March / 2009
Commonwealths



Co-ops offering college scholarships

Utility plan would boost efficiency of nation’s electric system

Guest Opinion: Americanism, alive and well

Spring brings bluegrass

How the 2008 economy affected food prices

Energy Efficiency: Tip of the month



Co-ops offering college scholarships

Women in Rural Electrification (Kentucky W.I.R.E.) is taking applications for $1,000 scholarships. The scholarships are open to any eligible student whose family is served by a Kentucky electric cooperative and has at least 60 hours of credits at a Kentucky college or university by the start of the fall term. W.I.R.E. will award three scholarships. The deadline for application is June 19. For an application form, go to www.kaec.org and click on the link at the bottom of the New Info box, or call your local electric cooperative or the Kentucky Living office.

Back to Top






Utility plan would boost efficiency of nation’s electric system

A report by an electric utility group describes a two-pronged plan to significantly streamline the nation’s electric utility system by the year 2030.

The significance of the report is that it points to the possibility of delaying the need to build more electric power plants. Moving that expensive construction farther into the future would slow electricity cost increases and reduce the increase of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The analysis was produced by the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded organization of scientists, engineers, and other researchers.

The first part of the report’s plan simply calls for more aggressive energy-efficiency efforts. Among the likely places to find electricity use reductions, says EPRI, are better heating and cooling system maintenance, plugging air leaks around windows and doors, insulation, and more efficient appliances.

The second part of the utility streamlining analysis is more complicated, and involves something called demand-response.

Demand-response programs try to change how or when people use electricity. The goal is not so much to reduce electricity use as to shift its use so the utility can make more effective use of its power plants. For example, if a utility can persuade people to use less electricity when it’s most popular, like on the hottest or coldest day of the year, the utility might be able to postpone building another power plant to meet that “peak demand.”

One demand-response program already being used by many utilities involves putting switches on water heaters or air conditioners. These switches automatically turn the devices off for a few minutes during times of peak use.

Another example of a demand-response program would be to set different prices for electricity depending on the time of day, to encourage people to use electricity when it’s less expensive for the utility.

The efficiency and demand-response programs listed in the EPRI report would be expensive. Putting them in place could cost from $20 billion to $47 billion.

But the payoff could be enormous, potentially cutting the growth in electricity consumption from 1.07 percent to 0.83 percent from now until the year 2030. That may not sound like much, but it would reduce U.S. demand for power by 22 percent and save 236 billion kilowatt-hours over the next 20 years.

—Paul Wesslund

Back to Top






Guest Opinion: Americanism, alive and well

by Brooke Bozarth

Americanism: the unique quality to unite and overcome any challenge. Our country’s history is remarkable as we were birthed by declaring ourselves independent from the world’s greatest superpower. With passion and determination, we fought for our freedom, and even after acquiring it, we continued to fight for it. Through civil war, economic devastation, world wars, and surprise attacks—freedom prevailed through the intense commitment of its citizens.

In this day and age, however, that commitment is threatened as the appeal of individualism heightens. Many Americans have lost that quality of sacrifice and devotion to country. As uninformed as ever, they carry on with their lives, content to leave politics to politicians.

But amidst this apathy, there remain many who sustain the legacy of preceding generations. One of the premier examples would be the electric cooperatives. Established in 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration empowered nearly all the homes that had been left in the dark. Throughout the countryside of America, people united to conquer what no electric corporation had bothered to achieve: electricity in rural areas. Owned by its consumers, the system of cooperative energy flourished.

This past summer, through the Rural Electric Washington Youth Tour, electric co-ops granted an experience of a lifetime to me and nearly 1,500 other high schoolers throughout the country. For a full week, they sponsored a trip that gave us an intimate look into the heart of the United States: Washington, D.C.

Each state delegation was also given the opportunity to hear their state’s elected officials talk to them about the energy challenges we face today.

We gained a more profound understanding of the legislative system, the impending energy crisis, and what it means to be an American. It was a great encouragement for me to know that, while apathetic Americans certainly exist, there is a strong, solid faction of American youth prepared to counter the challenges this nation faces.

Among these challenges is the energy crisis. In order to keep up with projected demand, we need to increase generating capacity by 30 percent over the next 20 years. And we have to encourage environmental friendliness and efficiency, while keeping prices affordable.

It is going to be difficult, but not impossible. This is the nation that became independent from the supreme country of its time. This is the nation that survived horrible, devastating wars. This is the nation that overcame the Great Depression. And this is the nation that will conquer the energy crisis…if we unite in the same spirit of Americanism that enabled those before us to electrify even the most isolated places in America.

Brooke Bozarth is the Washington Youth Tour Youth Leadership Council representative from Kentucky. A home-schooled student, she lives with her parents, Tammy and Kevin Bozarth, in Owensboro in the Kenergy electric co-op service territory. This essay was excerpted from remarks at the annual meeting of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives. For more information about the Washington Youth Tour, visit www.kaec.org.

Back to Top






Spring brings bluegrass

The 8th Annual Bluegrass Returns to Its Roots Festival will be held at RiverPark Center in Owensboro on April 2-4. This year’s artists include: Dailey and Vincent (2008 winner of six IBMA awards, including Entertainer of the Year), Dale Ann Bradley (the reigning 2008 IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year), Steep Canyon Rangers (nominated IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year), Grammy nominated artist J.D. Crowe and the New South, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeepers, Bradley Walker, Lonesome River Band, and The Josh Williams Band. The Owensboro Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau has also arranged several tour packages, including film presentations, bus tours to Bill Monroe’s childhood home, workshops, quilting classes, lunch or dinner at the renowned Moonlite Bar-B-Q, clogging exhibitions, and artist meet-and-greet events. Pricing for those packages is available at www.visitowensboro.com or by phoning (800) 489-1131. Information including festival ticket prices is available at the RiverPark Center box office at (877) 639-6978 or www.riverparkcenter.org. Ticket prices start at $30 for a one-day pass or $75 for a three-day pass.

Back to Top






How the 2008 economy affected food prices

Last year was an interesting economic year, to say the least, especially for food and farming.

Housing prices fell. The dollar weakened, strengthened a bit, and then weakened again. Commodity prices soared, pulling fuel and grocery bills along with them. But in the fall, commodities began leveling off and oil dropped to around $40 a barrel. Gasoline prices followed, hitting a number many people thought they’d never see again. But food prices are still up there.

“Historically, retail food prices are ‘sticky,’” says Larry Jones, agricultural economist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “What that means is that retail prices increase very slowly as commodity prices go up, but at the same time retail prices are very slow to decline once commodity prices go down.”

Jones says U.S. retail food prices in 2008 increased at the fastest rate in nearly 30 years. And many analysts believe when all is said and done, the Consumer Price Index for food will have increased close to 7 percent in 2008, with a similar outcome in 2009.

It’s not just commodity prices that have pushed up the price of food. As global population expands, so does demand. China and India are among the rapidly developing nations that are responsible for increasing demand not just for food in general, but for meats and processed foods specifically.

That would be well and good if supply were keeping up with demand. But Jones says that world production increases have been steadily slowing as a result of less available land and slowing increases in annual productivity.

Interest rates were kept low to stimulate economic growth, but the low rates contributed to the devaluation of the U.S. dollar. A weak dollar keeps the price of imported foods high. Jones says there is a tradeoff, however. Our food exports are less expensive to the rest of the world, which stimulates U.S. export markets.

For all of that, food prices did not rise as high as they could have, which also has an effect on how far they will eventually drop.

“Retail pricing of food appears to be predicated on the assumption that consumers dislike fluctuating prices on something as basic as food,” Jones says.

As an example, he cites the fact that wholesale food prices increased approximately 8 percent in each of the past two years. Yet the retail price of food increased less than 5 percent on average each year.

“As commodity prices increased, retailers absorbed the increase, but now as commodity prices decline, retailers are not following suit by lowering prices at the retail level,” he says.

“Remember, too, the farm share of a hypothetical retail food dollar is about 20 cents, meaning the other 80 cents goes for such things as transportation, utilities, packaging, processing, advertising, and profits. In other words, agricultural commodities represent a relatively small portion of the cost of food at the retail level.”

—Carol L. Spence, UK Extension

Back to Top






Energy Efficiency: Tip of the month

Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder — wasting energy. A clean filter also prevents dust and dirt from building up in the system.

Source: Energy Star

Back to Top