CEO Letter Archives


GOVERNOR HALEY THANKS PALMETTO ELECTRIC LINEMEN

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YOUR VOICE WAS HEARD! Thanks for standing with us to keep power affordable...The overwhelming involvement of our members through our SCTellEPA campaign has shown our government that we are watching.

THE PRICE OF ENERGY is vitally important to our quality of life. As electric cooperatives, we have been fighting in Washington D.C. to keep energy affordable for several years. The overwhelming involvement of our members through our SCTellEPA campaign has shown our government that we are watching. We gave them our opinions and sent them a clear message that we wanted reliable and affordable energy -- and they heard us. As a result of the campaign, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule for the Clean Power Plan has now included South Carolina’s nuclear plants under construction as part of our process to meet their stringent requirements. That was a real win for South Carolina. But, while the success we had may help minimize energy increases, unfortunately, costs will rise. Still, it’s a huge improvement over the draft rule first proposed by EPA, which did not give the nuclear units being constructed the same credit for carbon reductions that it gave other non-carbon emitting sources. Some background Santee Cooper, formally known as the South Carolina Public Service Authority, is a state-owned utility and the primary source of the power distributed by Palmetto Electric and the state's 19 other independent, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. Santee Cooper co-owns, with SCE&G, the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station at Jenkinsville in Fairfield County. The state utility and the investor-owned utility are constructing two additional generation units there. Santee Cooper has been proactively working to reduce emissions through a number of initiatives, such as these new nuclear units, closing of four coal units and adding renewables. Through such efforts, Santee Cooper projects that it will cut CO2 emissions 44 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Where credit is due Palmetto Electric is especially grateful to Congressman James Clyburn, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Tim Scott, who listened to our concerns and understood the importance of correctly counting nuclear projects under construction in the state’s emissions-reduction plan. We are also extremely grateful to the members of Palmetto Electric and other South Carolina electric co-ops, and other citizens of the state, who helped us get our message to EPA. Approximately 11,000 Palmetto Electric members commented to EPA regarding this issue. We need time to fully analyze this final EPA rule and its impact on members, and we will work to minimize the cost to comply as much as we possibly can. We'll keep you posted as we determine just how much the EPA rule will affect the cost of electricity. No increase can be good, of course, but thanks to members who made their voices heard, it will not be as steep as it might have been. Thanks again for your support.

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REGULATION WILL IMPACT YOUR CO-OP - The newest water regulation from Washington, D.C. tramples local control and adds Bureaucratic headaches to maintaining the electric distribution and transmission network.

IN MAY, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) finalized a water regulation that removes power and responsibility from local officials and relocates it to Washington, D.C. It’s called “WOTUS,” standing for “waters of the U.S.,” and defines what is subject to federal regulation under the federal Clean Water Act. These “waters” include the “60 percent of streams in the United States [that] flow only seasonally or when it rains” as Ken Kopocis, the EPA acting assistant administrator for water, explained recently. Currently, most of these are subject to state control. In this new regulation, the EPA and the Corps maximized their regulatory reach by suggesting only federal employees can adequately protect our water. And they did this without consulting with their state and local co-regulators. They continued down the path of more Washington-based decision making, meaning that federal agencies will be regulating everything from the Coosawhatchie River to ponds and dry creek beds that only temporarily have water after rainfall. What does this mean for members of Palmetto Electric Cooperative? Well, more regulated streams (with or without water in them) mean more federal permits to maintain and expand our electric distribution network – that’s about 3,500 miles of power lines. And past experience does not suggest a quick and timely response. The reliable electricity you pay for every month depends on a robust and well-maintained system—and our ability to quickly make necessary adjustments to keep your lights on. That’s why we seek a new rule. Palmetto Electric takes our responsibility to protect our land and water seriously – after all, we live here, too. But we believe this task belongs close to home, here in South Carolina, where folks understand the opportunities and challenges. We believe Congress knew what it was doing when it gave the EPA, the Corps and the states shared responsibility for protecting our water – federal jurisdiction over waters that support commerce, interstate waters and U.S. territorial waters; state jurisdiction over everything else. Co-ops across the country are working together with other interested groups in supporting Congressional action directing the EPA and the Corps to withdraw the rule, return to the drawing board and consult with affected parties – especially state and local governments – before re-proposing anything.

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Grade-A commitment

upshaw G. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO The Washington Youth Tour and Bright Ideas are grade-A examples of Palmetto Electric Cooperative's commitment to education and the community. The three fine young citizens pictured below on Capitol Hill give us confidence in a bright future for America. Part of the credit goes to their teachers, who molded their energy and talent into future community and co-op leaders.

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Terri Stansfield has won several Bright Ideas grants. "We love having the Bright Ideas Grant Patrol come!" she says. "That big cardboard check takes a place of honor in the classroom—all year long."
Bright Ideas is our way of supporting local educators by rewarding teachers who submit the most innovative classroom projects. Last November we awarded $34,160 in grants to educators in Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties. Teachers, don't miss out: The application deadline for our 10th annual Bright Ideas grant competition is September 6. You still have time—a little anyway. So think fast, like Terri Stansfield, a science and math teacher at Hampton Elementary School who has won several grants, including last year's fittingly titled project, "Now That's a Bright Idea!" Terri usually enters early but last year? Well, not so much. "Actually, it was like, 'Fax that bad boy in, please!'" she jokes. It paid off. Terri used her 2012 grant to buy a special paint that turns school walls into whiteboards, aiming to unleash student creativity and spontaneity. "Anything that you can do to help them connect," she says. To connect with the details about Bright Ideas, click here.
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Representing Palmetto Electric on this year's Washington Youth Tour were Hilton Head Island High School seniors Evan Reier (left), son of Heather Reier, and Kara Klein, daughter of Nathan and Karen Klein, and Wade Hampton High School senior Joseph Wilson, son of Kevin and Rhonda Wilson.

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Celebrating what Capt. Hilton spotted — and what we saw in his island

upshaw G. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO In September 1663, on a voyage of exploration, Captain William Hilton entered Port Royal Sound and spotted a headland—a high point that would be called Hilton's Headland, or Hilton's Head. Three hundred and 20 years later, Hilton Head Island became the Town of Hilton Head Island. Late this month, the town will begin its 350/30 anniversary blowout to commemorate both events. 14vfv4_AuSt_9 Palmetto Electric Cooperative is proud to be among the sponsors of the event, which officially kicks off Monday, September 30, and runs through October 5. The website CelebrationHHI.org offers a full schedule as well as a fascinating historical timeline of the island. Palmetto Electric's role began in 1950, which the timeline notes was the year the Hilton Head Company was organized. Leslie Richardson, a member of the celebration's volunteer organizing committee whose family's roots on the island reach back to that era, recognizes the difference co-op power made. As Leslie wrote to us, "Since Palmetto Electric Cooperative brought the first electricity to Hilton Head Island in 1950, it has played an integral role in the growth of the island. As the island developed and the population grew, Palmetto Electric continued to serve its citizens with new and expanded community-oriented programs." Our cooperative will celebrate an anniversary of its own in 2015, marking our 75th year. Our history dates back to 1940, when Palmetto Electric was chartered to bring electricity to the underserved rural areas of Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties. World War II necessarily slowed all electric cooperatives' progress but, after the war, the co-op got back to work. Our early leaders—members of the co-op themselves, just like today's trustees—recognized the potential that electric service could unlock in places such as Hilton Head Island. Where others found the task to serve the island too daunting, those co-op pioneers found a way to get the job done. Today, the Town of Hilton Head, its residents and its many visitors all reap the benefits of cooperation. As Leslie put it, "All I can say is how wonderful it is to step into an airconditioned room in August on Hilton Head Island." We're glad to help bring modern comfort and convenience to the island and to all the communities we have served for almost three-quarters of a century. Congratulations to the Town of Hilton Head Island. And to Captain Hilton, who must have known a jewel when he saw one, we say, "Good eye!"

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Identifying the good guys—and thwarting the bad ones

upshaw G. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO We work hard to earn and keep your trust. We also look out for our members by alerting them to possible scams. Some scammers are brazen enough to walk right up to your door. A new but equally low breed uses technology and telephones. First, we want to help you identify your co-op's employees and those of the contract utility companies we hire, such as those that help us maintain our rights of way.

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Co-op employees like 1st Class Lineman Donald Cook will produce identification upon request. Contractors will either be in utility vehicles, have proper magnetic signage or have official Palmetto Electric windshield stickers, like the one shown below, which are updated annually.
All of our field employees, and many office employees, wear Palmetto Electric uniforms and drive vehicles with our name and logo. Most importantly, legitimate co-op employees always carry identification that they'll allow you to check. Should you have any doubts, call us. Vehicles for contract utility companies working for us will have an official co-op windshield sticker, shown below. Unfortunately, technology masks a lot of crooks. Co-ops nationwide are warning members about a rise in bill payment fraud scams over the phone. Fake home energy audits and scams related to prepaid credit cards are becoming more common at co-ops across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Callers demand people make a large payment to cancel an order to shut off power. They pretend to negotiate and accept a lower amount if you immediately obtain a prepaid credit card. 092013bIf you receive a suspicious call regarding your co-op bill, call Palmetto Electric. A service representative can confirm your bill and let you know of any problems with your account.Variations include calls claiming expiration of automatic bank drafts. Scammers seek personal financial information, which could enable a thief to raid bank accounts. Other frauds include "Home Walk-Through" scam calls. The member is told they can save money on their utility bills if they schedule a walk-through energy audit of the home. It's a technique to get a layout of a home for a future burglary. A new twist on fraud Members cautioned about fake text messages Stay safe!

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Two great programs that work great together

upshawG. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO IF YOU'VE BEEN AROUND since the 1970s or '80s, you may remember some classic commercials for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. A guy eating chocolate collides with another fellow eating peanut butter. "You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!" he says. The second guy replies, "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" They soon realize they've found "two great tastes that taste great together."
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Treva Kent, an art teacher at Hilton Head Island Elementary, with Bright Ideas Grant Patrol members after winning last year. Kent is a winner again this year with her project, "Health H'Art." Visit the Palmetto Electric page on Facebook to see photos of this year's Bright Ideas winners.
We feel that way about Operation Round Up and Bright Ideas. They're two great programs that work great together. Operation Round Up, as you may know, is our member-supported charity to assist local people in need. We started it back in 1989 and since then more than $6 million in grants have been awarded here in Palmetto Electric's service area. More than 300 co-ops nationwide have adopted Operation Round Up. In another case of co-ops sharing what works, we adapted Bright Ideas from sister co-ops in North Carolina. Bright Ideas is our way of supporting local teachers with special funding for innovative classroom projects. CFL Bright ideas_smFor several years, the Palmetto Electric Trust (PET), an independent board that administers member donations to Operation Round Up, has generously supported Bright Ideas. This year PET contributed $28,000 for teacher grants, helping the co-op award 57 grants worth $41,230 to local teachers. Other funding comes from our community service organization, WIRE (Women Involved in Rural Electrification), and our Touchstone Energy Million Dollar Hole-in-One event. oprlogoIf you support Operation Round Up, thanks. If you would like to participate, give us a call. By agreeing to round up your co-op bill to the next dollar each month, your small change makes a big difference—in two really great ways.  
 

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Legislators help us look out for you

upshawG. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO A new year brings a new session of the S.C. General Assembly and, with it, a chance to thank our local legislators for their support of Palmetto Electric Cooperative. They help Palmetto Electric save our members money and continue to provide the most reliable service possible. Our legislative liaisons, Vice President, Marketing & Public Relations Jimmy Baker and Manager, Community Affairs & Economic Development Jan Baxter, work with their peers from other independent, locally owned electric distribution co-ops around the state. They look out for the more than 1.5 million South Carolina citizens who rely on their co-ops for dependable, affordable electric power. Advocacy is crucial to your co-op's continued success. Decisions by lawmakers in Columbia and in Washington, D.C., have major ramifications for your monthly bill. Co-ops keep a close eye on the legislative, regulatory and legal issues of the entire utility industry. 2013 accomplishments Our local legislative delegation continues to stand tall for Palmetto Electric members. In recent years the General Assembly has passed legislation aimed at curbing the theft of copper, which has cost citizens, insurance companies, churches and utilities a great deal of money. In 2013, legislators, with input from co-ops and other utilities, fine-tuned a law passed in 2012. We now have one of the toughest laws in the United States for copper theft. In 2013 the Legislature also passed tougher laws regarding theft of utility service, particularly for those who steal power as part of larger criminal enterprises including operators of "grow houses," where crooks circumvent electric metering to avoid paying for power used to grow marijuana indoors. Grassroots greatness Co-ops have earned a reputation as the Legislature's "go-to" advisors on energy—related matters. In the last year, we provided expert advice on legislation to update state energy-efficiency building codes, which will save homeowners energy and money. Today, we're doing the same to make sure our state policies in distributed generation like solar are reasonable and consumer friendly. We appreciate our legislators' attentiveness to our members' needs. Legislators know co-ops well. They know that Palmetto Electric and other locally owned and operated electric cooperatives have represented grassroots organizing at its finest for almost 75 years. Thanks again to our delegation and to our greatest advocates—you, our consumer-members.
Thanks to our local legislators for their support. (H) Home district office (C) Columbia office
tDavis Sen. Tom Davis [R] Dist. No. 46—Beaufort & Jasper Cos. (H) PO Drawer 1107, Beaufort, 29901-1107 Bus.: (843) 252-8583 (C) PO Box 142, Columbia, 29201-0142 Gressette Building, Room 602 Bus.: (803) 212-6008 Email: TomDavis@scsenate.gov cPinckney Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney [D] Dist. No. 45—Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton & Jasper Cos. (H) PO Box 507, Ridgeland, 29936 Bus.: (843) 726-6019 (C) PO Box 142, Columbia, 29202-0142 Gressette Building, Room 512 Bus.: (803) 212-6148 Email: ClementaPinckney@scsenate.gov
wBowers Rep. William K. "Bill" Bowers [D] Dist. No. 122—Beaufort, Hampton & Jasper Cos. (H) PO Box 686, Hampton, 29924 Bus.: (803) 914-2142 Home: (803) 632-5755 (C) PO Box 11867, Columbia, 29211 Blatt Building, Room 310C Bus.: (803) 734-2959 Email: BillBowers@schouse.gov sErickson Rep. Shannon S. Erickson [R] Dist. No. 124—Beaufort Co. (H) Bus.: (843) 986-1090 (C) PO Box 11867, Columbia, 29211 Blatt Building, Room 320C Bus.: (803) 734-3261 Email: ShannonErickson@schouse.gov
wHerbkersman Rep. William G. "Bill" Herbkersman [R] Dist. No. 118—Beaufort & Jasper Cos. (H) 896 May River Rd., Bluffton, 29910-5833 Bus.: (843) 757-7900 Home: (843) 757-5424 (C) PO Box 11867, Columbia, 29211 Blatt Building, Room 308B Bus.: (803) 734-3063 Email: BillHerbkersman@schouse.gov wNewton Rep. Wm. Weston J. Newton [R] Dist. No. 120—Beaufort & Jasper Cos. (H) 83 Myrtle Island Rd., Bluffton, 29910 Bus.: (843) 706-6111 Home: (843) 706-3880 (C) PO Box 11867, Columbia, 29211 Blatt Building, Room 320A Bus.: (803) 212-6942 Email: WestonNewton@schouse.gov
aPatrick Rep. Andrew S. "Andy" Patrick [R] Dist. No. 123—Beaufort Co. (H) PO Box 22676, Hilton Head Island, 29925 Bus.: (843) 290-6606 (C) PO Box 11867, Columbia, 29211 Blatt Building, Room 308A Bus.: (803) 212-6928 Email: AndyPatrick@schouse.gov
 

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Solar project brightens S.C. power picture

upshaw G. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO We've long taken an "all of the above" position when it comes to power generation. We recognize that, as the electricity industry is now structured, there are three primary means of producing base-load power—coal, nuclear, and natural gas. Renewables also play a part in the energy mix. The best established form of renewables— that is, energy produced using renewable resources as fuel—is hydro power. In recent decades, wind, solar and biomass have also gained prominence.

Green Power Solar School dedicated in Hardeeville

The Jasper County School District, Palmetto Electric Cooperative and Santee Cooper recently dedicated Hardeeville Ridgeland Middle School as a Green Power Solar School. greenpowerlogo_sm2The statewide Green Power Solar Schools program was launched in 2006 at Hilton Head Middle School, also served by Palmetto Electric. The program continues efforts by the co-ops and Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility that generates most of the power co-ops distribute, to promote renewable energy. Green Power Solar Schools encourage student interest in the environment and demonstrate the feasibility and limitations of renewable power. A 2-kilowatt solar power system has been installed at the Hardeeville school, providing hands-on learning opportunities for 6th grade students. Teachers and students can use a specially designed renewable energy curriculum that meets state science standards. A provided computer and Internet-based monitoring system allows them to see how much power their cells are generating. The school outreach program fulfills a commitment to reinvest Green Power funds back into renewable resources across South Carolina. Show your support for renewable energy by purchasing Green Power from Palmetto Electric. Call us today for details.
Pilot project Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility that generates most of the electricity distributed by independent co-ops such as Palmetto Electric, is now purchasing the output from a three megawatt solar farm in Colleton County, owned by T.I.G. Sun Energy. The project will give Santee Cooper and South Carolina's 20 co-ops a way to analyze the reliability and cost-effectiveness of this form of energy production. Solar and wind have inherent disadvantages. The wind doesn't blow, nor does the sun shine, all the time. This intermittency requires that backup base-load generators—usually fueled by natural gas— be poised to operate when renewables are not performing. The best prospect for wind and solar to make a substantial contribution to electricity generation would be the development of effective storage batteries for use during peak demand hours when renewable units would typically be dormant. Slow march It's likely to be a slow march until the time a suitable storage battery can be perfected. In the interim, the cooperatives and Santee Cooper will be learning all we can about solar energy and the possibilities it might hold. One outcome we'll take great pains to avoid: Our members won't be expected to subsidize this or any other type of energy production. Both solar and wind must represent viable alternatives in order for Palmetto Electric to embrace them. Our hope is that advances in technology will bring this energy production to pass.

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Between the lines

upshaw Spring cleaning' delivers safe, reliable power G. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO SPRING GIVES US a chance to thaw out after a chilly winter. Most of us take advantage of longer daylight hours by doing a little spring cleaning and yard work. Similarly, to protect our lines and keep power flowing safely to your home, Palmetto Electric Cooperative maintains our rights of way. Think of it as spring cleaning for power lines. The difference is, here in the Lowcountry, where vegetation grows almost non-stop, we do our "spring cleaning" throughout the year. Right-of-way (ROW) maintenance keeps tree limbs and other obstacles away from high-voltage power lines. It's an important part of the service we provide to you, our members, for three reasons: safety, reliability and cost. 0314Power lines are a constant part of our landscape; it's easy to forget they are around. We work hard to keep the area around our lines clear, but we need your help. Be alert this spring. Don't plant trees or tall vegetation under power lines, and keep an eye out for power lines when working in your yard.Our primary concern is the safety of our workers and members. Properly maintained ROW keeps our crews safe when they are restoring service and maintaining our system. Keeping trees clear of power lines also keeps your family safe. From making sure a child's tree house doesn't hit power lines to creating a safe environment while doing yard work, a well-maintained ROW helps avoid tragedy. If severe weather blows through — as it did this winter and can do at any time of year — a well-maintained ROW leads to fewer outages and faster response time. Trees are less of a threat. When trees do fall, crews are able to restore service more quickly than they could with poorly maintained areas. As a not-for-profit cooperative, Palmetto Electric strives to keep costs affordable for you, our members. Maintaining our ROW is an important part of controlling costs. Fewer and shorter outages save money for everyone. When crews work in well-maintained areas, we can reduce risks for employees and equipment too — another way to keep costs low. Safety, reliability, and cost: this is why we believe in ROW "spring cleaning." If we compromise on one of these areas, it impacts the others. At Palmetto Electric Cooperative, we aren't willing to compromise. Maintaining our ROW is a priority for your safety, comfort, and pocketbook.

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