News & Events

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.  
We’re at the midpoint of the annual member meeting cycle right now – we’ve wrapped up the seven district membership meetings that were held in May, and we’re planning for the Annual Meeting of the delegates on August 18. This year’s meeting themes were built on a foundation of celebrating our cooperative’s 75th anniversary, as well as 2012 being the International Year of Cooperatives. There were a lot of good things to report about your co-op’s operations. We continue to work hard to make sure you have reliable power, at an affordable price. But a third priority, one that is essential to HomeWorks’ success, is growing the cooperative’s future leadership, and we do that in a number of ways. An active, informed membership helps us stay focused on our mission: To provide our members and customers with energy, comfort, and communications solutions that will enhance their quality of life. This year, more of you chose to be active and informed. We registered 775 members at the seven district meetings, nearly a hundred more than last year’s record of 682, or a 14% increase. Whether it was the meal we offered, the good weather, a new meeting location, or the chance to visit with your neighbors, we appreciate getting to see so many of you each night. On top of that, 130 kids aged 5-16 registered for a door prize, up from last year’s 118. Those kids are learning the cooperative habit early! Involving kids, and teaching them about the cooperative way of doing business, is a great way to grow leaders. We have several youth programs that reach out to high school students and to schools in our area. This year all four Touchstone Energy Scholarship winners joined us at the meetings to be recognized as outstanding students: Megan Benzing, Anna Makela, Lea Dean, and Tyler Nadeau. Becca Kirby and Blake Warchuck, who attended the Youth Leadership Summit and the National Rural Electric Youth Tour, were also recognized for their achievements. And our newest program, the Touchstone Energy Classroom Grants, was also highlighted. We are able to help teachers equip their classrooms with the technology and tools they need to help their students learn and prepare for the future. Leadership comes in many forms: we value the members who alert us to a potential power line problem or other issue, just as we value the members who serve as district officers. We are thankful for every one of you who has taken an active role, in one form or another, to make HomeWorks stronger in the past 75 years. We look forward to hearing from many generations of member-leaders to come.
Our Culture of Safety Won’t Let Us Take Electricity For Granted Electricity does so much for us: it provides us with lighting, heat and cooling to give us comfort; it turns motors to ease our burden; and runs all kinds of electric devices that help us be creative and provide us with entertainment. Electricity is something many of us take for granted, until we flip that wall switch and the lights don’t come on. But electricity can be as dangerous as it is convenient. That’s why we have built a culture of safety here at HomeWorks. Safety is a core value of our cooperative. This means it requires constant focus and attention every day, just like we focus on reliability, customer service, or the co-op’s finances. Safety means wearing the proper gear, and following the proper procedures, every time we perform a task, in the field or at the office. Safety means keeping our vehicles and equipment in top operating condition. Safety means responding to emergency calls promptly, to make sure members and the general public don’t have to worry about downed lines. Safety means restoring outages promptly, so you can take advantage of the light and comfort electricity provides. For several years, we have participated in our national organization’s safety achievement program, working to be accredited for safe practices every three years. The program has had many benefits, from giving our employees goals to work toward, to helping keep insurance costs stable. The program has recently undergone a fundamental change: it’s now a safety assessment program, designed to continually assess the level of safety core competence at all levels of our organization. If you read the board meeting updates in these pages each month, you’ll see that the board reviews our monthly safety report. That’s because our commitment to safety has to start with the policymakers and budget setters, letting every employee know this is a core value at each level. Our assessment, which took place in April, listed many things we are doing right, and pointed out a few areas where we will work to do better. The end result will be employees who go home to their families as healthy as they came to work, and a safer environment for both our member-owners and the general public. Taking electricity for granted is easy, since we use it all day, every day, and almost always safely. But we will never take safety - yours or ours - for granted.
Here's General Manager Mark Kappler's column in the May, 2012 issue of Michigan Country Lines magazine: Electric cooperatives build a better world – that’s a slightly expanded version of the theme for the International Year of Cooperatives as designed by the United Nations General Assembly. And to take it further, we believe electric co-op members build better electric co-ops. You make us better, for instance, when you come to your district’s annual member meeting in May and show you care enough about your electric service to learn about the issues affecting reliability, power supply, or rates. You make us more responsive when you tell us how we’re doing, good or bad, in providing service to you and your neighbors. You make us stronger when you participate in the democratic process that provides your co-op’s leadership, whether it’s selecting your district officers or voting for your district’s board seat. When you come to your district meeting, you can enjoy dinner and take home a gift, maybe win a prize. You certainly get a chance to socialize with your neighbors, and meet the co-op’s staff. There is a real benefit in you knowing the people who serve you, and for us to know the people we serve. Those ties get stronger each year, and help us remember we’re building this electric co-op together. As you go about your day today, tomorrow, in the next week, think about how you use electricity. If your use of electricity adds comfort, safety, entertainment, and productivity to your life, then you may want to take a few hours in mid-May to learn more about its source – your electric cooperative. Your electric cooperative, owned by and operated for you and 22,000 other families in mid-Michigan. Your cooperative needs you to be an active, thoughtful participant as we build a better world. We’ve mailed out invitations to every member with information about your district meeting; here’s a list of the dates and locations, and it’s also on the back cover of this magazine. You’ll also find a copy of the invitations on our website at homeworks.org, or you can call us at 800-562-8232 for more information. We hope to see you there! Monday, May 14 – District 5, Fulton Elementary Gym Tuesday, May 15 – District 3, Eagle Park Hall Wednesday, May 16 – District 1, Eaton Area Senior Center, Charlotte Thursday, May 17 – District 7, St. Michael’s Parish Center, Remus (new location) Monday, May 21 – District 4, Vestaburg Middle School Gym Tuesday, May 22 – District 6, Weidman Eagles Club (formerly the VFW Hall) Wednesday, May 23 – District 2, St. Edward’s Church, Lake Odessa   Continue the conversation at our Facebook page.
Both Blanchard and Portland offices will be closed all day Friday, May 4, to allow for all-employee training. Please call 1-800-848-9333 if you have an electric outage. To make a payment, call 1-877-999-3395 or click on My Account at the top right to log in to eBill. We'll reopen at 8 am Monday, May 7. Thanks for your patience!
Every few years we survey our Tri-County Electric Cooperative members, and Tri-County Propane customers, to learn what we're doing right and where you feel we need to work a little harder. Members are selected randomly for the survey. If selected, you'll receive a postcard the week of May 7 asking you to participate if you're called. Calls will start the week of May 14. If you're called upon, we thank you for participating. Your opinions help us operate the cooperative for the benefit of all our member-owners, and our Propane customers.
In celebrating our 75th anniversary this year, it’s been interesting to see how so many things have changed outwardly, yet remained essentially the same. Our distribution system has been expanded, upgraded and rebuilt, yet Pole #1 still stands on Kinneville Road, a working piece of the system that brings you reliable electricity. Our Portland office building is still in the same place as it has been since the 1940s – with some facelifts and modernization and repurposing. The card on the opposite page (click here to view) is another great example. Kenneth Graham said his Uncle Carl kept that card posted next to the fuse box in the pump house as a reminder. The card includes meter reading and billing rules, and also gives specific instructions on who to contact in case of a power outage, based on where the member lived. These days we have one central number for you to call, but we still need you to call in and report your outage. Truth is, we’ve always expected our member-owners to take an active role in their own electric utility. We don’t send you a list quite like this one, to post next to your fuse box or meter, but through Country Lines and other communications we do ask you to take part in electing and guiding the cooperative’s leadership. This is important because as a cooperative, we are operated by and for our member-owners – you. Next month we’ll ask you to attend your district’s annual membership meeting for updates, and in Districts 3 and 6, to elect the neighbor who will represent you on your board of directors. We have 75 years of good leadership, thanks to participation from members like you. It’s a tradition that you can help continue. Have a comment for General Manager Mark Kappler? Visit our Facebook page.

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