. 23. In case of emergency, please call 1-800-848-9333 for electric service or 1-877-574-2740 for propane service.
While we, the general managers and CEOs of Michigan’s electric distribution co-ops support renewable energy, we also stand united against Proposal 3. This ballot proposal would amend the Michigan Constitution to include a 25 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which would be very expensive and extreme. Please consider the following important facts about Proposal 3 as you head to the polls on Nov. 6: YOUR CO-OP IS A RENEWABLE ENERGY LEADER. Michigan’s electric co-ops are already leaders in renewable energy, and we support the current 10 percent RPS set by the Legislature in 2008. Electric co-ops are key partners in Michigan’s first commercial wind farm, which is located in the Thumb area and was built prior to any RPS requirements. One of our state’s largest renewable energy resources, a hydro facility in Sault Ste. Marie, is also owned by an electric co-op. THE CONSTITUTION IS THE WRONG PLACE FOR ENERGY POLICY. We strongly believe that the Michigan Legislature—not the constitution—is the place to enact far-reaching energy policy. While the Legislature’s work can be “fine tuned” to allow for changes in technology, the economy or unintended consequences, these types of necessary adjustments would be nearly impossible to achieve if enshrined in the Michigan Constitution. The majority of the financial support for Proposal 3 is coming from out-of-state special interest groups who would profit from binding energy policy into our constitution. RENEWABLE IS NOT ALWAYS RELIABLE. Renewable energy has a place in our power supply toolbox, but its limitations make it less-than-ideal. Wind farms in the state typically only generate 30 percent of the time—and this “reliability” is often lower on the hot, still days when electricity demand is highest. By comparison, wind farms in Texas and parts of the upper Midwest often operate at levels exceeding 40 percent. PROPOSAL 3 WOULD BE EXPENSIVE. Wind power in Michigan is very expensive. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy reports that it would cost the average residential ratepayer an additional $170 to $190 annually to achieve the 25 percent RPS suggested by Proposal 3. This cost estimate does not even include the additional costs of building new transmission lines or generation needed to “back up” the wind when it does not blow. Solar power is even more expensive, and better suited for other regions of the U.S. We support renewable energy and the current 10 percent RPS, but encourage you to join us in voting “no” against Proposal 3. You can learn more about your co-op’s concerns with Proposal 3 in this edition of Michigan Country Lines (pp. 11, 12-13) and at CAREforMich.com. (signed by Mark Kappler and the general managers of all of Michigan's electric distribution cooperatives)
First, let me say thanks, on behalf of HomeWorks Tri-County’s board of directors and employees, for the high ratings you gave us on a recently-completed member survey. You can read more about the survey on page 8, and in the months to come here in Country Lines. We work very hard to exceed your needs and expectations when it comes to electric service. It’s good to hear when we’ve accomplished that goal, just as it’s good to hear from you when we haven’t, so that we can make adjustments. Part of the value of your electricity comes in using it most efficiently. With our Energy Optimization program, you can make small changes that add up to big differences in the long run. Nick Rusnell tells you more about rebate opportunities on page 21. Reliable power does come at a cost. The poles and wires that build our electric system cost more with every work plan project, it seems. Our system has outlasted its planned service life in many areas, so we’ve been able to hold the line on rising costs for a long time. New technologies, used properly, can help keep costs stable, too. Many of you have begun paying your bills online, or having your bank pay for bills for you from your checking or savings account. We’ve also been able to take advantage of new technologies behind the scenes, such as digitized mapping, automated meter reading, and deploying tablets with our line crews. The last distribution, or local, rate increase at HomeWorks Tri-County Electric was in 2008. There have been a few power supply increases since then, but we have held your rates down while continuing to upgrade the system and improve reliability by clearing rights-of-way, while maintaining a high level of customer service. You can learn more about the costs that go into an electric system like ours on page 9. At a special meeting Sept. 24, your board of directors will consider a proposed rate increase. If they do approve one, a full notice of what they approve will be published in the November-December issue of Country Lines, along with some rate comparisons. Any increases will be made to keep your cooperative strong, and able to continue keeping your service reliable. We know that reliable and affordable electric service is important to you and we are constantly working to make sure your co-op provides that value every day.  
Notice to Members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative A Special Member Meeting is set for Sept. 24, 9 a.m., at the cooperative’s Portland office   The board of directors will consider several changes to the cooperative’s rates and tariffs at its meeting on September 24, 2012, to be held at the cooperative office at 7973 Grand River Avenue, Portland, MI. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. and is open to all members of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative. The session will begin with an opportunity for members to provide direct input to the board of directors, without filing a formal request under cooperative policy. Members are asked to come to the lobby by 9 a.m. and request to speak to the board; staff will direct interested members to the meeting room. Time constraints on each member’s comments will be at the discretion of the board president, but members are asked to keep comments to less than five minutes. The following items will be considered: 1) Establish the 2013 Power Supply Cost Recovery Factor, to be applied to the cooperative’s retail member-customers’ monthly kilowatt-hour use. The Power Supply Cost Recovery Factor represents the power supply costs as established by the cooperative in conjunction with Wolverine Power Cooperative. The factor is established annually, and reviewed monthly. 2) Revise the cooperative’s rates to meet current and future financial needs, based on an independent Cost of Service study. 3) Revise the cooperative’s Requirements for Pole Attachments tariff sheet to change the annual pole attachment rate per pole. Under the tariff, the cooperative may permit a cable television company or other attaching party to make attachments to its poles, ducts or conduits pursuant to a contract between the cooperative and the attaching party. 4) Revise the cooperative’s Aid-to-Construction fee schedule to reflect cost increases. If approved, these changes will affect member-customers who have electric service built to a new location, or request a change in service at their current location. 5) Revise the cooperative’s miscellaneous billing fees and charges. Notice of changes or additions to the cooperative’s rates or service rules shall be sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines at least 30 days prior to their effective date. Participation: Any interested member may attend and participate. The location of the board meeting site is accessible, including handicapped parking. Persons needing any accommodation to participate should contact HomeWorks Tri-County Electric at 800-562-8232 a week in advance to request mobility, visual, hearing or other assistance. Comments may also be made before the meeting date by calling General Manager Mark Kappler at 517-647-1281, or by email at mkappler@homeworks.org. Notice of the board meeting was sent to all members, as required by P.A. 167, by publication in the September edition of Michigan Country Lines.  
guest column by Tom Manting, Chief Financial Officer Members often ask, “What is this availability charge on my monthly bill?” This charge helps cover the fixed costs of making power available to you whenever you need it. Poles, wires, transformers, bucket trucks and employees exist to provide you with electricity, and the availability charge is needed to recover those costs, regardless of how much electricity you use. An infrastructure charge like this, whatever it’s called, is in place at most utilities nationwide. Large or small, we all have similar fixed costs, based on published cost of service studies. Many small utilities, like electric co-ops, have been increasing their monthly service charge steadily. In Michigan, several co-ops are charging members $18 to $25 monthly. Our recent cost of service study, performed by an independent professional engineering firm, shows us that if every one of our residential and general service members paid the true cost of having electric service, the monthly availability charge would be $36.96. (In comparison, the current monthly charge is $12 for residential accounts and $20 for general service.) The breakdown looks like this:     Primary line, transformer, meter     $ 21.40     Customer support                           $  9.92     Property taxes, other fixed costs    $  5.64 The first line includes depreciation of purchase costs, interest costs, installation and maintenance costs, and other administrative costs, such as insurance. Since we are a not-for-profit electric cooperative, our rates should be based on our actual costs of serving you. If we were to increase the availability charge to the full cost of service, we would then be able to reduce the cost per kilowatt-hour of the energy you use – by about 20-25%, to its actual cost. We believe, as a cooperative, that the cost-causers should be the cost-payers. In an ideal world, each of us would pay our exact share of the costs, and no member would pay more to subsidize another’s rates. Your board of directors has established a rate policy that would direct future rate increases into the monthly availability charge, to reduce the subsidies paid by those who use more energy. This is one of the agenda items at the Special Open Member Meeting on Sept. 24. This also benefits the cooperative. Even though we operate on a not-for-profit basis, to remain financially strong we need a margin, or profit. These days, members are purchasing less energy, whether it’s because of Energy Optimization or other energy conservation measures, net metering with renewable energy sources, or distributed generation. We believe this trend will only continue in the years to come. The cooperative cannot maintain a reliable system by attempting to recover costs from ever-decreasing kilowatt-hour sales. A common response when rates increase is that we are penalizing those who use less energy. Not at all. Making sure service is available to you, whenever you want it, costs your cooperative the same whether you use 10 kilowatt-hours a month, or 10,000. However much energy you use, you should pay your share of the costs, and not expect your neighbor to pay more so you can pay less.  

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