October 2014

Portable Generator Safety

Since the 2009 ice storm, the popularity of portable electric generators has resulted in many being placed in homes and small businesses in southeast Missouri. Safety for the users of a portable generator system and SEMO Electric linemen cannot be over-emphasized. Properly connecting the generator into the system is a critical step for safe and effective use. A licensed professional can help with proper equipment for safely using a portable generator. Have a qualified electrician install a transfer switch. The transfer switch breaks the path of electricity between the power lines and your main electrical panel.  This is the best way to protect you, your neighbors and repair crews from “back feed.”  Back feed occurs when an improperly connected generator begins feeding electricity “back” through the power lines.  This can seriously injure anyone near lines, especially crews working to restore power.

If installed and operated correctly, use of standby or portable electric generators poses little danger, but improper installation or use could be dangerous to you and threaten the lives of your family, friends, neighbors and SEMO Electric linemen trying to restore service. Let’s get ready for winter, but let’s put safety first.

Rate Increase        

There seems to be a lot of discussion about electricity rate increases in the news. I have been asked if SEMO Electric’s rates will increase in 2015, and if so, how much?  As mentioned in this column several months ago, our power supplier may increase its prices for 2015 but we don’t know at this time. We are working hard to contain costs and make prudent business decisions. As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, each business decision we make increases or decreases our member-owners’ electricity rates. We aren’t perfect, but we are paying attention.

SEMO Electric is in the final stages of developing capital and operating and maintenance budgets for next year. When we look back at 2014, SEMO Electric will have purchased around $18 million of electricity to deliver to thousands of homes, businesses and farms in southeast Missouri. Our capital investments and reliability enhancement projects will be over $2 million.  SEMO Electric’s tab for tree trimming and vegetation management will approach nearly $1.5 million.  We must factor the co-op’s day-to-day operating costs for the member services representative who greets you to the mechanic who keeps line trucks operating to linemen who restore the power after storm.  Similar to an automobile that requires oil changes and safety inspections, SEMO Electric’s complex delivery system – which includes about 2,600 miles of distribution lines – demands constant inspection and routine maintenance to keep the lights on.

Ultimately, it is important for SEMO Electric to attract new consumers and/or member-owners. The cooperative serves an average of six meters per mile. In comparison, investor-owned utilities serve about 35 meters per mile.  By adding more member-owners, the level of rate increases could be diminished.  This is one reason we work hard to attract new businesses and continue to provide current member-owners with safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Plus, SEMO Electric returns any margins – known as capital credits – to you when it’s appropriate.

In a hurry? Pay by phone.

While our offices in Bloomfield and Sikeston are available for face-to-face member services, many members use SEMO Electric’s Pay-By-Phone option. Members may make a payment directly from a credit or debit card at no additional cost by using our automated phone system. You can pay anytime from anywhere by calling (877) 833-3634 and following our easy-to-use prompts.

Be smart. Act safe.

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