Students win Scholarships in WECA Essay Contest
December 6, 2022—Megan Wagner of Oconto Electric Cooperative, Emma Steinke of Rock Energy Cooperative, and Cicely Kiecker of Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative took first, second, and third place, respectively, in WECA’s 202 essay contest, open to students who attended the 2022 Youth Leadership Congress. Students were asked to describe the Second Cooperative Principle and what it means to them and their community.
Oconto Electric Cooperative
Rock Energy Cooperative
Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative
WECA Hosts 2022 Annual Meeting in Stevens PointNovember 15–16, 2022—WECA’s annual meeting took place in Stevens Point this week, with what was potentially the largest attendance in history. According to WECA Director of Education and Events Wendy Fassbind, 164 co-op leaders representing all of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives gathered for two days of presentations and
discussion about the issues impacting the industry on November 15–16, 2022. “This is the largest meeting ever that I can remember, and that goes back 20 years,” Fassbind said.
The conference kicked off with a candid and unfiltered presentation by environmentalist and investigative journalist Michael Shellenberger, who is also a best-selling author and Time Magazine’s “Hero of the Environment.” Shellenberger, whose books include San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities and Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, presented comprehensive data that debunks widespread messaging about catastrophic global warming.
“You'll never find this out if you read the mainstream news media, but global carbon emissions were actually slightly declined over the last decade,” Shellenberger said. “Mostly that was a transition from coal to natural gas, which produces half the carbon emissions as coal… The number of people who died from natural disasters has been going down for over 100 years, even as the population has quadrupled. There's been no increase in the
frequency of hurricanes globally, and in fact, there's been a slight decline in hurricanes that have hit land in the United States.”
Shellenberger touted the clean benefits of nuclear energy and joined in a greater discussion on the issue with NuScale Director of Supply Chain Development Michael Brasel, Dairyland Power Cooperative CEO Brent Ridge, 2022 Miss Wisconsin Grace Stanke, an engineering student at UW-Madison who is working to promote clean energy including nuclear, and UW-Madison Grainger Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Department Chair of Engineering Physics Paul Wilson. The discussion was moderated by Dairyland Executive VP and COO Ben Porath
L to R: Michael Brasel, Michael Shellenberger, Grace Stanke, Paul Wilson, Brent Ridge, and Ben Porath
Keith Johnson, account executive,
Federated Rural Insurance Exchange
Tim Clay, vice president
of operations, WECA
David Hischke, WECA board
chair, director, Oconto
Jennifer Beaudette, WECA resolutions committee chair, director of member
service, Barron Electric Cooperative
Craig Thompson, secretary,
Joe Pater, director of the Office of
Energy Information, Wisconsin
Public Service Commission
Joe Murray, director of Political and governmental affairs, Wisconsin
Shellenberger pushed back on the idea that nuclear should support other renewables, such as wind and solar. “You should not have your most reliable source of energy supporting your least reliable source of energy,” he said.
The annual meeting also included a presentation by Federated Rural Insurance Exchange Account Executive Keith Johnson on the status of the insurance claims and funds, and a presentation by RESCO President and CEO Matt Brandrup, who gave an update on supply-chain challenges.
According to Brandup, RESCO has been able to temper the extreme price increases on equipment such as transformers, so Wisconsin electric cooperatives are not taking as big of a hit as other utilities. Still, he said the number of price increases from their supplier in 2021 and 2022 has been “unheard of,” with six increases last year and four this year. The good news, Brandrup said, is they have much greater allotments expected from ERMCO for 2023, which should relieve some of the supply-chain pressure.
WECA Vice President of Operations Tim Clay presented the manager’s report, including a review of how the organization is taking on major challenges including third-party ownership of solar installations, and he thanked the WECA staff for stepping up in the absence of WECA President and CEO Steve Freese, who has been on medical leave since his cancer diagnosis in June. Board Chair David Hischke echoed that sentiment and presented the chairman’s report saying, “What a year this has been."
Directors from Jump River Electric Cooperative deep in discussion.
Hischke talked about the plan to purchase a building in Middleton to house the WECA headquarters, and the expected savings it will bring. WECA board Secretary-Treasurer Roger Wiff presented on the financial stability of the organization.
Freese made an appearance at the meeting to accept a special ACE award (see below) and recorded this message for attendees: https://vimeo.com/769649644/19739c716e
Chair of WECA’s Resolutions Committee Jennifer Beaudette presented two new resolutions and one amendment to a resolution, related to beneficial electrification (amendment), rural broadband, and closure of generation plants. There was also a new proposed amendment relating to the development of hydroelectric power. All proposals were passed.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson addressed attendees about state efforts to build out EV charging infrastructure. Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Director of the Office of Energy Information Joe Pater talked mostly about the wealth of funding opportunities coming from the federal government to support a clean energy transition.
Wisconsin Realtors Association Director of Political and Governmental Affairs Joe Murray broke down the recent midterm election with a discussion about why the expected “red wave” did not happen and how Wisconsin’s political landscape is shaping up.
WECA’s Director of Government Relations Rob Richard talked about the importance of ACRE and how the committee determines which political candidates to support.
Attendees also watched videos recapping the Year in Review: https://vimeo.com/769727648/9a4b5dc71d
And the 2022 Youth Leadership Congress: https://vimeo.com/769814388/f59e7c3be7
Karen Newbury, director, Price Electric, Dairyland Electric Cooperative, and WECA Vice Chair,
and Jeff Monson, director, Richland Electric Cooperative and Dairyland Electric Cooperative
New WECA Board Seated at Annual Meeting
L to R: Mike Wade, Dan Smrekar, David Hischke, Cynthia Thorman, Craig Buros, Steve Johnson, Jerry Sorenson,
Barbara Miller, Dan Hillberry, Roger Wiff, and Karen Newbury
The board members are:
- Chair David Hischke, District 4: Oconto Electric Cooperative
- Vice Chair Karen Newbury, District 4: Price Electric Cooperative
- Secretary/Treasurer Roger Wiff, District 2: Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services
- Dan Smrekar, District 2: Jackson Electric Cooperative
- Jerry Sorenson, District 2: Riverland Energy Cooperative
- Steve Johnson, District 3: Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative
- Craig Buros, District 1: Vernon Electric Cooperative
- Justin Jahnz, District 3: East Central Energy
- Mike Wade, District 4: Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative
- Cynthia Thorman, District 3: Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative
- Dan Hillberry, District 1: Richland Electric Cooperative
- Barbara Miller, District 1: Rock Energy Cooperative
- Chuck Simmons, invited observer, Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative and NRECA Director
|WECA Executive Committee
WECA Finance Committee
At the annual meeting, WECA honored Jerry Sorenson, whose term is up in 2023 and does not plan to run again, and Joe Metro, who also did not run for another term, for their service on the board.
|David Hischke presenting a WECA board service award to Jerry Sorenson, WECA director, and general manager of
Riverland Electric Cooperative (left photo), and to Joe Metro, board director of WECA and Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative (right photo)
Freese, Trescher, Maxwell, Bella, Honored at Annual MeetingACE Award
The projection screen read, “And though she be but little, she is fierce,” as Rock Energy CEO Shane Larson presented Marian Trescher with the 2022 Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) award, and it could not have been more fitting. Trescher is a lifelong public servant whose commitment to community has had an exceptional impact on the electric cooperative world and beyond.
“I am so honored to be only the second woman to receive this award,” Trescher said to a round of applause from the audience, which included four granddaughters.
Trescher, ran for the Rock Energy Cooperative board seat held by her husband Howard in 2004, after he passed away. During his 43 years as a director, Marian was always by his side, supporting the cooperative. In 2011, she was elected board secretary and has received many certifications and served on the Federated Youth Board and WECA Education Committee. In her remarks, Trescher recalled launching Rock’s “cooperative queen” program, and traveling the country when their representative won the state and national titles.
Special ACE Award
Many members were happy to see Steve Freese, president & CEO of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA), attend in person to accept the special Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) Award. Freese thanked the WECA staff and all members for their continued support. “Your calls, messages, cards, and emails mean more than you know,” he said. “And your prayers and the medicine are working.” Freese hopes to be back in the office in January.
Freese has also demonstrated a lifelong commitment to community serving in local and state government, he is also credited with securing the financial stability of Circus World Museum in Baraboo when he took over as leader there in 2007. Freese also served as chief administrative officer of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Cooperative before
joining Cooperative Network as vice president in 2015, where WECA was then a division. Freese was tasked with the daunting challenge of re-establishing the statewide as a stand-alone organization after being part of Cooperative Network for 20 years.
David Paudler, Riverland Energy Cooperative board president and then WECA chairman, said, “Even in times when Steve placed his future at risk, he always advocated for our best interests. His dedication and hard work resulted in the momentum that became WECA’s renewal and this will always be part of his legacy.”
Dave Maxwell, director of member services, accepted the 2022 N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award on behalf of Vernon Electric Cooperative. Maxwell serves as local editor of Vernon Electric’s pages and Leah Call contributes, writing feature stories.
This is the fifth Leifer Award Vernon Electric has won since this publication first began offering awards for excellence in 1966, and the third such honor to be earned on Maxwell’s watch. In addition, the co-op has won multiple category awards, particularly in the area of human interest.
Ben Bella, safety & loss control manager, accepted the 2022 Potthast Award for his commitment and dedication to safety in the electric cooperative field. Bella has served in this role for more than 12 years, graduating from NRECA’s Management Internship Program in 2017 and earning NRECA’s Loss Control Certificate in 2012.
The following co-ops were honored with RESAP Certifications for safety efforts: Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative, Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, Clark Electric Cooperative, Jackson Electric Cooperative, Richland Electric Cooperative, St. Croix Electric Cooperative, and Vernon Electric Cooperative.
Marian Trescher Selected to Receive 2022 ACE Award
October 14, 2022—Marian Trescher, a lifelong public servant whose commitment to community has had an exceptional impact on the electric cooperative world and beyond, is the recipient of the 2022 Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) award.
Trescher, who spent 27 years as a public school teacher in Janesville and Milton, first became involved with Rock Energy Cooperative through her husband, Howard. During his 43 years as a director, Marian was always by his side, handling schedules and taking notes at meetings. When Howard passed away in 2004, Marian was elected to fill his seat, a position she has held ever since. In 2011, she was elected board secretary. She has received many certifications and also served on the Federated Youth Foundation Board and WECA Education Committee.
In the 1960’s, when Howard served on the board, Marian realized that Rock was the only electric cooperative in the state that did not have the public relations and educational benefit of a “cooperative queen” program, so they decided to start one. They organized the entire program including planning the pageant, recruiting candidates and judges, and attending state and national events with the winners. In the early 70’s, Rock Energy’s queen went on to win the cooperative queen title at both the state and national level as “Miss Rural Electrification.” Marian served as her chaperone, traveling with her to speaking engagements and events across the country.
Marian’s public service involvement also includes the Milton Board of Supervisors, Joint Fire Commission, Planning and Zoning (Chair), Milton Grange, Milton 4- H, Rural Housing Board, polling place lead worker, and more. In the 15 letters of nomination from the various chapters of her life, Marian is consistently described as professional, engaged, kind, dedicated, and extremely organized.
“Over my 32 years in the cooperative family, I honestly cannot think of any person who has embraced and promoted the cooperative business model more than Marian. Marian’s commitment and energy to the cooperative principles have always been a guiding light for Rock Energy.” – Shane Larson, Rock Energy CEO
“Frankly, she represents the very best of what our industry needs and expects.” – Sheldon Petersen, former GM of Rock County Electric Cooperative Association and 2020 special ACE award recipient
“I am unwavering in my belief that Marian has positively impacted millions of lives... She is a lifelong community connector... Marian’s life is a shining example and a model to all, especially young girls. They can see Marian’s life themselves in dynamic roles across multiple sectors.” – Milton Mayor Anissa Welch
“She is a model of which to observe in how she handles tough discussions when viewpoints differ... A leadership style sure to be admired, and one I hope to model.” – Barbara Miller, Rock Energy director, WECA board member, and Marian’s ACE award nominator.
Click image to read article.
In addition to her many hours of community service, Marian also enjoys spending time with her three children, and is an avid supporter of her ten grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.
About the Award:
The Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) Award is the highest honor presented annually by the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association. It recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding support and service to the industry on behalf of Wisconsin electric cooperatives and the members they serve.
Ben Bella Selected as Recipient of 2022 Potthast Award
October 14, 2022—Ben Bella, safety & loss control manager, shared services for Eau Claire Energy, Riverland Energy, Oakdale Electric, and Jackson Electric, is the recipient of the 2022 Potthast Award for his commitment and dedication to safety in the electric cooperative field. Bella has served in this role for more than 12 years, graduating from NRECA’s Management Internship Program in 2017 and earning NRECA’s Loss Control Certificate in 2012.
Bella was instrumental in the production of the License to Live video, educating the public on the dangers present in the event of a traffic collision involving electrical equipment, and the 811 Dig-In Video, the dangers of digging where underground lines may be present. He also works to educate children about electricity dangers with presentations for community organizations and schools.
“Ben’s dedication, knowledge, and passion to educate about electrical safety have been essential assets to the safety program. He provides valuable, unbiased insight into various situations as he works patiently with our employees and the public”.—Carol Blaken, member relations manager at Jackson Electric Cooperative
“Ben is an individual with strong leadership, servitude, and integrity. He exemplifies cooperative principles and values. His core values make him an irreplaceable asset who is willing to evaluate, correspond, and aid wherever the need. Ben inspires respect and advocates for safety.”—Steve Knudsen, safety and loss prevention consultant, Federated Rural Insurance Exchange
Bella also serves as the president of Quad State Instructors, which was Quad State, created to allow utility safety professionals to exchange information, upgrade skills, and expand an excellent collection of shared and pertinent training programs. Its membership includes safety professionals from across the country.
Bella previously worked as a technology and engineering teacher in the Altoona School District. He received his master’s in technology management at UW-Stout in 2011.
About the Award:
The Herman C. Potthast Award is named for a man who dedicated his career to safety at Wisconsin’s rural electric cooperatives. Potthast was a state and national leader, instrumental in implementing and promoting instruction and training to ensure safety among those working in the electric cooperative field. Potthast passed away in 1972. The award was created in 1973 and is presented annually.
Vernon Electric Cooperative Wins its Fifth Leifer Award for Journalism
This is the fifth Leifer Award Vernon Electric has won since this publication first began offering awards for excellence in 1966, and the third such honor to be earned on Maxwell’s watch. In addition, the co-op has won multiple category awards, particularly in the area of human interest.
The Leifer Award recipient is selected by a different independent judge each year, always a communications professional, and usually one with a co-op background. The judge evaluates a sampling of each of the 19 individualized local sections within the magazine, produced by staff at each co-op and filled with information unique to each co-op.
|Dave Maxwell, director of member
services, Vernon Electric Cooperative
Donna Abernathy, a member of the Cooperative Communicators Association, judged the 2021–2022 local sections. Abernathy specializes in helping cooperatives reach target audiences through the strategic development and communication of key messages. Among her many accomplishments, she’s the author of three books about cooperatives, including the award-winning “A Day in the Life of Cooperative America.”In selecting Vernon Electric as this year’s Leifer Award winner, Abernathy cited the co-op’s “excellent member features” and awarded a bonus point “for going above and beyond on being locally focused and member-centric in content.”
About the award:
The N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award is named for former Vernon Electric Cooperative manager Norman F. “Lefty” Leifer, who was instrumental in launching what was then known as the Wisconsin REA News in 1940.
Lily Gollon Wins Electrical Safety Poster Contest
By Bert Lehman, Member Relations Specialist, Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative
September 21, 2022
|"Oh my gosh I won.” That’s what Lily Gollon thought to herself when she found out that she had won the WECA statewide Electrical Safety Poster Contest.
“I never really won any art contests before,” Gollon said.
Lily’s mom, Melissa, confirmed that Lily was “super excited” after finding out she had won.
Gollon, a student at Rosholt Elementary School, entered the poster contest after Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative (CWEC) informed the local school districts within its service area about the poster contest for third-graders. Rosholt Elementary School was one of the schools contacted.
|Lily Gollon with her parents and her third-grade teacher at
Rosholt Elementary School – left to right: Joseph Gollon; Lily,
holding her winning poster; Melissa Gollon, holding the
Chromebook that her daughter won; and art teacher Natalie Ockwig.
“I made it a requirement for both of my third-grade classes that they would make the poster and then it was up to the parents to send back the permission slips for who actually got to participate in the contest,” said Natalie Ockwig, art teacher for the Rosholt School District.
Ockwig added that she talked to both classes about poster design and composition.
Gollon said she came up with the ideas for her poster after watching videos in class about the importance of being safe around electricity.
As one would expect, Gollon loves drawing. Her mom said she watches YouTube videos about drawing, and is drawing all the time. One of her favorite YouTube channels to watch is Moriah Elizabeth, who hosts videos about creating different pieces of art.
“She makes a lot of different types of art,” Melissa Gollon said about Lily. “She knows how to do many things. She’s musically inclined. She has a wonderful imagination. She’s a very gifted and well-rounded kid.”
Ockwig concurred that Lily Gollon is a talented artist, and wasn’t surprised to hear she won the local competition of the poster contest.
|“When I found out she won the state competition I was super excited for her,” Ockwig said, adding, “She’s a pretty talented child. I kind of thought that she might have a good shot with her drawing ability.”
For her efforts, Gollon won a $25 check from CWEC for winning the local portion of the poster contest, as well as a $25 gift card and new Chromebook from Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association.
Melissa Gollon said Lily has been using one of her grandma’s devices and doing different drawings with a stylus program, so she was excited to win a new Chromebook.
“I’ve heard that the Chromebook is supposed to be top of the line, so we’re really excited,” said Melissa Gollon. “It’s been kind of a toss-up figuring out what would be a good device for her, and is inclined with her abilities. But it also has the proper parental protections. It’s supposed to be a very secure system to use. We’re very fortunate.”
She added, “The Rosholt school has been wonderful and they’ve done everything they can to boost her and work with her.”
Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News Local Pages Awards AnnouncedAugust 26, 2022—Awards of excellence for presentation of local news in the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News were presented this week at the annual Electric Communicator’s Conference, held this year in Wisconsin Dells. Certificates were awarded in the categories of Co-op News, Human Interest, Photography, and Energy Education for the judging cycle of 2020-2021. Co-op personnel listed below were editors of their local pages during this judging cycle.
An independent, outside judge evaluated a sampling of each co-op’s local page to determine winners in four separate categories. Judging this year was Lani Jordan of Lani Jordan Communications. Jordan was the former corporate director for the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative, HS Inc., and has received multiple national awards through the Cooperative Communicators Association.
First Place: Riverland Energy Cooperative, Beth Alesch, editor
Honorable Mention: Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, Monica Obrycki, editor
First place: Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, Judy Mims, editor
Honorable Mention: Vernon Electric Cooperative, Dave Maxwell, editor, and Leah Call, feature writer
First place: Rock Energy Cooperative, Jonas Berberich, editor
Honorable Mention: Oakdale Electric Cooperative, Deana Protz, editor
First place: Oakdale Electric Cooperative, Deana Protz, editor
Honorable Mention: Jackson Electric Cooperative, Carol Blaken, editor, and Brandi Shramek, feature writer
Hands-On Focus on Electrification at Energy Issues Summit
Natural gas as a bridge fuels
Tamra Reynolds of CoBank kicked off the day with a presentation on how natural gas fits in as the nation transitions to a cleaner energy future. Taking a deep dive into what the future energy mix will look like, Reynolds concluded that natural gas will be a key player in ensuring reliability for decades to come.
“I think natural gas really is going to play anywhere from a moderate to an increasingly important role for what that transition looks like,” Reynolds said.
Fully electric bucket trucks
Terex representatives talked and demonstrated “the world's first all-electric aerial electric bucket truck” and the advantages of adding this to the electric fleet. Xcel Energy owns the vehicle, which will go into service in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
According to Terex, the vehicle’s engine and the chassis have separate power systems, so the truck’s operating power does not wind down on the job site while crews are using the bucket. The truck can recharge in less than five hours, and the chassis charges in 90 minutes. Vehicle range is about 135 miles. “This is not the vehicle you send to Alabama to help out with storm damage,” reps admitted, adding that range anxiety continues to be the biggest barrier for electric trucks.
|Pictured below: Carol Blaken, Jackson Electric Cooperative||Pictured above: Judi Anibas, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, (Left) and Tim Tiller, Richland Electric Cooperative (Right)|
Electric school bus funding
A panel moderated by Keith Dennis, president of the Beneficial Electrification League, offered information on how school districts and contractors can take advantage of $5 billion in federal funding over five years to replace diesel buses with all-electric or propane school buses.
Tony Maietta of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said they already have 901 applications requesting $754 million in the first round of funding, which will award about $500 million in rebates. Low-income, tribal, and rural school districts have priority. Once each application is ranked, awardees will be selected by a random number generator.
With two weeks left until the first-round deadline, the EPA has already received 154 applications from region 5, which includes Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, requesting 364 electric buses and 86 propane buses. Wisconsin districts have submitted 31 applications requesting 18 electric school buses and 39 propane buses.
To be eligible for funding of up to $375,000 per bus ($250,000 for non-priority districts) and up to $20,000 for charging infrastructure, the applicant must agree to retire one older diesel-fueled bus to be replaced with the new one. Buses from 2010 or older must be scrapped. Buses from 2011 or newer can be sold or donated but must be removed from the fleet.
Maietta says they urge districts to be working with utilities early in the process. “We encourage schools to be working with utilities, co-ops, and energy providers because these buses take a significant amount of energy to charge, and especially at the smaller location you know you might not have that infrastructure ready for that increased load of up to 25 school buses that are going be charging,” he said.
As long as a district has a sam.gov account set up, the three-page application for the electric school bus funds takes only about 15 minutes, according to Maietta.
The deadline to apply for the first round of funding is August 19, 2022.
Marc Keyser of Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the regional authority that directs the power supply in 15 states including Wisconsin and the Canadian province of Manitoba, wrapped up the energy summit with a presentation on the risk of rolling blackouts.
Keyser shared historic data that show as the country transitions to more wind and solar energy and retires more coal plants, the available resource at peak times is getting closer to the predicted need, and in an extreme heat situation, we have reached the point where the demand could exceed the supply. Going forward, MISO expects the capacity deficit to grow.
EPA Releases Details on Electric School Bus Fund Application Process
The first funding opportunity under this program is the $500 million 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate program. On Wednesday, April 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced some details of how this program will work.
The EPA is expected to open the application process as early as next week. School districts will have three months to submit applications for funds covering the purchase of up to 25 new buses.
Rebate winners will then be selected by lottery from the districts that apply and will receive funds ranging from $15,000 to $395,000 for the purchase of electric or hybrid buses to replace diesel-fueled buses, and the charging infrastructure.
High-need and low-income school districts, such as those with 20 percent or more students living in poverty, will get priority, as well as rural and remote school districts.
“This is an excellent opportunity to leverage significant federal funds while introducing your members and communities to the benefits of electrification,” said Keith Dennis of the Beneficial Electrification League (BEL).
The federal Infrastructure Law passed late last year provides $5 billion over five years for the replacement of existing school buses with clean school buses and zero-emission school buses that produce either zero or low tailpipe emissions.
For more information about electric school buses, check out this video provided by the Beneficial Electrification League, and for more info regarding the rebate application process, visit www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus .
Energy Leaders Gather in Madison for Electrify Wisconsin Event
|(left) Steve Freese, WECA president and CEO, and (right)
Keith Dennis, president of the Beneficial Electrification League
Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) President and CEO Stephen Freese kicked off the “Electrify Wisconsin!” event.
Keith Dennis, president of the Beneficial Electrification League, which co-sponsored the forum with WECA, gave a presentation highlighting the many new economic opportunities in electrification including billions in federal funding for electric school buses, upgrading school buildings, and more.
“This doesn’t mean electrify everything at all costs,” Dennis said. “If it’s not saving money, and it’s not good for the environment, it’s not beneficial.”
Nate Boettcher, president and CEO of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, talked about the transition to electric vehicle use and the launch of CHARGE, which promotes and streamlines the installation of residential and public-facing charging stations in co-op areas, and now has 90 participating cooperative.
“What started in a meeting room at Dairyland Power Cooperative has turned into a mission and a calling for all of us,” Boettcher said.
Boettcher talked about how rural Wisconsin was left behind during the initial electrification of the nation, and again with broadband expansion. “Let’s not let history repeat itself. Let’s not forget about rural Wisconsin again,” Boettcher said, encouraging the installation of EV chargers.
“What we hear from members is that this is a big city thing, or a coastal thing,” Boettcher said. “We need to de-mystify that.”
Jeff Springer, manager of innovation and efficient electrification at Dairyland Power Co-op, concurred. “No one is serving rural areas, and no one is going to. But I think we have to do it,” Springer said. “Until people see EV chargers in their area, they don’t think they exist anywhere.”
Public Service Commissioner Tyler Huebner and Craig Thompson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, talked about the efforts made at the state level to encourage electrification to lower emissions across all sectors.
Other participants in the forum included representatives from Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Wisconsin Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change, City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office, Wisconsin Public Service Commission Office of Energy Innovation, Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest, Environment Protection Agency, Environmental and Energy Studies Institute, Mitsubishi Electric, Slipstream, Elevate Energy, and more.
Focus on Future at WECA 2022 Education & Lobby Days
February 4, 2022—Electric cooperative leaders from across the state gathered in Madison in person this week to meet with state legislators about the issues facing the industry, and for a conference that included presentations and panels of people addressing key topics.
Urban vs. Rural
The two-day event kicked off with UW-Madison Professor of Political Science Dr. Katherine Kramer presenting about her experience researching the urban and rural divide in Wisconsin, and the impact on the political climate. Kramer, author of the awardwinning
book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, said she traveled to the rural areas of the state to have conversations with people at places like gas stations, diners, and churches, and concluded that rural voters feel forgotten.
“What is it that rural voters want? Respect,” Kramer said about what she learned from rural Wisconsinites. “What people really want is not a policy platform. They want to be heard, to be respected.”
Political analyst Joe Handrick explained the process of redistricting and the impact on elections, followed by a panel discussion featuring Chuck Chvala, former senate majority leader (D), and Scott Jensen, former assembly speaker (R), moderated by WECA President & CEO Steve Freese.
Looking forward to the upcoming gubernatorial, state, and national elections, Jensen said all signs point to a red wave. “Ron Johnson has the wind at his back,” he said. Johnson is a strong conservative and sometimes controversial U.S. senator seeking a third term.
Left to right: Former Assembly Speaker, Scott Jensen, WECA President and CEO, Steve Freese, and Former
Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Cvala
On the state level, Chvala conceded it looks good for Republicans, saying, “You could see a veto-proof majority in the state Senate, because of the gerrymandered maps.” He also pointed out, that the fastest growing areas in the state are Democratic strongholds.
Left to Right: Dairyland Power Cooperative Vice-President of Strategic Growth John Carr, MSO Vice-President and
engineer Lam Chung, OMS Executive Director Marcus Hawkins, and ATC Director of Renewable Integration Tom Dagenais
One year after the frigid weather that nearly collapsed the Texas electric grid, a panel of some of the most astute and knowledgeable leaders from the field of regional and national reliability gathered to talk about the risks and challenges facing Wisconsin. Dairyland Power Cooperative Vice-President of Strategic Growth John Carr moderated the discussion between leaders from American Transmission Company (ATC), Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO), and the Organization of MISO States (OMS).
While OMS Executive Director Marcus Hawkins said Wisconsin was “not that close” to grid collapse, the panel members agreed there are increasing complexities facing the grid due to the increase of intermittent clean energy that will continue into the future. “Compared to ten years ago, we are operating much closer to the pin than we used to,” Lam Chung, MSO vice-president and engineer said.
Tom Dagenais, ATC director of renewable integration, pointed out MISO declared a conservation emergency last summer when the weather was 84 degrees and cloudy. Such a declaration used to be reserved for days with temps into the 90s, but the cloudiness compromises solar energy.
On solar planning, panel members said that utility-scale solar, as opposed to individual projects, is most efficient and promotes economies of scale. “If you’re just looking at your own solar, you’re not planning for the greater good,” Chung said.
The panel agreed that moving forward, reliability is contingent on the industry working to cooperate, communicate, and share information. “Learning from each other was never more important than it is right now,” Hawkins said.
|Left: President and CEO of Federated Rural Electric Exchange Phil Irwin.Right: WECA President and CEO Steve Freese||Left to Right: CFC CEO Andrew Don, WECA President and CEO, Steve Freese, CFC Regional VP Amanda Seger, and Rock Energy Cooperative CEO Shane Larson|
Phil Irwin, president and CEO of Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, reported record low claims in 2021, in spite of a growing number of policies. In fiscal year 2020, Wisconsin losses exceeded funds, but he said the numbers have improved greatly since then.
Irwin presented a check to WECA for $94,233 for safety training, for a total all-time investment of $1,134,726
Rock Energy Cooperative CEO Shane Larson, who joins the board in June, introduced National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC) CEO Andrew Don. Don’s presentation included a comprehensive look at how the pandemic has impacted the economy, the supply chain, and the labor force, and the government’s efforts to control inflation while avoiding a recession, which economists project will mean incremental increases in interest rates over the next several years.
As for CFC, Don said fiscal year 2020 –21 fiscal year showed the strongest loan growth in 20 years. In spite of the pandemic, CFC has reported no write-offs since 2013 and has so far not experienced any losses due to the Texas blackouts that forced one co-op into bankruptcy and had another one considering it.
New Plan to Help Bring Electric School Buses to Cooperative-Served Districts
The effort brings together cooperative organizations representing more than 300 local utilities in more than 20 states and will guide coordination between utilities and school districts on electric school bus programs.
“The aim of this program is straightforward: No school district or utility should miss out on that opportunity simply because they lack access to information or resources to participate in this valuable federal program,” says Keith Dennis, president of BEL.
The bill includes $1 billion in funding per year for five years for school districts and other organizations to purchase electric school buses or “clean” buses, and charging infrastructure. The program will offer competitive grants and rebates to replace existing buses, but details, instructions, and rules have not been released yet.
Rural electric cooperatives serve more than half of the territory of the nation’s school districts and have an above-average number of low-income students. Great River Energy launched a pilot program in Minnesota in 2017 using an electric school bus, which produced positive results, even in the frigid Midwest weather.
“Our pilot battery electric school bus project has been successful in our cold climate with longer suburban routes and is beloved by the driver, students, transportation provider, and community,” said David Ranallo, director of culture, communications, marketing & member services. “Great River Energy is eager and ready to join the nationwide cooperative network to make this project replicable and equally successful for students everywhere.”
Dairyland Power Cooperative also signed on to participate in the electric school bus initiative.
For more information on the Beneficial Electrification League or the electric school bus plan, go to www.be-league.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students win Scholarships in WECA Essay ContestDecember 28, 2021—Mackenzie Shankle and Katelyn Haschke, both of Oakdale Electric Cooperative, took first and second place, respectively, in WECA’s 2021 essay contest, open to students who attended the 2021 Youth Leadership Congress. Lauren Thompson of St. Croix Electric took third place. Students were asked to write an essay about how electric cooperatives benefit local communities beyond providing electricity.
Shankle won a $1,000 scholarship with the following essay:
"Electric Cooperatives are greatly involved in their communities..."
Haschke won a $500 scholarship with the following essay:
"Electric Cooperatives, More Than Just Energy"
Thompson won a $250 scholarship with the following essay:
"Electric Cooperatives: Investing in our Community"
WECA Holds 2021 Annual MeetingMore than 150 Wisconsin electric co-op leaders gathered in Stevens Point November 11 & 12 for WECA’s 2021 annual meeting. The two-day event included a panel discussion about electric co-ops’ role in bringing high-speed broadband service to rural Wisconsin. In another panel, youth leaders William Tuchtenhagen, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, and Tyler Tautges, Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, were on hand to join the discussion about engaging young members through electric co-op internships and other opportunities.
WECA’s highest annual awards were presented at an evening banquet. The 2021 ACE Award, given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding support and service on behalf of Wisconsin electric cooperatives, was presented to Byron Nolde, CEO of Oconto Electric Cooperative.
Major awards for 2021 were presented to Larry Hallett, chief operations officer at
Richland Electric, who won the Potthast Award; Deana Protz, public relations and
communications specialist for Oakdale Electric Cooperative, which won the Leifer;
and Byron Nolde, CEO of Oconto Electric, who won the ACE Award.
Pictured from left to right: Will Tuchtenhagen (screen), Tyler Tautages,
Nate Boettcher, Jessee Singerhouse, and Tim Clay.
The Potthast Award, given to an individual who best represents the qualities exemplified by Herman C. Potthast, a state and national leader in safety education and training, was presented to Larry Hallett, chief operations officer at Richland Electric Cooperative.
The N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award, presented to the co-op whose local pages in the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News were adjudged to have been the overall best of the previous 12 months, was accepted by Deana Protz, public relations & communications specialist at Oakdale Electric Cooperative and editor of Oakdale Electric’s local pages.
Because the 2020 WECA annual meeting was virtual due to the pandemic and therefore did not include an awards banquet, 2020 award winners were also recognized: David Paudler, president of the Riverland Energy Cooperative board, ACE Award; Sheldon Petersen, former CEO of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, special ACE Award; Tim Clay, WECA vice president of operations, environmental and regulator services, Potthast Award; and Mary Kay Brevig and Monica Obrycki, former communications and public relations manager and chief administrative officer, respectively, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, Leifer Award.
Also recognized were eight co-ops that achieved certification through the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program: Dunn Energy Cooperative, Jump River Electric Cooperative, Oakdale Electric Cooperative, Oconto Electric Cooperative, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative, Price Electric Cooperative, and Riverland Energy Cooperative.
Chuck Simmons of Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative spoke emotionally to the crowd at the WECA annual meeting about the challenges and impacts of the pandemic following his unanimous re-election to the NRECA board.
Newly seated WECA Board of Directors
From left to right: Mike Wade, executive committee, Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, David Hischke,
chairman, Oconto Electric Cooperative, Justin Jahnz, East Central Energy, Joe Metro, Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative, Dan Smrekar, Jackson Electric Cooperative, Daniel Hillberry, Richland Electric Cooperative, Barbara Miller, Rock Energy Cooperative, Roger Wiff, secretary/treasurer, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Craig Buros, executive committee, Vernon Electric Cooperative, Jerry Sorenson, Riverland Energy Cooperative, Steve Johnson, Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, Karen Newbury, vice-chair, Price Electric Cooperative
In the business session, WECA board members elected at July’s district meetings were officially seated, including Barbara Miller, Rock Energy Cooperative, District 1 director-director; Dan Smrekar, Jackson Electric Cooperative, District 2 director-director; Justin Jahnz, East Central Energy, District 3 manager-director; Steve Johnson, Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, District 3 director-director; and Karen Newbury, Price Electric Cooperative, re-elected to the District 4 director-director seat.
New WECA Executive Team
Back row from left: Craig Buros, Mike Wade, and Roger Wiff.
Front row: Dave Hischke and Karen Newbury
Broadband panel discussion.
The WECA board also voted on its new executive team: Dave Hischke, Oconto Electric Cooperative, chair; Newbury, vice-chair; Roger Wiff, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Servies, secretary/treasurer; and Mike Wade, Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, and Craig Buros, Vernon Electric Cooperative, executive committee. Miller was also elected Federated Youth Foundation director.
Oakdale Electric Wins 2021 Leifer Award
Deana Protz serves as the co-op’s public relations & communications specialist, which includes the responsibility of editing the local pages. In her eight years as a communications specialist at the co-op, Protz’s work has also won seven awards of excellence in individual communication categories, primarily human interest and photography.
In selecting Oakdale as this year’s Leifer Award winner, an independent judge cited Protz’s creative story ideas and page spreads, awarding a couple of bonus points for creativity. The judge also commended Protz for “fun and relevant” content, noting that every story has a clear connection to the co-op.
Deana Protz transitions to a new position as human resources administrator/executive assistant in early December. WECA and WECN staff would like to congratulate her and wish her well with her promotion.
About the award: The N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award is named for former Vernon Electric Cooperative manager Norman F. “Lefty” Leifer, who was instrumental in launching what was then known as the Wisconsin REA News in 1940. The Leifer Award has been presented annually since 1966.
2021 Potthast Award: Larry Hallett
Richland Electric Cooperative General Manager and CEO Shannon Clark writes in part, “In 1998 Richland Electric Cooperative had a workers compensation experience modifier of 1.76. The cooperative had not made any attempt to become a RESAP Accredited System due to the ‘laundry list' of things that would have had to improve. Beyond that, employee morale was such that very few took an active interest in improving the culture. When I interviewed Larry, who was then a journeyman lineman for the operations manager position he made it abundantly clear that if he were to be selected, changing our safety culture would be the number one priority. In 2003 I selected Larry to serve as the Operations Manager at Richland Electric Cooperative.
Locally, Larry has been instrumental in moving us from a system with some serious safety issues to one that has a safety culture is that is ever-present and never complacent. On average our experience modifier ranges near .78. We have experienced but one lost-time accident in recent years. We have been a RESAP Accredited System for about 20 years. Perhaps you can’t measure the accident that didn’t happen, but you can certainly measure the results of a system where accidents haven’t happened.”
Clark also lauds Hallett’s development of the in-house "Safety Pays" programs which rewards employees who make a personal commitment to safety and his participation in the WECA JT&S Committee and the rules sub-committee. Nationally, Hallett was active in participating with national safety summits and provided written input to the RESAP Delegate Committee during the efforts to revise and improve the RESAP program.
“In summary, Larry Hallett has gone above and beyond simply keeping the lights on to making sure that our cooperative and many others in the industry recognized that without safe working practices the world would be a much darker place,” Clark writes.
Pat Hawes, journeyman lineman and transmission maintenance supervisor with Dairyland Power Cooperative writes, “Whenever we’ve had the opportunity to work together Larry makes sure that every aspect is addressed to ensure the safety of everyone. His ability to communicate safety concerns and issues causes everyone on the job to step up their game just a little bit extra that can ensure people go home to their families at night.”
WECA congratulates Larry Hallett, recipient of the 2021 Herman C. Potthast Award.
About the Award: The Herman C. Potthast Award is named for a man of great dedication to training and safety who served Wisconsin rural electric cooperatives for 29 years. He was a state and national leader, instrumental in implementing and promoting instruction and training to ensure safety among those working in the electric cooperative field. Potthast passed away in 1972.
The Herman C. Potthast Award recognizes outstanding service, dedication, leadership, and cooperation among electric cooperatives, with a focus on safety. The award was created in 1973 and is presented annually. A committee from Job Training & Safety (JT&S) calls for nominees and selects the winner.
2021 ACE Award Recipient: Byron Nolde
The son of an Army Colonel, Nolde was born in Germany. His father was the last official casualty of Vietnam War. Nolde graduated from Saginaw Valley State University and worked in business, finance, and accounting early in his career. He served as vice president and chief financial officer with Presque Isle Electric and Gas, where he started in 1989. He has served as CEO for Oconto Electric since 2003.
|Top and above: Photos from a visit at Oconto Electric
Cooperative with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) in 2016.
|Nolde at an NRECA conference in 2018.||2018 WECA Education & Lobby Days, Madison, Wis.|
In nominating Nolde for the ACE award, Oconto Electric Cooperative Chairman Todd Duame writes,
Nolde at 2021 OEC Annual Meeting
We believe Byron’s extensive knowledge of the utility industry, coupled with his in-depth accounting skills helps OEC maintain a competitive position in an industry that is changing fast. Byron has been instrumental in negotiating OEC’s last two power contracts, with the most recent being secured with Minnesota Power an Allete Co., whose portfolio has grown to include 50% percent renewables, which is very important in being able to meet the recent passing of renewable regulations requirements.
OEC is also a very unique cooperative in that it owns and operates its own 1-megawatt hydroelectric plant. Not only does this provide the cooperative with renewable credits but it enables the cooperative to produce green power. Again, the savings these generate provides rate stability to its members.
|Nolde at 2018 NRECA conference. (center)|
Byron has increased OEC’s equity from 30% to 50%, and has diversified OEC’s loan portfolio, which in turn has saved the cooperative thousands of dollars in interest and has helped maintain membership rates.
In addition to all of the contributions Byron’s industry knowledge and skills provide to the daily function of the business, he is always equally concerned about the membership and their rates. Byron continually keeps the members in mind in every aspect of his duties and responsibilities at the Cooperative, as well as his fellow peers and area cooperative families.
Finally, with all of the above-mentioned accomplishments and contributions to the electric cooperative industry, Byron possesses one of the most important leadership qualities and that is his integrity.
Byron always keeps the cooperative in the forefront of every decision he makes, but also analyzes what is best for the individual and how his decisions with impact “ALL”. His caring attitude and ability to work with everyone supersedes our expectations. We believe you will agree with us, as shown in our nomination application and coupled with the additional support letters from his peers and those that work closely with him, that Byron would represent the qualifications that have been established for this award very well.
Thanking you in advance for your consideration in reviewing our nomination of our CEO, Byron C. Nolde for this prestigious award. Should you need any additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Todd Duame, Chairman
Oconto Electric Cooperative
In 2017, Byron was nominated and was a finalist for the Ethics in Business Award, sponsored by the American Foundation of
Counseling Services in Green Bay, Wis. This award acknowledges
those that display leadership qualities of integrity and model strong upright character in today’s business world.
“As a member of Oconto Electric, I have witnessed Byron’s leadership in advancing positive change. Examples include: innovative rate structures, reliability enhancements, innovative wholesale electric power pricing contracts, green pricing programs, electric charging stations, and a host of other member-oriented initiatives,” wrote Barbara Nick, who recently retired as CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative.
“Byron embodies the cooperative spirit with enthusiasm and conviction,” Shane Larsen, Rock Energy Cooperative CEO.
“Byron’s most notable contribution to the programs and services carried out by OEC as well as WECA and NRECA, was that he helped make things happen, not just by his participation but also with valuable insight and guidance,” wrote Beata Wierzba, former WECA government relations director. “He is someone I could always count on.”
“OEC is one of the few cooperatives to achieve the 1 million employee hour ‘No Lost Time” milestone,” wrote Chad Knutson, senior safety and loss prevention consultant with Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange. “Bryon played a significant role in the cooperative receiving this award, always stressing ‘Safety First’ with employees.”
“Byron has been an excellent participant in the Wisconsin Manager’s group, serving also as its president. He has faithfully served on the Legislative Committee and has never been afraid to speak his mind, not only to the committee but to our representatives at the state and federal level,” wrote Robert Cornell, manager of Washington Island Electric Cooperative. “Please give Byron’s nomination for this award the highest priority. He deserves it.”
Nolde has also been recognized for his community engagement and leadership with multiple awards in recognition of his military support and business ethics. He serves as a director on the RESCO board and has served as director of the Electric Coalition Health Insurance Trust.
WECA would like to congratulate Byron Nolde, recipient of the 2021 ACE Award and thank him for his many contributions to the industry.
Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News Magazine Earns National Award
June 25, 2021—The Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News (WECN) took home an Award of Excellence in the Best Historical Feature category of the 2021 Willies Awards. The honor for excellence in co-op journalism was bestowed at this week’s NRECA Statewide Editors Association annual institute in Austin, Texas.
WECN Associate Editor Mary Erickson’s piece, titled “Connections to the Past: Historic Bridges Cross Co-op Country,” was featured in the September 2020 edition of the magazine. Bridges featured included the Tiffany Stone Arch Bridge and Turtleville Iron Bridge, Rock Energy Cooperative; “7 Bridges” McGilvray Road, Riverland Energy Cooperative; Dunnville Bottoms Trail Bridge, Dunn Energy Cooperative; Soo Line “S” Bridge, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative; and the Gilman Swinging Bridge, Taylor Electric Cooperative.
Judges said of the story, “Easy-to-read, folksy style of writing draws the reader in. Highlighting historic bridges in travelogue across five different co-op service areas provides a breadth to the story that more than makes up for not relying on quotable sources. Great photos and descriptions/backgrounds of the unique structures featured.”
“The magazine continues to be recognized for its ability to draw readers in with quality features and information,” said WECN Editor Dana Kelroy. “We hear time and again that readers appreciate the local stories and often read the magazine cover-to-cover each month. We’re incredibly proud of that.”
The award-winning feature can be seen here: https://wecnmagazine.com/article/connections-to-the-past/
Pierce Pepin's Will Tuchtenhagen Awarded $10,000 Glenn English Scholarship
At that meeting, according to NRECA, Tuchtenhagen spoke on a panel about the need for rural broadband. He is currently on his second summer as an intern at Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, where among other duties, he is very involved in deployment of broadband!
"He is the quintessential co-op kid looking to stay involved in our industry", NRECA said in making the announcement.
The Glenn English National Cooperative Leadership Foundation encourages educational advancement by awarding high education scholarships to eligible students. The Foundation has awarded almost $100,000 in scholarships to NRECA’s Youth Tour alumni since the program’s inception in 2014!
In addition to Tuchtenhagen’s $10,000 scholarship, NRECA announced three winners of the $2,000 “Engineers of the Future” scholarship, and four winners of the $1,000 “Youth Tour Alumni” scholarship. Tuchtenhagen is the only winner from Wisconsin.
Tuchtenhagen attends Luther College where he is majoring in Political Science and International Studies.
WECA Poster Contest Winners AnnouncedCongratulations to the winners of the 2021 electricity safety poster contest. WECA was overwhelmed with the number of exceptional entries and impressed with the creativity and knowledge that were displayed. Below are the entries the judges determined best met the criteria for the contest.
This year’s winners are:
- 1st Place: Trey Wellik, Riverland Energy Cooperative
- 2nd Place: Lexus White, Riverland Energy Cooperative
- 3rd Place: Lilliann Horvath, Barron Electric Cooperative
|1st Place||Trey Wellik
Riverland Energy Cooperative
|2nd Place||Lexus White
Riverland Energy Cooperative
|3rd Place||Lilliann Horvath
Barron Electric Cooperative
WHAT LIES BENEATH | VIDEO
APRIL 12, 2021—CALL BEFORE YOU DIG—it could save your life. That’s the message behind a new video released by Wisconsin's electric cooperatives, in partnership with Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange. The educational video is intended for both residential homeowners and contractors.
ELECTRICAL SAFETY POSTER CONTEST
APRIL 2, 2021—Do you have a young artist in your household? We’ve got an opportunity for them to put their skills to work and learn about electrical safety at the same time! WECA is sponsoring its first Electrical Safety Poster Contest, open to all third-grade students of electric cooperative-member households.
Participating students should create a poster supporting electric safety and submit it to their local electric cooperative by May 17, 2021.
Each co-op will select an individual winner, who will receive a $25 gift card courtesy of WECA, and select the top three posters to advance to the state-level round.
The top three posters selected in the state-level round will receive the following prizes:
- First Place ~ Chromebook
- Second Place ~ $100 gift card
- Third Place ~ $75 gift card
ANNUAL MEETING BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
February 25, 2021—Governor Evers signed Senate Bill 25 into law today that allows for us to hold our annual meetings virtually. At left is a photo of the Governor signing it into law. It was a great effort by everyone involved. Click below to read the release.
Electric co-ops care for community
January 6, 2020—Thanks to all Wisconsin electric co-ops who stepped up to help members they serve during the pandemic. Thanks to NRECA for telling this story!
Congratulations to Our 2020 Award Winners
Paudler, Petersen Honored with 2020 ACE Awards
December 18, 2020—The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association announced this week that David Paudler, Riverland Energy board president, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the annual Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) award. In addition, Sheldon Petersen, former CEO of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), has been selected to receive the “Special ACE Award” which has only been presented two other times in history. The ACE award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the electric cooperative industry.
David Paudler – 2020 ACE Award Recipient
David Paudler has served on the Riverland Energy Cooperative Board for 11 years, including three as board president. He has also served for two terms on Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) board, including serving as chairman from 2015–2019.
In nominating Paudler for the ACE Award, Riverland Energy Cooperative General Manager Jerry Sorenson wrote, “To best describe Dave Paudler, I would say he is quietly fierce and has a work ethic that is second to none. His work in the background on many projects laid the groundwork for them to be successful and completed in a way to shine the spotlight on many rather than himself. His dedication to applying the cooperative principles is demonstrated in everything he does as a local and statewide director and in his national level representation.”
Dallas Sloan, Barron Electric Cooperative general manager, described Paudler’s work on the WECA board as “tireless” and “incredible” particularly during the challenging time of the organization’s independent transition.
Niles Berman of Wheeler, Van Sickle & Anderson agreed, saying, “To honor Dave with the ACE Award will do honor to WECA and its members. Dave has demonstrated in so many ways, over so many years, his commitment to cooperatives and his effectiveness as a leader of them.”
Beth Ede, former Riverland Board director, recalled Paudler’s leadership as a colleague in her nomination submission, writing, “His vigilant and consistent positivity allowed me to feel supported as I asked more questions than anyone should be allowed and made me find a comfort in challenging situations for the betterment of REC and cooperatives in general.”
Paudler is also a community leader, serving on the Onalaska Town Board for 18 years including four years as chair. He also served as trustee on the Holmen Area Foundation, and Holmen Community Center board. Paudler holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He is retired from GCS Software, Inc., where he was president. He and his wife, Elaine, have two grown children.
During his tenure as CEO, CFC’s loan portfolio grew from about $7 billion to nearly $27 billion. He created an organizational culture focused on member service and a commitment to excellence and expanded CFC offerings to help co-ops adapt to a rapidly changing electric utility industry.
According to Richland Electric Cooperative CEO/General Manager Shannon Clark, here in Wisconsin Petersen has been instrumental in many individual projects, beyond just financing.
Clark wrote, “Whether it be a storm that impacted us locally, or whether it was an important issue like capital credits, governance or a failed underwater cable, Sheldon has always been among the first to martial resources on our behalf—usually after a personal call to the local cooperative.”
“A lot of people think of electric cooperatives as a utility that simply provides electricity—but as we all know we are a membership organization that is a community partner that just happens to be the electricity provider,” Clark continued. “Sheldon has always realized it is our relationships—our network—that make us strong. CFC exemplifies those ideals on Wall Street and Main Street and his leadership has done so much for Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives and its members—it’s truly immeasurable.”
Petersen began his career in the rural electrification program in 1976 as staff assistant for Nishnabotna Valley Rural Electric Cooperative in Harlan, Iowa. In 1980, he became general manager of Rock County Electric Cooperative Association in Janesville, Wisconsin. He joined CFC in 1983 as an area representative and moved to CFC headquarters in 1990.
In July, Petersen, 67, announced that he plans to retire from CFC in 2021, once his successor is in place.
WECA has only presented the “Special ACE Award” twice before—to Governor Tommy Thompson in 2000, and to U.S. Senator Herb Kohl in 2006.
WECA's Tim Clay Awarded 2020 Potthast Award
December 11, 2020—The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) is proud to announce that our own Tim Clay, vice president of operations, environmental and regulatory services, has been selected as the winner of the 2020 Herman C. Potthast Award, which recognizes outstanding service, dedication, leadership, and cooperation among electric cooperatives, with a focus on safety. A committee from Job Training & Safety (JT&S) calls for nominees and selects the winner. Clay is the first representative to be recognized from WECA since 1989.
Ben Bella, safety & compliance coordinator–shared services, Eau Claire, Jackson, Oakdale, Riverland Electric Cooperatives, submitted the nomination saying, “Tim Clay is the epitome of what this award looks to acknowledge and I believe his contributions frequently go unrecognized and can at times be under-appreciated – as he has set a standard of exceptional customer service, dedication, professionalism and technical understanding within and outside the scope of his job and responsibilities. To say he goes above and beyond to serve the Wisconsin Electric Cooperatives, would be a tremendous understatement. There simply is not a better candidate which exemplifies the characteristics of Herman C. Potthast than Tim Clay.”
Robert Cornell, manager of Washington Island Electric Cooperative, said, “Tim fulfills his role at WECA quietly and professionally without any fuss. His environmental background and his understanding of regulatory and compliance issues make him an extremely valuable resource.” Cornell continued, “As a small Cooperative, without a staff to assist me, Tim has always acted like he is a member of the team locally, not just a Statewide staff member. His experience dealing with the Department of Administration, the Department of Transportation, FEMA and the vast alphabet soup of state and federal agencies is impressive and his ability to keep abreast of the numerous safety regulations and notices and then disseminate them to the Cooperatives, along with explanations, makes all our lives easier and safer.”
Clay has served Wisconsin electric cooperatives for 24 years, first working as a compliance specialist beginning in 1996. Before that he held positions as a public health officer and field chemist with an environmental firm.
Much of his time working with electric cooperatives is spent helping distribution co-ops create regulatory policies, emergency response preparedness and coordination, developing statewide positions on legislative and regulatory matters on behalf of WECA’s members, and providing training and technical assistance to electric cooperatives on a variety of safety and environmental issues. In 2016, Clay was promoted to WECA vice president of operations, adding management responsibilities for the internal operations of the association to his previous responsibilities.
Clay earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with an emphasis in aquatic sciences. He also competed National Utility Training and Safety Education Association’s curriculum andis a Certified Loss Control Professional.
“Tim is a fervent leader in our office, with a dedication to working on behalf of the state’s electric cooperatives that is unmatched,” Stephen Freese, WECA president and CEO, said. “He is a respected professional with the unique qualities of exceptional knowledge, combined with integrity and humility. In short, we are all very lucky to have him.”
Clay will receive the award at a formal presentation at a WECA event next year pending the restrictions due to the pandemic. He will be mortified by the attention, so we will be sure to make it a very big deal.
About the Award
The Herman C. Potthast Award is named for a man of great dedication to the training and safety who served Wisconsin rural electric cooperatives for 29 years. He was a state and national leader, instrumental in implementing and promoting instruction and training to ensure safety among those working in the electric cooperative field. Potthast passed away in 1972. The award was created in 1973 and is presented annually.
Eau Claire Energy Co-op Wins Leifer Award for Journalism
|Mary Kay Brevig|
December 4, 2020—It was a close race, but for the fifth consecutive year, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative (ECEC) has taken the top honor and earned the 2019–20 N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award. The Leifer Award recognizes exemplary work of Wisconsin electric cooperatives in producing local content for members in the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News.
The judges from Mill Creek Communications Services noted that overall, Eau Claire’s stories were “well written and informative.” They also scored high for excellence in photos, and the combinations of relevant co-op news, information, and features.
Mary Kay Brevig, a recognized leader in co-op communications, retired from her position as Eau Claire Energy’s manager of marketing, communications, and public relations in April. Monica Obrycki, Eau Claire’s chief administrative officer, has served as local editor since May.
Finishing second in the running for the 2019–2020 Leifer Award was Richland Electric Cooperative. Trevor Clark, director of outreach services, serves as editor of Richland Electric's local pages.
The N. F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award is named for "Lefty" Leifer, former manager of Vernon Electric. Lefty was instrumental in the founding of the REA News back in the spring of 1940, making the statewide electric co-op publication the first of its type in the nation. WECA has presented the award in his honor since 1966.
“Keeping the Lights On”: New Specialty Plate Recognizes Utility Workers
December 14, 2020—The Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced the availability of a new specialty plate, designed to honor all of the state’s utility employees. Wisconsin’s utility workers are among the essential employees making sure people all across the state have the power they need at home, work and school. The “Keeping the Lights On” specialty plate is now available for a one-time fee of $15, and can be displayed on most cars, trucks, and campers.
“The pandemic has demonstrated just how essential our electric cooperative workers are,” said (insert co-op leader name). “Keeping the lights on is always a top priority, and we are excited to have this specialty plate as an option to show our appreciation to all of the people who work so hard on behalf of Wisconsin residents and businesses.”
Linda McAley of Clark Electric Cooperative was the driving force behind the year-long effort to create the specialty plate. McAley recently retired from her position as the co-op’s director of administrative services after 45 years and took on this project, leading a group to raise the design fee of $15,500, gather more than the 500 required signatures, and follow through until approval from the DMV. The group launched the effort in January and the DMV announced the availability of the plate on December 7.
“Ensuring electric cooperative members have access to safe, reliable, affordable energy is a monumental task that is only possible because of the hard work of all co-op employees – from lineworkers to suppliers, from meter technicians to IT, from warehouse clerks and office staff, to the board of directors,” said McAley. “I can’t wait to see these plates out on the road, and I would like to thank everyone who was supportive of the effort.”The specialty plate is intended only for honor and in recognition, so there is NO annual fee.
The one-time issuance fee of $15 covers production of the plate. Personalized specialty plates are also available for an additional $15 per year.
To order your “Keeping the Lights On” specialty plate, go to: https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/dmv/vehicles/title-plates/utl.aspx
Supporters of this project include the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Border States Electric, The Benefitworks, RESCO, Power Systems Engineering, CO-Bank, Wisconsin Line Superintendents, Wheeler Van Sickle, Osmoe Utilities, Eaton, River Valley Architects, APEX Engineering, NISC, EIR Testing, CVTC Electrical Power Distribution Club, OK Sanitary, Dairyland Power, and many of the state’s electric cooperatives including Clark Electric, Eau Claire Energy, Dunn Electric, Adams-Columbia Electric, Price Electric, Jackson Electric, Chippewa Valley Electric, Bayfield Electric, Jump River Electric, St. Croix Electric, Vernon Electric, Scenic River Energy, and Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services. Present and former electric cooperative leaders including Marty Hillert, Jay Porter, Tim Stewart, Jim Anderson, Byron Nolde, Shane Larson, Dean Ortman, Lynn Thompson, Eric Thoreson, Diane Berweger, Dallas Sloan, Steve Lucas, Kenny Ceaglaski, Pat Susa, and the late Dean Tesch also supported the effort.
WECA 2020 Year in Review - Video
WECA Holds Hybrid 84th Annual Meeting
November 13, 2020—The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association shifted to a hybrid format for the 84th annual meeting in November, with limited staff and some WECA board members in attendance at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Baraboo, and other members and staff joining virtually. Board leadership announced the statewide is in good financial shape, in spite of the pandemic, which caused the cancellation of many programs.
David Hischke was re-elected to the board to represent District 4. There were no nominations for the open District 3 seat, so the board will work to fill that position with an appointee.
New Leadership positions include:
- Chair – Judi Anibas
- Vice Chair – Roger Wiff
- Secretary/Treasurer – David Hischke
- Executive Committee – Mike Wade and Jerry Sorenson
DATCP Encourages Consumers to Participate in Cybersecurity Awareness Month
October 1, 2020—For many Wisconsinites, 2020 has been a groundbreaking year for the use of technological connection to maintain daily life. Our jobs, our schools, societal well-being, economic prosperity and nation’s security are dependent on the internet.
Under the overarching theme of “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”, the 17th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) is focused on encouraging individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace. This year’s campaign stresses personal accountability and the importance of taking proactive steps to enhance cybersecurity.
Throughout the month of October, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will share tips and information for consumers and businesses related to the NCSAM weekly themes.
License to Live: Wisconsin Electric Cooperatives Launch Educational Campaign for Drivers
Sponsored by all of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives, “License to Live” was developed by employees of five electric cooperatives and WECA in conjunction with the Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange and Safe Electricity. The video and accompanying materials will be distributed to all driver’s education instructors in the state of Wisconsin starting in August. Plans also call for establishing a partnership/alliance with the Department of Transportation’s “Zero in Wisconsin” initiative, with the goal of making the program required training for all new drivers in the state and having related questions included on the written driver’s test.
“Our goal throughout this entire project has been simple. Education and awareness. If we can put together a quality product illustrating what to do during a car vs. pole emergency, it WILL save lives,” said Ben Bella, safety & compliance coordinator for four electric co-ops and a member of the committee that launched this campaign.
To learn more about “License to Live” and view the video, go to: https://safeelectricity.org/license-to-live/
Clark named to Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access
July 14, 2020—Shannon Clark, CEO & general manager of Richland Electric Cooperative, was asked to serve on the newly formed Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access. Governor Tony Evers signed Executive Order #80 creating the task force July 14. The task force will advise the governor and Wisconsin State Legislature on broadband actions and policy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored that access to high-speed broadband is a necessity, not a luxury, and folks across our state have had to adapt—from kids and educators shifting to virtual classrooms, workers having to work from home, and even folks using telemedicine to visit with their doctor,” said Gov. Evers. “I’m proud the People’s Budget made the largest investment in our broadband infrastructure in Wisconsin history, but we know we have more work to do and we have to connect the dots on how lack of reliable, affordable broadband affects folks across our state. This task force will bring together experts from across the state to research and recommend solutions that state leaders can adopt to connect every person in Wisconsin.”
Clark brings considerable expertise to the task force, including his experience launching the consortium that became Genuine Telecom, a telecommunications company providing telecommunications services including high-speed internet to businesses and homes in the Richland County area. Clark also serves as board chairman for the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC), which provides technology solutions for over 1,500 electric and telephone cooperatives across the United States.
More information about the task force and be found at https://urbanmilwaukee.com/pressrelease/gov-evers-signs-executive-order-creating-governors-task-force-on-broadband-access/?fbclid=IwAR0ecxf7riApHSeuj-6lVRb4INR0lWlbR6zhygNK_DMiagPk064SJ2EhWdI.
New Study Shows Two-Thirds of WI Rural Counties Continue to Lose Population
June 4, 2020—Two factors that help slow or potential can help reverse rural decline can be affected by state and local policymakers: a diverse industry mix and access to high-speed internet. Read 'Deconstructing Depopulation: Rural Characteristics & Population Change' to find out more.
Wisconsin Electric Co-ops Launch “Milk Gallon Giveaway” in Support of Wisconsin Dairy Farmers
June 5, 2020—Wisconsin electric cooperatives are coming together to support Wisconsin farmers, hit hard by the pandemic, by offering free gallons of milk to members. In honor of June Dairy Month, the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association and 15 electric cooperatives have partnered with Kwik Trip for the “Milk Gallon Giveaway,” to distribute potentially more than 100,000 gallons of milk.
The June issue of Wisconsin Electric Cooperative News includes a coupon for participating cooperative members to redeem at an area Kwik Trip in exchange for a free gallon non-fat, 1%, or 2% milk, to be redeemed at Kwik Trip on or before July 16, 2020.
If you do not see a coupon in your issue of Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News, that means your cooperative may be supporting dairy farmers in other ways, such as supporting food banks, dairy committees, scholarships, or ice cream, cheese, and butter giveaways.
WECA Expands Eligibility for 2020 Essay Contest
May 14, 2020—All Wisconsin high school students and college freshmen, whose primary residence is served by an electric cooperative, are eligible to enter the 2020 WECA Essay Contest, which offers cash scholarships for the top three winners. The essay contest is usually open exclusively to attendees of the Youth Leadership Congress, but that event has been cancelled this year, due to the pandemic.Students interested in entering the contest must submit a 600 to 1,200-word essay in response to a question related to electric cooperatives and youth involvement. A panel of three judges will review the essays and select the top three winners, who will be awarded scholarships of $1,000, $500, and $250. Entries must be postmarked by August 26, 2020.
For more information, click the button below or send a message to Tina Walden, WECA Executive Assistant and Youth Coordinator.
COVID-19 and Wisconsin’s Electric Cooperatives
With so much information, it is important to utilize credible sources. Below is a list of links for Wisconsin co-op members to access the latest information:
Federal Relief Package Includes Support for Electric Co-ops
The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed last week includes many of the requests made by NRECA CEO Jim Matheson to bring help to electric cooperatives and their members by offering millions in aid for families in need, particularly those struggling to pay their utility bills. The bill includes funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief, Small Business Administration, and broadband programs. Also, the Small Business Administration loans included in the bill allow for loan forgiveness if the funds are used by the borrower to pay utility bills, which will serve as a valued option and incentive for members and offer assistance to electric cooperatives.
Here are some of the key provisions for co-ops in the nearly 900-page bill:
- Adds $900 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income and moderate-income consumers pay their utility bills.
- Adds $100 million for grants through the USDA RUS ReConnect broadband program and $25 million for the RUS Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program to expand investments in telemedicine and distance-learning services in rural areas.
- Adds $45 billion for the disaster relief fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Co-ops often rely on these funds to restore power after storms and other emergencies.
- Creates a $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program that provides federal government loan forgiveness (under Small Business Administration Section 7(a) loans) for small businesses to pay up to eight weeks of basic expenses, including electric, telephone, and internet bills.
- Creates a $10 billion SBA program to provide grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses to pay their workers and pay rent or mortgages, among other uses. Co-ops with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for this grant program if they plan to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Certain restrictions on those loans have now been waived.
Group Launches Application for Wisconsin Specialty License Plate to Honor All Utility Workers
In order for the plate to be produced, the group needs to submit 500 signatures from licensed Wisconsin drivers who commit to purchasing the plates at a ONE-TIME cost of $15, which covers the cost of production. The group is also raising funds for the development and design fee, which is $15,500. The purpose of the plate is to honor and recognize all persons working to ensure Wisconsinites have access to safe, affordable, and reliable electricity.
Vehicles that qualify to display the specialty plates include automobiles, motor homes, private trucks weighing 8,000 pounds or less, and farm trucks weighing 12,000 pounds or less.
The group promoting the “Keeping the Lights On” specialty plates hopes to complete the process and make the plates available to the public by April of 2021.
To provide your signature or make a donation in support of the project, go to the links below or contact Linda McAley, PO Box 65, Greenwood, WI, 54437-0065.
Lighting the Way for our Global Community
Partners for a Brighter Tomorrow is made possible by Wisconsin cooperatives and their communities, and NRECA International, a non-profit 501(c) (3) charitable organization, whose mission is to increase individual and community access to electricity in all parts of the world.
WECA welcomes Jennifer Taylor to staff
December 9, 2019—Jennifer Taylor joined the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association as the new executive assistant. Jennifer is a Watertown native and a 1995 graduate of UW-Madison. She brings years of administrative experience to the position, and as an artist, she also brings creativity and the ability to assist with visual media. Jennifer lives in Madison with her husband, David, and two cats.
Lighting the way for a brighter future
November 27, 2019—Twenty-five hundred miles from Wisconsin, south of the Mexican border in a primitive, rural village of Guatemala, there is an American flag flying high, side-by-side with a native flag. It was placed there just weeks ago by the villagers as a symbol of gratitude for the life-changing mission taken on by 12 linemen from electric cooperatives in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.
Association picks new leadership team
November 6, 2019—The executive committee of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA), elected at the statewide co-op organization’s November annual meeting in Stevens Point, includes (l–r,) Judith Anibas of Eau Claire Energy Cooperative (secretary-treasurer), CEO Mike Wade of Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative, Diane Zimmerman of East-Central Energy (chair), David Hischke of Oconto Electric, and CEO Dallas Sloan of Barron Electric Cooperative (vice-chair). Also serving as statewide directors are William Fischer of Rock Energy, CEO Jerry Sorenson of Riverland Energy, Roger Wiff of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Karen Newbury of Price Electric Cooperative, and Robert Hess of Oakdale Electric, representing Dairyland Power.
Awards recognize co-op service
November 5, 2019—Winning recognition for distinguished service to Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives were (l–r) Mary Kay Brevig, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative’s communications and public relations manager, receiving the N. F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award for excellence in her co-op’s local pages of Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News; Larry Dokkestul, recently retired CEO of Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, with the ACE (Ally of Cooperative Electrification) Award—the group’s highest honor—for dedicated service to cooperatives surpassing routine performance of duty; and Mary Hodowanic, accepting the Herman C. Potthast Award on behalf of her husband, Jim Hodowanic, the late operations manager of Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative. The Potthast Award honors conspicuous contributions to job-training and safety education for employees of Wisconsin’s energy cooperatives.
New communications staffer welcomed
October 4, 2019—Julie Lund, newly hired for the position of Director of News and Communication at WECA, begins her duties October 4 at the statewide organization’s Madison offices. Lund will succeed Dave Hoopman who currently holds the position and plans retirement at the end of November. A Wisconsin native, Lund is a UW – La Crosse graduate holding a degree in Mass Communications with emphasis in television production. She has been a news reporter, producer, and anchor at TV stations in Rhinelander and Madison. She has also held a variety of media related positions with the State of Wisconsin. Lund is to assume the duties of WECA’s director of news and communication in her own right as of December 1.
Guatamala: Partners for a Brighter Tomorrow
October 1, 2019—Twelve volunteer linemen from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa electric cooperatives are traveling to Guatemala today to help a rural village get electricity for the first time. This project—Partners for a Brighter Tomorrow—will provide power to 42 homes, a school, and a health post. This project was made possible by NRECA International, a non-profit 501(c) (3) charitable organization, whose mission is to increase individual and community access to electricity in all parts of the world.
Leaders descend on D.C. for fall fly-in
September 5, 2019—Leaders from Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives spoke this week with members of their congressional delegation on the importance of passing two key pieces of legislation. The RURAL Act would amend the tax code to ensure electric cooperatives do not lose their tax-exempt status when they receive federal, state, or local government grants and assistance, such as FEMA disaster relief and rural broadband grants. This measure would fix an unintended consequence of a change in the tax code from the 2017 tax reform bill. Without this fix, the current tax provisions would threaten our members’ ability to recover from major natural disasters or deploy critical infrastructure for broadband.
Magazine garners more national awards
August 6—Two Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News articles received national recognition in August, in a competition designed to reward strong efforts in co-op journalism.
The October 2018 article “Empowering Enterprise” and the April 2019 story “Good News is No News” each earned an Award of Merit from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Statewide Editors Association.
The October article, describing Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative’s long-term success fostering economic development in the communities it serves, was honored in the category of Best Feature Communicating a Cooperative Principle or Touchstone Energy Core Value.
The April story, honored in the category of Best News Feature, contrasted negative public and media perceptions of environmental quality against the reality of several decade’s environmental improvement, exemplified by massive growth of U.S. energy production and consumption since 1970 even as pollutant emission volumes have plummeted.
The awards mark the Wisconsin statewide magazine’s second consecutive year of double recognition. Last year, the magazine won in the Best Editorial category and the Best News Feature category.
Habitat-restoration projects are blooming at Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives
July 30, 2019—There’s a certain buzz in the air around many of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives, and it’s hovering around the pollinator gardens that have been popping up on co-op properties throughout the state.
At some co-op headquarters, traditional floral landscaping and stretches of sunny green lawn have been replaced with native pollinator plantings that are just coming into bloom. Often tended by co-op employees, these plants attract the pollinators—including bees, butterflies, and birds—that are needed for the reproduction of about one-third of all human food crops, as well as 75 percent of flowering plants, according to pollinator.org.
Co-ops hail disaster funds included in state budget
July 3, 2019—Rural energy consumers won’t be left to cope on their own when natural disasters strike, thanks to a pair of bipartisan provisions included in the state budget bill signed into law today by Governor Tony Evers.
The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) hailed retention of the two items in the budget package, one providing direct assistance to a cooperative forced to repair and replace an underwater power cable knocked out of service by winter ice, and another re-establishing electric co-ops’ eligibility to make direct application for aid from the Wisconsin Disaster Fund.
Monarchs Still Need Help
Finance Committee: Island Cable Repair Stays in Budget
|(left) Byron Nolde, CEO, Oconto Electric Cooperative and (right)
Robert Cornell, manager, Washington Island Electric Cooperative
May 16, 2019—The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted Thursday to retain funding in the state budget bill that offers disaster assistance for the repair and replacement of the underwater cable that failed last June, cutting off electricity to the residents of Washington Island.
The power failure—caused by recurring winter ice damage over multiple years—forced Washington Island Electric Cooperative to switch to more expensive backup generation until the cable could be spliced. With close cooperation from state and federal agencies on routing and permitting, a replacement cable was installed last fall and current costs are now approaching $4 million.
April 30, 2019—This year’s budget process will be out of the ordinary in multiple ways. Tony Evers is the first Democrat to win the governor’s office in eight years, and both legislative houses reviewing his budget proposal are controlled by Republican majorities. Former leaders of both parties in the State Senate and Assembly recently speculated that 2019 might see three different budget bills: Governor Evers’ plan, another one crafted by legislative Republicans, and finally a compromise adopted well after the customary June 30 deadline. (Unlike the federal government, Wisconsin doesn’t shut down anything when a budget is late; the prior one simply stays in effect.)
ROPE Deployment Underway
April 4, 2019—Wisconsin electric cooperatives and others served in neighboring states by the Dairyland Power Cooperative generation and transmission system participate in a mutual assistance program known as ROPE—for Restoration of Power in an Emergency. A large ROPE deployment was underway Friday after the call for help went out on Thursday from Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services headquartered at Albert Lea, Minnesota. An estimated 400-500 poles were downed and approximately half the accounts on the Freeborn-Mower distribution system were without power in the wake of storms—snow, ice, mixed precipitation, and wind—that tore across the upper Midwest Wednesday and Thursday. Continue here...
Monarchs Still Need Help
Click here to learn how to create your own monarch butterfly habitat.
Dairyland Power Announces Major Solar Energy Facility
March 18, 2019—Dairyland Power Cooperative has finalized a power purchase agreement with Ranger Power for the proposed 149 megawatt Badger State Solar Project. Dairyland will purchase the entire output of the planned solar photovoltaic facility, which is proposed on the land of participating private landowners in the Towns of Jefferson and Oakland in Jefferson County, Wis. The Badger State Solar Project will generate enough renewable energy to power over 20,000 homes. Ranger Power is the developer of the solar energy facility. Pollinator habitat is also planned for the site. Read More
Clark picked to head NRTC board
March 15, 2019—Richland Electric Cooperative CEO and General Manager Shannon Clark was elected board chairman of the national Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) Sunday by fellow directors on the 17-member governing panel. Read More
Build future leadership, co-ops told at NRECA gathering
March 15, 2019—The leadership provided by electric cooperatives is “uniquely valuable” to the communities they serve and today’s co-op leaders must prepare new generations to take that leadership into the future, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson told attendees at the organization’s annual meeting in Florida Monday. Read More
February 1, 2019—The Federated Youth Foundation is pleased to once again offer the Charles Van Sickle Endowment Scholarship. This $2,000 scholarship will be awarded to a pre-law or law student who has an interest in cooperative law. The scholarship is made possible by an endowment established in 2013 to honor Wisconsin’s renowned electric cooperative lobbyist and attorney, the late Charles Van Sickle. View application here.
New Lobbyist Begins at WECA
Barron's Chris Kroeze Makes 'The Voice' Final
December 12, 2018—Barron's own Chris Kroeze has reached the live finale of 'The Voice'. Tonight's vote will determine the winner. Watch Chris live on NBC at 7 p.m. and vote for Chris on NBC.com or via the Voice app.
Youth Board Member Shares Experiences
December 6, 2018—WECA Youth Board member and Wisconsin NRCEA Youth Delegate, William Tuchtenhagen recently spoke with The River Falls Journal about the importance of cooperative youth programs.
"Youth programs have been something that are really important to cooperatives as of late because they are trying to bring in the next generation of cooperative owners." Says Tuchtenhagen.
Good luck Chris KroezeNovember 5, 2018— Good luck to Chris Kroeze, a member of Barron Electric Cooperative brother of a co-op lineman, who is competing in the knockout round of The Voice tonight.
ALMA STACK DEMOLITION
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month
IMPOSTOR SCAM: FAKE UTILITY CALLS
Wisconsin Youth Tour Wraps Up D.C. Experience
June 15, 2018— A delegation of youth members from Wisconsin's electric cooperatives have just completed an exciting and educational week in Washington D.C. Delegates participated in workshops with peers from cooperatives all across the country, met federal legislators, and got to visit the White House, as a part of the NRECA Washington D.C. Youth Tour program.
WECA Promotes Electric Cooperative Careers
June 13, 2018— Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association staff attended the 2018 FFA Convention and engaged with FFA students on the many career opportunities available in the electric cooperative world.
Seasonal Safety: Electrical Safety on the Water
May 17, 2018—Whether close to home or while on vacation, hot summer temperatures beckon many people to activities in and around the water. To help ensure that the fun stays in these summer activities, it is important to keep safety in mind. Safe Electricity shares tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe when enjoying water recreation activities this summer. Continue reading on our Seasonal Safety page.
ROPE Lassos a Legislative Win
April 16, 2018—Wisconsin’s sales and use tax on services and materials furnished in mutual assistance between electric and telecommunications cooperatives became a thing of the past Monday afternoon, as Governor Scott Walker signed a reform proposal shepherded to enactment on the final day of the legislative session after a full year’s lobbying effort by the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association.
Mutual Aid Bill Passes Senate Unanimously
March 21, 2018—The Wisconsin State Senate voted 32–0 in favor of a bill that exempts electric cooperatives from sales and use tax for mutual assistance services they perform during disaster recovery. As the bill voted on in the Senate was the Assembly version, which passed in January; the final step for the bill is, being signed into law by the governor.
ROPE bill gets Senate committee nod
February 7, 2018—The Senate version of a proposal eliminating the state sales and use tax on labor and materials furnished between electric and telecommunications cooperatives in mutual-aid situations was endorsed for passage this week by the Senate Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions, and Rural Issues. The vote in a Thursday morning executive session recommending passage was 5–0.
The same committee held a public hearing on the bill (SB-501) Wednesday morning and took testimony from Barron Electric Cooperative General Manager Dallas Sloan, Adams-Columbia Electric Co-op Accountant Liz Hendricksen, and Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association Government Relations Director Beata Wierzba.
No one testified in opposition to the bill.
LEGISLATURE ADVANCES MUTUAL AID BILL
Wisconsin awards honor co-op service
November 10, 2017—Shannon Clark, Richland Electric Cooperative’s CEO and general manager since 1999, received the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association’s highest honor at the organization’s 81st annual meeting here November 7.
Clark is the newest recipient of the ACE (Ally of Cooperative Electrification) Award, given for the past 50 years to a nominee judged to have advanced the electric co-op mission in a distinguished manner beyond routine performance of duty.
He credited an earlier ACE Award winner, the late Richland Electric Board President Gilman Moe, for creating “a culture of people putting service above self,” adding that for Wisconsin’s electric co-op community, the commitment to service “makes us what we are.”
Clark has been a long-time leader of efforts to expand telecommunications and data services to rural Wisconsin and has served on numerous local, state, and national co-op boards. This summer, he received a regional service award from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, recognizing his successes promoting rural economic development.
Also at the November 7 event Mary Kay Brevig, communications and public relations manager at Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, was presented with the N.F. Leifer Memorial Journalism Award.
Its namesake was a Vernon Electric Cooperative manager who co-founded what became the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News. Originally a tabloid newspaper, the Wisconsin R.E.C. News was launched in 1940 as the nation’s first statewide periodical produced for the general membership of rural electric cooperatives.
The Leifer award is given annually to the cooperative selected by an independent judge as having created the magazine’s best local co-op pages during the prior year. Brevig has won the award on three past occasions.
Commitment to utility worker job training and safety was honored at the Wisconsin event as Nathan Steines, director of operations at Barron Electric Cooperative, received the Herman C. Potthast Award for 2017.
In actions a Washburn County (Wisconsin) sheriff’s investigator called “heroic,” Steines came upon a highway accident, contacted emergency personnel, assisted two victims in escaping their overturned vehicle which was leaking fuel, and attended to them until an ambulance arrived.
The Potthast Award is named for the Wisconsin co-ops’ job training and safety coordinator who, for more than two decades beginning in the early 1940s, spearheaded development of safety standards and practices for electric utility workers nationwide.
Wisconsin electric co-ops helping Florida rebuild—Relief convoy headed south
September 11, 2017—Volunteer line crews from 18 Wisconsin electric cooperatives are joining in Florida’s massive recovery effort, helping rebuild shattered electric systems in the wake of Hurricane Irma’s devastation.
The Florida Electric Cooperatives Association, a statewide trade group, put out a call for help last Thursday, anticipating Irma’s Sunday morning landfall and the huge storm’s potential to simultaneously batter the entire state.
Line superintendents from Wisconsin cooperatives got word of the request at a previously scheduled meeting in Stevens Point and immediately began planning their response, assessing availability of workers and equipment.
Those preparations were completed during a busy weekend. Early Monday morning, co-op vehicles began departing from local headquarters across the state for assembly points at Eau Claire, Oakdale, Portage, and Janesville. At least three multi-co-op convoys planned to reach Ste. Genevieve, Missouri by Monday night, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi by Tuesday night, arriving in Florida by late Wednesday afternoon.
All the Wisconsin volunteers are assigned to assist rebuilding at Clay Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Keystone Heights, Florida, northeast of Gainesville. As of Monday morning, Clay Electric had approximately 130,000 members—representing about 75 percent of its system—without power.
More than 50 Wisconsin co-op employees were traveling southward Monday. Participating co-ops include Adams-Columbia, Barron, Bayfield, Central Wisconsin, and Clark Electric Cooperatives, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Dunn and Eau Claire Energy Cooperatives, Oakdale and Oconto Electric Cooperatives, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, Price and Richland Electric Cooperatives, Riverland, Rock, and Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperatives, and Taylor and Vernon Electric Cooperatives.
Anticipating a lengthy rebuilding project, a second round of 24 co-op volunteers had been recruited for later rotation into the damaged area.
More than 40 vehicles were dispatched, including bucket trucks, pole-hauling trailers, and digging equipment.
The relief mission is similar to assistance rendered by Wisconsin co-ops 12 years ago following Hurricane Katrina. Personnel from 14 Wisconsin electric cooperatives were dispatched over a four-week period to Louisiana on a rotating basis, helping to rebuild a local co-op distribution system that had been almost totally destroyed.
It’s also similar—on a larger scale—to the ROPE (restoration of power in an emergency) program in which Wisconsin co-ops help each other shorten recovery times when severe weather damages local electric systems.
On three previous occasions since this past spring, ten Wisconsin co-ops have loaned out line crews in ROPE deployments to help others speed up rebuilding of storm-damaged systems.
Hurricane Irma Relief Mission
September 8, 2017—Volunteer line workers from more than a dozen Wisconsin electric cooperatives will be embarking Monday on a relief mission to assist in rebuilding vital energy systems in Florida.
At this time, a final count of participating cooperatives and crew members is not yet available; a conference call has been scheduled for early Monday to review last-minute details.
However, part of the relief contingent will be departing at 9:00 a.m. Monday, September 11, from the headquarters of Rock Energy Cooperative, 2815 Kennedy Road at Janesville.
Prior to Monday’s 9 a.m. departure, there will be a media availability with co-op personnel involved in coordinating and carrying out this project.
For those interested in covering the story—which will undoubtedly be developing over at least the next few weeks—arrival at Rock Energy by 8:00 a.m. Monday is highly recommended.
Hurricane Harvey Local Charitable Funds
August 31, 2017—To find local charitable organizations, click here.
Texas Electric Cooperatives (TEC), the Texas statewide co-op organization, has indicated that cooperative employees “are often the last ones we hear about who needs help.” For purposes of assisting with those needs, TEC has established a fund to receive and distribute contributions. Checks may be addressed to:
TEC Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund
Texas Electric Cooperatives
1122 Colorado Street, 24th Floor
Austin, TX 78701
Funds collected will be distributed directly to electric cooperatives in Texas to distribute locally.
ACE Award Nominations Due
August 7, 2017—Each year, WECA honors the best in Wisconsin's rural electric cooperative community with the Ally of Cooperative Electrification (ACE) Award. Past honorees have truly made outstanding contributions to rural electrification in Wisconsin, and we look to find this year's ACE Award winner.
We strongly encourage you, as the members of your cooperatives, to pinpoint that person who has made a difference in your co-op, and to our broader cooperative family. An awards committee will be appointed to review this year's applicants. Nominations must be submitted in writing per the attached form and received by the WECA office by Friday, September 1, 2017. The award winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at the WECA Annual Meeting awards banquet in Stevens Point.
CWEC Assists Detert Dairy Farm Upgrade
August 1, 2017—Partnering with its statewide organization Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, Central Wisconsin Electric Co-op (CWEC) was able to provide over $4,000 in grant funds to Cody Detert to help pay for electrical upgrades to his farm. Wisconsin electric cooperatives, including CWEC, have developed a uniform statewide farm rewiring program entitled Safety First. The program’s purpose is to assist dairy farmers with the cost of rewiring projects and to promote safety. Funding for the Safety First program comes from Wisconsin cooperatives.
Cody recently restarted the dairy operation of the 150 acre family farm located in the Marion area. The dormant portion of the farm was in need of some TLC, so Cody contracted with Olson’s Rural Electric of Clintonville to do the work, which included a service upgrade, hookup of feeding equipment, fans, & milking equipment, and upgrading old farm lighting to energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). “We’re pleased to assist Cody in making these needed upgrades to the farm,” said CWEC Vice President of Member Relations Mark Forseth. “We’re always excited to see a young person carry on a family business. We wish Cody all the best.” Cody indicated he’s already planning to expand his 60-cow herd.
For more information on this statewide program, go to our Farm Rewiring page.
Exploring the Cooperative Difference
July 28, 2017—More than 120 students from throughout the state learned about cooperatives and developed their leadership skills at the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association’s 54th annual Youth Leadership Congress at UW-River Falls July 26–28. Activities included team-building exercises that presented challenges requiring cooperation for a successful outcome, presentations by renowned motivational leaders, and district meetings in which students tackled real co-op issues. Pictured at left are the six students who were elected to the 2017-18 Youth Board, which is tasked with planning and helping to run next year’s program: (l–r) William Tuchtenhagen, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services; Conor O’Donnell, Oakdale Electric; Sam Peterson, Oakdale Electric; Gracelyn Footit, Adams-Columbia Electric; Brady Coullthard, Clark Electric; and Darien Traczyk, Barron Electric.
Elections send one new director to WECA board
July 19, 2017—David Hischke, chairman of the Oconto Electric Cooperative board of directors, will be the newest member of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association board when the governing lineup for 2017-18 is seated at the annual meeting in Stevens Point this November.
Hischke’s was the only contested election held during this week’s district meetings at Arcadia, Barron, and Greenwood. Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services CEO Larry Dokkestul was re-elected without opposition in District 2 as was East Central Energy Director Dianne Zimmerman in District 3.
The District 1 seat vacated by Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Director Elaine Eckendorf—who reached her term limit on the statewide board—attracted three nominees including Adams-Columbia Vice-Chairman Lawrence Becker and Clark Electric Secretary-Treasurer Charles Lindner in addition to Hischke. Becker currently holds an ex-officio seat on the WECA board through his position as National Rural Electric Cooperative Association director for Wisconsin.
Industries Signal Restructuring Armistice
July 14, 2017—Long-simmering interest in electric restructuring among major industrial power consumers may finally have been taken off even the back burner, reaction to new ratemaking moves by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) suggests.
Late last month the commission approved an experimental pilot program called the “Day-Ahead Market Pricing Rider,” allowing Wisconsin Power and Light to offer industrial customers opportunities to shift load in response to power market signals.
Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG), issued a statement saying his members “appreciate WP&L’s efforts to move quickly on innovative real-time pricing options that provide manufacturers with additional rate choices and an ability to have more control in managing their costs.”
The statement appeared to signal that the PSC was close to successfully defusing an issue that triggered a new campaign for retail deregulation beginning about a year ago.
The WIEG membership includes Wisconsin’s 30 highest-volume electricity users and some of the strongest advocates of retail electric deregulation. The central issue driving continued interest in the largely dormant restructuring movement had been the perceived effect of electric rates on business competitiveness, and Stuart called the WP&L tariff “a good example of a utility working with the PSC staff and their customers in a good faith effort to keep us cost-competitive in global markets.”
Last summer, an effort to rekindle legislative interest in restructuring was spearheaded by Saukville-based WIEG member Charter Steel announcing it would not further expand its business in Wisconsin because of what it deemed excessive rates paid to WE Energies.
The idea met with a cool reception in the legislature, and the PSC indicated it preferred more creative ratemaking as a means of addressing the industries’ concerns over rates that had eclipsed those in neighboring states—in part because of the cost of new infrastructure built to resolve reliability problems that prompted Wisconsin industries to call for retail choice 20 years earlier.
The Wisconsin Paper Council greeted the WP&L tariff approval with enthusiasm similar to that of WIEG and also sounded the business growth theme.
“Innovative rate options such as the real-time pricing tariffs are an important tool for both retaining and expanding manufacturing in Wisconsin,” Paper Council President Jeff Landin said in a joint statement with WIEG saying both groups “applaud” the PSC action.
Public Service Commission to form Wisconsin Monarch Strategy Committee—Co-op Representatives Sought
July 13, 2017—In a communication to WECA, the association was notified that the Public Service Commission is organizing a committee of Right-of-Way (ROW) stakeholders to explore potential strategies focused on protecting or creating new habitat used by the Monarch Butterfly.
The committee will include representatives from utilities, railroads, state/county/town road departments, and others. If you have an interest in serving as a co-op representative on this committee, please contact Tim Clay by Email or at (608) 467-4598.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the status of the Monarch Butterfly for potential listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Price Electric's Tessa Otto Wins Scholarship Award
“Congratulations to Tessa Otto for winning this unique scholarship,” said NRECA Board President Phil Carson. “As a scholarship winner, she demonstrated a sincere appreciation for the principles that guide electric cooperatives to power and empower millions of American families and businesses. I’m looking forward to great things in her future.”
“We’re very excited that Tessa, a member of our cooperative family, has won this prestigious award,” said Price Electric President and CEO William L. Caynor Sr. “It’s very gratifying to see one of our cooperative Youth Tour participants continue to distinguish herself in such a meaningful way.”
Otto attends the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Her scholarship award was $10,000.
A panel of judges evaluated applicants based on their GPA, internships, extra-curricular activities, leadership, and involvement in cooperative programs.
To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must:
- Have participated in NRECA’s Youth Tour.
- Be full-time students.
- Have completed one year of study at their respective institutions.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.
Redrafted, pole attachment legislation passes Assembly
June 27, 2017—Revised legislation creating a regulatory framework for wireless service providers to mount equipment on utility poles passed the state Assembly in June, preserving its chances of passage in both houses before an unusually slow-moving state budget bill crowds out all other business in the Capitol.
Whether Senate passage occurs promptly or is delayed until at least September remained uncertain as June drew near a close. Theoretically, bills can be scheduled for floor action through June 30 or until budget passage, whichever is later, but the pole-attachment bill had not been placed on the Senate calendar. Moreover, the budget bill stayed in a holding pattern as lawmakers grappled with education and transportation funding issues. Failure to pass a budget before the state fiscal year ends June 30 has few consequences compared with the same failure at the federal level: It simply means the state continues to operate under its current spending plan until a new one is enacted.
Opposed in its original form by electric cooperatives—who were written out of a new draft early in June—the revised pole attachment proposal (Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 348) passed with co-op support.
A memo to all legislators from Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association Government Relations Director Beata Wierzba said conversations with the bill’s co-sponsors and other lawmakers led to “improved language that makes this proposal a better bill and addresses our unique circumstances.” The bill’s latest incarnation, Wierzba said, clarifies that access to public right-of-way and utility easements does not include private property easements negotiated between electric co-ops and their members, preserves a Federal Communications Commission exemption for cooperatives covering pole attachments and make-ready requirements, and specifies that existing co-op policies apply if a communication provider chooses to deploy wireless antennas in a co-op service area.
Assembly passage was mainly uncontroversial. The substitute amendment was adopted on a voice vote and the amended bill was passed in similar fashion.