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Helping Local Communities

ALL ENROLLED IN THE COMMUNITIES FIRST FUND ARE ELIGIBLE FOR PRIZE DRAWING HELD FEBRUARY 6, 2017

PIE&G members who volunteer to round up their monthly utility bills to the next whole dollar generously fund the PIE&G Communities First Fund, which was created in 1998 to help boost important nonprofit groups in Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op’s service area. If you are among the 33 percent of PIE&G members who participate – helping generate about $51,400 per year – thank you! The average contribution is 50 cents per month, or around $6 annually per meter, but these donations add up to make a BIG difference in northeast Michigan. More than $1.39 million has been awarded to date to benefit our communities.

PIE&G needs your help to expand this program in the coming year. If 50 percent of members participated, they would generate $78,000 for local food pantries and schools, the Presque Isle County Servicemen’s Club, Boy Scouts, the Cheboygan County Equine Unit, Girls on the Run Sunrise Side and many more. You can help by enrolling in the program. Simply complete the enrollment form here, drop it off at our office or mail it with your utility payment to PIE&G, P.O. Box 308, Onaway, MI 49765. Or just call us at 1-800-423-6634.

Members enrolled in the PIE&G Communities First Fund before Feb. 6, 2017 (including those already participating), will be automatically entered to win one of three prizes.First prize is a notebook computer valued at $250, second prize is a tablet computer valued at $100, and third prize is a $50 PIE&G bill credit.

You can be confident that all member donations go directly to help communities; the small administrative costs involved are paid by PIE&G. Contributions are tax deductible and your total annual contribution will be listed on your January energy bill for tax purposes. An all-volunteer, independent board of directors reviews the applications and determines the awards.

Thank you for enrolling – and good luck!

Challenge Riders

Safety During Hunting Season

Be aware of what’s behind that big buck or it might cost big bucks.

Your electric co-op’s time and money are spent every year repairing equipment and power lines that have been struck by a stray bullet. As a not-for-profit cooperative, owned by the members, we all share in this expense.

This doesn’t even include the inconvenience, damages, and hazards to members down the line that require power for medical equipment or other needs, while a lineman does some hunting of his own looking at spans of line trying to locate the problem.

Hunters and other gun-owners should be cautious not to shoot near or toward power lines, power poles, and substations. A stray bullet can cause damage to equipment, could be deadly to the shooter, and potentially interrupt electric service to large areas.

Sometimes the damage isn’t noticed for several weeks or months and is only discovered when an
unexplained outage occurs.

Landowners are also encouraged to take note of nonmembers who are hunting on their property and remind them to be aware of power lines.

Shooting near overhead power lines or insulators can result in severe injury or death.

The main safety points to remember are:
• Do not shoot at or near power lines or insulators.
• Familiarize yourself with the location of power lines and equipment on land where you shoot.
• Damage to the conductor can happen, possibly dropping a phase on the ground. If it’s dry and the electricity goes to ground, there is the possibility of electrocution and wildfire.
• Be especially careful in wooded areas where power lines may not be as visible.
• Do not use power line wood poles or towers to support equipment used in your shooting activity.
• Take notice of warning signs and keep clear of electrical equipment.
• Do not place deer stands on utility poles or climb poles. Energized lines and equipment on the poles can conduct electricity to anyone who comes in contact with them, causing shock or electrocution.
• Do not shoot at, or near, birds perching on utility lines. That goes for any firearm, including pistols, rifles or shotguns.
• Do not place decoys on power lines or other utility equipment. Anything attached to a pole besides utility equipment can pose an obstruction—and a serious hazard—to electric cooperative employees as they perform utility operations.
• Avoid the use of lofting poles near overhead power lines. Remember, electricity can jump across a considerable distance.

PIE&G 79th ANNUAL MEETING HELD IN ONAWAY

Approximately 450 people attended the Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op’s 79ᵗʰ Annual Membership Meeting at the Onaway High School today. According to Board Chairman John Brown, “The annual meeting is a perfect example of our cooperative principles in action. Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by its members. Each member has equal voting rights –one member, one vote – and elections are held in a democratic manner.”

Each year elections are held for three (3) positions on the board of directors.  After all votes were counted, the successful candidates winning election to three-year terms (2016-2019) were:  Brentt Lucas (incumbent, Alpena District), Kurt Krajniak (incumbent, Alpena District) and Raymond Wozniak (incumbent, Presque Isle District). 

The number of votes each candidate received is listed below.

Alpena District (two vacancies):

Bob Grohowski                     433

Duane Jennings                    572

Kurt Krajniak                         919*

Brentt Lucas                          761*

Presque Isle District (one vacancy):

Greg Diller                             428

Leo Romel                             373

Raymond Wozniak                 866*                                                                     

Immediately following the meeting, the board of directors held their election of officers and the results were as follows: Chairman – John Brown; Vice-Chairman – Allan Berg; Secretary – Sandy Borowicz; and Treasurer – Daryl Peterson.

Mr. Jeffrey Ostman, a senior at Cheboygan High School, spoke at the meeting about his experiences at the Youth Leadership Summit in Michigan. In 2015, Mr. Ostman was also was selected to attend the annual NRECA Youth Tour conference in Washington, DC. From there, Jeffrey was elected by his peers to represent Michigan’s electric cooperatives at the NRECA Annual Meeting in New Orleans. 

In other business, members heard reports from the cooperative’s auditor and from Brian Burns, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The winner of the $100 prize raffle for voting by mail was Lyle C. Ballard of Armada.

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op provides electricity and natural gas service to approximately 42,500 active meters across its nine county territory in northeast Michigan. PIE&G headquarters is located in Onaway.

Annual Meeting

Michigan Co-ops Lead The Way In Renewable Energy

Sun. Water. Wind.

Michiganders know these elements can make for a great day at the beach. Michigan’s electric cooperatives also know these raw energy sources can be a great way to power your home.

From solar to wind to hydroelectric (hydro) power, Michigan’s electric cooperatives are the state’s undeniable leaders in renewable energy.

Collectively, Michigan’s nine electric cooperatives will receive more than 20 percent of their energy from renewable resources in 2017. Meanwhile, the statewide average for other utilities is closer to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirement of 10 percent.

Michigan’s cooperatives have been ahead of the curve on renewable energy for more than a decade.

In 2006, Wolverine Power Cooperative* partnered with John Deere Renewables to develop Michigan’s first commercial scale wind farm in Huron County. The wind farm was fully operational in 2007 with an output of 50 megawatts. The following year, Michigan adopted the RPS which mandated a 10 percent supply of renewable energy be utilized by electric providers by 2015.

After Michigan’s first wind farm, progress continued with the state’s very first community solar project at Cherryland Electric Cooperative in 2013. Another community solar project was built by HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative in 2014. Community solar offers an affordable, convenient way for members to use renewable energy as a power source. A solar panel subscription entitles members to a share of energy produced on a utility-scale community solar array. Participants receive solar credits on their utility bill. It’s a great way to remove up-front costs and installation barriers of solar, making it available to the wider membership.

Cloverland Electric Cooperative operates one of the largest hydropower facilities in Michigan. Located along the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie, the hydro plant produces one-fifth of the power needs of the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Now there’s the new $200 million clean natural gas Alpine Power Plant. Commissioned just this year, it was developed to meet peak demand needs for Michigan co-op members and to supplement the often intermittent nature of renewable energy.

This fall, a partnership that includes several of Michigan’s electric cooperatives will begin construction on a large solar project located in Missaukee County, between Cadillac and Lake City. This large-scale array will begin generating electricity using the sun starting in January 2017. The project is still in the early stages, and more information will appear in future issues of Michigan Country Lines as it develops. Additionally, members can sign-up to receive project updates at spartansolar.com.

So why do Michigan’s electric co-ops continue to lead the way in renewable energy?

“We listen to our members and are able to capitalize quickly on renewable energy opportunities,” said Craig Borr, CEO/president of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA). MECA is the service organization representing electric cooperatives in Michigan.

“Michigan's electric cooperatives got into renewable energy because it was the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint,” said Borr. “But it turns out it’s also the responsible thing to do from a financial standpoint.”

Clean, renewable energy generation is where the future of energy is headed.

And for Michigan co-ops, that future looks pretty bright.

Clean energy graphic with solar panels and wind turbines

Northern Michigan’s New Alpine Power Plant Is A Powerhouse

Wolverine Power Cooperative generates and transmits power to our rural substations so we can distribute it to you, our members. They help us ensure that your energy is affordable, reliable, clean and safe. We rely on Wolverine to make well-informed decisions about the future of your electricity.

We're proud to announce that the newest addition to the Wolverine supply mix, the Alpine Power Plant, is now fully powered and generating enough power for 120,000 member households across the state of Michigan!

What is the Alpine Power Plant?
Just 18 short months ago, Wolverine's board of directors—made up of co-op members just like you—set the Alpine Power Plant in motion. Alpine is the largest and most efficient generator in northern Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula.

Alpine is fueled by natural gas, a clean, reliable, and affordable alternative to coal. Its unique, state-of-the-art technology includes two GE simple-cycle combustion turbine generators that together are capable of producing up to 432 megawatts of power. Alpine is a “peaker plant,” meaning it can be fired up quickly to provide electricity for surges in demand.

Wolverine invested approximately $180 million into Alpine to ensure a quick start and flexible operations. As Michigan transitions away from coal plants toward more renewable forms of electric generation, Alpine provides us with a new, affordable, efficient and flexible generation asset, essential for years to come as the industry changes.

How does Alpine impact me?
Wolverine Power Cooperative and its members, including Cherryland Electric Cooperative, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Midwest Energy Cooperative and Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, are proud to be leaders when it comes to providing long-term solutions for Michigan's energy capacity. Old coal plants are retiring, leaving a void that new power plants can and need to fill.

Adding Alpine's output to Michigan's energy supply will help maintain affordable rates in the midst of coal plants retiring, by giving us an additional option when market rates fluctuate. The plant will also serve to integrate new renewable energy sources, as we expect to receive 30 percent of our electricity from renewable sources in the future.

Beyond the energy benefits for Michigan as a whole, Alpine Power Plant offers economic impacts for its local community. Strategically located to support reliability in northern Michigan, the middle-of-the-mitt location in Otsego County provides a boost to the local economy. During construction, the site was host to more than 300 workers that, in turn, contributed greatly to the local economy. The plant will be maintained by nine full-time employees. The plant also provides a tax boost to units of government in Elmira Township, the City of Gaylord and Otsego County.

Michigan's energy future is secured in part because of projects like the Alpine Power Plant. We hope you're as excited as we are to see your electric bills stay low and your quality of life stay high!

Get more information about the Alpine Power Plant by visiting alpinecleanenergy.com.

Power plant

PIE&G Communities First Fund Awards $5,850 in Grants

September 27, 2016 (Onaway) Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op members continue to generously assist area community organizations and individuals through the voluntary round up of their electric and natural gas billings.  Member contributions to the Communities First Fund provide funds for grants and scholarships in their local communities within the PIE&G service area. 

At a recent meeting, the PIE&G Communities First Fund Board of Directors finalized awards of $5,850 in grants to the following recipients:

District Health Department #4 ($2,000) to host the Girls on the Run Sunrise Side program in the spring for schools in Alpena, Cheboygan, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties. The program uses running to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and to build confidence. Sessions will be held bi-weekly for ten weeks after school for girls ages eight to eighteen.  The funds will be used to purchase the water bottles, t-shirts, and medals for girls who participate.

Alcona County

Hubbard Lake Sportsman & Improvement Association (HLSIA) ($500) to assist with the costs of constructing fifty (50) fish shelters for placement in the lake this fall to improve fish habitat. The Association works closely with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality to monitor fish populations and promote sport fishing. Shelter construction will start in September and the project is expected to be completed in October 2016.

Cheboygan County

Cheboygan Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) ($1,350) to purchase a new laptop for the Onaway office for VITA, an IRS sponsored program that works with community organizations to provide high quality tax preparation to low income tax filers and senior citizens. Federal, state, home heating credits and property tax credits are prepared and e-filed free of charge. For the 2015 tax season, 2,003 returns were processed and 1,346 returns in 2014. 

Presque Isle County

Onaway United Methodist Church ($2,000)  for the Caring Closet to purchase certain non-food items that cannot be purchased by food stamps including laundry detergent, personal hygiene items and toiletries.  The Caring Closet will purchase and make these items available for local families in need.

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op provides electric and natural gas service to more than 42,000 member-owners, and serves a nine county area across northeast Michigan. PIE&G headquarters is located in Onaway.

 

79th ANNUAL MEETING

In accordance with its bylaws, PIE&G will conduct its annual membership meeting on Friday, October 28 at the Onaway High School, 4549 M-33 Hwy. in Onaway, MI.  

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.  The general business session begins at 10:00 a.m. where members will hear various reports on the cooperative.  The meeting concludes with director election results and door prizes. Lunch will be provided after the meeting.

For more information about the meeting and your director candidate ballot, please refer to your September-October issue of Country Lines magazine.

Mark your calendar and plan to attend! 

All Politics Is Local

In two months, Americans will go to the polls and cast votes for a president, 34 senators, 435 members of Congress, 12 governors, 5,920 state legislators and countless other local races.

While the presidential race is at the top of most voters’ minds, it is the state and local races that have a more direct and immediate impact on the “kitchen table” issues that matter most to families. For rural America, the stakes in this election are especially high.

Rural America continues to experience population decline driven by out-migration of residents to larger urban areas. The trends underlying much of this out-migration—issues such as globalization, technology advances and the shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service and knowledge-based economy—are largely beyond the control of any community, state or even country.

Although the challenges facing rural America are global, the prevailing sentiment among rural stakeholders and researchers is that the solutions are largely homegrown. In other words, if rural America is to enjoy a prosperous future, it will be thanks to the ingenuity, self-reliance and determination of its people. The rural electrification movement is a prime example of this.

When for-profit utilities based in urban areas declined to build electric lines in sparsely populated rural areas, the residents of those communities banded together to form cooperatives and build their own systems with the help of government loans. Today, America’s electric cooperatives are finding new ways to support and promote the interests of the communities they serve.

Co-ops Vote
One program that is particularly relevant today is the Co-ops Vote initiative. This non-partisan, nationwide program is designed to promote civic engagement and voter participation in communities served by electric cooperatives. Co-op members can go to vote.coop to gather information on the voter registration process in their state, dates of elections, information on the candidates running in those elections and explanations of key issues affecting rural America.

Visitors to the website can also take a pledge to be a co-op voter. By taking this pledge, they can send a message to candidates at all levels of government that electric cooperative members will be showing up at the polls in force and are paying close attention to the issues that impact the quality of life in their communities.

Growing our own leaders
Mil Duncan, a noted scholar on rural economic development issues, said in a recent essay, “far and away the biggest challenge rural development practitioners face is the need for greater human capital—for more leaders, more entrepreneurs…”

To answer the call for more rural leaders, America’s electric cooperatives created the Washington Youth Tour program. Each year, approximately 1,700 high school students representing electric cooperatives from across the nation converge in Washington, D.C., for a weeklong, all-expenses-paid leadership development experience.

Previous Youth Tour participants have become university presidents, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and members of Congress. Many more have returned home to serve in many underappreciated leadership roles—coaches, small business owners, church deacons, county commissioners—that form the backbone of our communities.

Making the most of natural strengths
One of the greatest advantages enjoyed by electric cooperatives is their ability to leverage the unique strengths of the communities they serve.

The members of each cooperative are empowered to explore different approaches to solving problems and figure out what solutions are best for their community. This applies to the energy sources they use to generate electricity, the technologies they use to operate the system and the policies and procedures they adopt. What works for co-op members in Michigan might not be right for co-op members in Oregon.

While many rural communities face similar challenges driven by similar factors, the best way to address those issues can vary widely from community to community.

Fostering connectivity
In the early 1900s, electricity access was a key factor in determining the quality of life and economic prosperity of a community. Those that had electricity enjoyed many modern conveniences. Those without it languished in darkness and struggled to compete.

When electric cooperatives brought electricity to rural America, the playing fi eld was leveled and small towns experienced a renaissance. A similar trend is unfolding as broadband access makes its way to more rural communities.

One recent high-profile example involves Christopher Ingraham, a data journalist at the Washington Post. In 2015, he wrote a short article based on a dataset from the USDA that ranked American communities on qualities that are often indicators of desirable places to live. The community with the lowest score in the USDA ranking was Red Lake County, MN.

His story generated a lot of comments, including many from the people of Red Lake County who encouraged him to come out for a visit. He did, and was struck by the kindness of the residents and beauty of the landscape.

As a journalist who writes about data, Ingraham wasn’t tied to any particular location. As long as he has a reliable high-speed internet connection, he can do his job and email his editor the fi nished stories. In March of this year, he announced in another story that Red Lake County had won him over, and he’d be moving there with his wife and young children. He can make this move because of high-speed broadband.

The shift to a knowledge-based economy might hurt some traditional rural industries, but as more companies embrace teleworking, employees who were forced to move to large cities to work in certain industries can keep their jobs while working remotely from rural communities.

Expanding access to broadband in rural areas is one of the key issues addressed by the Co-ops Vote program, and Ingraham’s story is just one example why.

Taking action for the future
The challenges facing rural America will not be solved by one person, one idea or one action. But on November 8, we will determine which leaders we trust to enact policies that will help small communities help themselves.

Study the issues that are critical to the future of your community. Look at the positions and backgrounds of every candidate running for every race, from the president to county road commissioner. Then join millions of fellow electric cooperative members at the polls.

The Wheels on the Bus

Admit it. You just sang “go round and round” in your head. September brings cooler temperatures, football season, and the start of a new school year accompanied by a fleet of familiar vehicles on northern Michigan roads. Recognized by their distinctive color and flashing lights, school buses transported an estimated 26.9 million students in the United States last year.

Buses can only operate with a dedicated crew of drivers, and one of the best can be found in Chippewa Hills. Kent Blackmer says the first day of school can be a bittersweet time. “Summer is over, but I see all the kids again!” Yes, Kent loves being part of the kids’ day. He feeds off their energy each morning, and Ken admits some days can be pandemonium, especially with the elementary kids. High school students, however, are surprisingly mellow, most listening to their music or reading during the trip to and from school.

A six-year veteran of the Chippewa Hills School District, Ken enjoys many laughs with the kids each day. Most know him by name. Some simply refer to him as Mr. Bus Driver. Either way, he says, the kids are “respectful and well behaved.” And the parents? "Supportive and, like most of us, happy to have an expert behind the wheel!"

While Kent enjoys driving, he says the job does have its share of stress. “You always have to be on guard. My job is to be aware. Sometimes awareness can be difficult, especially when noise levels rise or winter roads are slippery, but I can’t get distracted.” Safety is paramount. Kent insists that students follow rules on his bus. And while he can’t control other motorists on the road, he hopes drivers watch out for his big yellow bus. “Unfortunately, people do run my stop sign.” When they do, he gets a plate number and reports the driver.

School buses across the state roll out every morning and afternoon with drivers like Kent, happy to be behind the wheel. Kent said he does have an all-time favorite part of the job. “It may seem silly,” he remarked. “But I always enjoy the reaction of the family pets when they see their children coming up the driveway happy to see them come home.”

Man standing in front of bus

Back to school. A Michigan bus driver shares the joys of his job.

Is Your Ceiling Fan Spinning In the Right Direction?

Are you feeling the heat this summer? You may want to give your ceiling fan a little "direction."

If you set it with the correct fan blade direction, a ceiling fan will work tirelessly to distribute indoor air in a way that cools your room in the summer and warms it in the winter. If you adjust your thermostat accordingly, this will lower your monthly utility bills year-round.

Summer = Counterclockwise

On those hot summer days, set your ceiling fan on a counterclockwise rotation. A counterclockwise spin "turns" your ceiling fan into performing like a regular box fan, sending a rush of air downward, cooling your skin and making it seem up to eight degrees cooler than it is.

If you have multiple ceiling fans and use them to keep cool instead of using the air conditioner, then you are saving energy and saving money.

Winter = Clockwise

It may seem far off now, but winter is coming. To make a room feel warmer in the wintertime, get that fan going in a clockwise direction, on a "low" setting. This gently pushes the cool air at the bottom of your room upward, displacing the warm air near your ceiling and recirculating it to where you can feel it. This makes the room feel warmer without running your furnace, and paying for the gas, propane or electricity.

Remember These Three Things

You won’t get any benefit from your ceiling fan if you don't:

  1. Turn it on when you’re in the room
  2. Adjust the thermostat accordingly
  3. Turn it off when you’re not in the room

Ceiling fans are good at following orders. Give them the right instructions – the right spinning direction, the right speed and turn them off in unoccupied rooms – and adjust your thermostat accordingly and you could save 15% to 40% on your summer air conditioning costs and reduce your winter heating bills, too.

Ceiling fan

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