Wisconsin Lineworkers Travel to Arizona for Light Up Navajo Project

Photo courtesy Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative.

May 23, 2024—Lineworkers from electric cooperatives in five states, including Wisconsin, are participating the the Light Up Navajo! project this year, helping electrify homes in the Navajo Nation for the first time. More than 13,000 of the 56,000 homes in the Navajo Nation still do not have power. Among those in Arizona this week are Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative linemen Mack Yarbrough and Josh Wick, who traveled to Tuba City on May 11 and spent all week working to run power for residents who have never had it before.
Photos courtesy Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative.
They also presented a check for $1,000 from the Federated Youth Foundation to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to help fund the project.

Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative's Kevin Kurtzweil learned of the Light Up Navajo! project through his relationship with the North Central Technical College and brought a proposal to the co-op board, which opted to send two Central Wisconsin linemen to the region last spring to help energize the impoverished region, changing the lives of the Navajo residents, as well as the two linemen who volunteered.

Kurtzweil and the lineworkers participated in a panel discussion about the project at WECA's annual meeting, and four additional Wisconsin co-op's decided to participate by sending lineworkers or equipment to help in the effort.

Central Wisconsin's participated last year made it one of the first electric cooperatives in the nation to participate in the project, along with Colorado's Delta-Montrose and Arizona's Trico Electric. All three co-ops are sending crews again this year, and they are joined by 13 additional co-ops from Wisconsin, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Scenic Rivers Youth to Serve as NRECA Blue Shirt

May 23, 2024—Jude Klar, a member of the 2022 youth board, will serve as an NRECA blue shirt for the 2024 Youth Tour, and potentially the 2025 PowerXchange. A blue shirt is a leadership position for youth to help guide and teach other young people. Blue shirts welcome students upon arrival,
help teach co-ops 101 and advocacy, offer general assistance and direction for events like youth night and farewell dinner, announce speakers, maintain the NRECA youth store, and bring positive energy to the event.

Klar lives in the Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative territory and will graduate high school next month. His Dad works in telecommunications for Dairyland Power Cooperative.

WECA Youth Coordinator Tina Walden said, “I’m thrilled Jude has this opportunity, as he will be an amazing representative for WECA and Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives!”

Congratulations Jude!

2024 Youth Poster Contest Winners

May 20, 2024—Congratulations to Brogan of Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, Hudson of Riverland Energy Cooperative, and Tess of Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, who took first, second, and third place, respectively, in WECA's Electrical Safety Poster Contest for third-graders. Brogan won a Chromebook, Hudson won a $100 gift card, and Tess won a $75 gift card. Thanks to all the talented young artists who created posters for this year's contest! Click here to enlarge image.

Co-op Leaders Travel to D.C. to Lobby on Behalf of Wisconsin Members

April 26, 2024—More than 30 leaders from 11 Wisconsin electric cooperatives were among the 1,200-plus electric co-op leaders nationwide who gathered in Washington, D.C. this week for NRECA’s 2024 Legislative Conference, where they met with legislators to advocate for policies that ensure reliable, affordable electricity.

“The importance of the Legislative Conference is to get members out here to communicate ideas, and policy positions we have as an organization, to not only legislators, but their staff as well,” said Rob Richard, WECA’s vice president of government relations and external affairs. “Developing those relationships is key to our success not only at the federal level, but back home in the state of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s co-op leaders talked with legislative staff about challenges with the EPA’s Power Plant rule, which mandates unproven technologies and unachievable emissions limits be reached in a difficult and potentially impossible timeframe, in violation of the law and Supreme Court decisions.

Co-op leaders also asked legislators to protect USDA funding designed specifically for energy innovation and to safeguard rural electric infrastructure by rejecting new regulations on cooperative utility poles.

In addition, co-op leaders expressed their thanks to legislators for responding to concerns regarding the Department of Energy’s recently proposed transformer efficiency rule, which would have exacerbated existing supply-chain issues and driven up costs for minimal efficiency gain. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) was a co-sponsor of the final Senate bill that was greatly improved over the initial proposal.

Visit with Sen.Tammy Baldwin’s staff.

Visit with Sen. Ron Johnson’s staff.

The Baldwin office visit also made for a special staff connection when co-op leaders met with Sydney Scott. A former Oakdale Electric Cooperative member, Scott is an alumnus of the WECA Youth Leadership Congress and the 2014 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. She spoke of the impact those experiences had on her and how they led to her working on electric cooperative issues today, as a member of Baldwin’s staff. 

Visit with Rep.Tom Tiffany’s staff.

Sen Tammy Baldwin staffer Sydney Scott with CWEC Director Al Zander.

Another special moment for Wisconsin’s conference delegation was a tour of the Capitol building, graciously offered and arranged once again by Representative Derrick Van Orden’s (R-3rd District) office.

Capitol tour group, tour courtesy of Derrick Van Orden.

Participating in NRECA’s 2024 Legislative Conference were representatives from Adams-Columbia Electric, Bayfield Electric, Central Wisconsin Electric, Dunn Energy, East Central Energy, Eau Claire Energy, Jackson Electric, Oakdale Electric, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Polk-Burnett Electric, Riverland Energy, and Dairyland Power Cooperative.

Wisconsin Electric Co-ops Commit to Light Up Navajo

February 23, 2024—Three Wisconsin electric cooperatives have committed to sending crews to help electrify rural homes in the Navajo Nation this year. Riverland and Eau Claire Energy will join Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative in the life-changing Light Up Navajo effort.

Central Wisconsin first joined the effort last year after Kevin Kurtzwell, vice president of operations, learned about it from the area technical college training program.

Lineworkers Alex Lutz and Jarrett Brow traveled to New Mexico to help run power to homes in the impoverished area, where people have never had electricity before.

Walter Haase, general manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), the co-op that serves the area, Jeff Haas of the American Public Power Association, which helps support and promote the Light Up Navajo project, and Lutz and Brow all participated in a panel discussion about the effort at WECA’s 2023 annual meeting.

There are still more than 13,000 households in the Navajo Nation without electricity, and 18,000 without running water. Thousands of families travel up to an hour or more several times a week to collect tanks of water. Outhouses serve as bathrooms, perishable food is stored in portable coolers filled with ice, and burning chopped wood or coal is the only means of providing heat in an area that experiences heavy winters.

The typical cost for NTUA to connect a home is $40,000. The Light Up Navajo approach significantly reduces that cost to an estimated $8,000 per home. To date, funding for the project has come from $272,000 in monetary donations, about $440,000 in volunteer time and labor, and a $125,000 grant from APPA’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments program.

Right of First Refusal is Key Issue at 2024 Education and Lobby Days

February 2, 2024—Electric cooperative leaders from across the state gathered in Madison this week for WECA’s 2024 Education and Lobby Days event, which culminated Wednesday with Capitol visits, where members met with state lawmakers to talk about legislative proposals that impact electric cooperatives.

The key issue, WECA VP of Government Relations and External Affairs Rob Richard told the crowd, are SB 481/AB 470, also known as the “Right of First Refusal,” or ROFR. Currently up for consideration in the state capitol, the bills would give Wisconsin incumbent utilities, American Transmission Company (ATC), Dairyland Power Cooperative, and Xcel Energy, the right of first refusal for key transmission projects that allow for cost sharing, which means everyone in a multi-state area who will be served by the line is required to help fund it, regardless of who builds it.

“Most importantly, this legislation retains Wisconsin’s control over the safety and reliability of our state’s power grid, instead of ceding that control to federal regulators,” Richard explained. “We want to have ownership, we want to have control, we want to have a say in how this process is done.



Steve Freese, WECA President and CEO

In last month’s WECN column I introduced you to an NRECA advocacy program for electric cooperative consumer members, like yourself, called Voices for Cooperative Power. This is an effective online or mobile tool that you can use to get good information or connect quickly to your elected officials to voice your opinion on important energy issues.

Last month was the introduction. This month is the call to action!

Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News

The Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News serves as the voice of the state’s rural electric cooperatives. Founded in 1940, the publication focuses on statewide issues that affect electric cooperatives, promoting the general welfare of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives, their member-owners, and the areas they serve.

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