Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Environmental Surcharge FAQs
Q. What is an environmental surcharge?
A. It is a charge passed on to retail electric customers to recover the costs associated with government-mandated reductions in power plant emissions. It is a separate charge allowed by Kentucky law and authorized, review, and approved by the Kentucky Pubglis Service Commission (“PSC”). Many other utilities in Kentucky, and across the United States, have implemented this surcharge.
Q. Why is this surcharge necessary?
A. Our power supplier, East Kentucky Power Cooperative, must comply with the Federal Clean Air Act and government-mandated reductions in power plant emissions. Since 1995, EKPC has purchased and installed over $200 million in equipment to meet new emission standards. Its costs associated with meeting these new standards have climbed to $40 million a year. Up until now, EKPC has met these additional costs without a rate increase. However, due to rising costs and even more stringent environmental requirements, EKPC is no longer able to absorb these costs.
Q. Wasn’t there some other alternative to the surcharge?
A. Power plant emission standards are becoming more stringent and more costly to meet every year. Since EKPC must comply with government-mandated reductions and can no longer afford to absorb these additional costs, there really wasn’t an alternative.
Q. How will the surcharge be calculated?
A. The total amount recoverable through the environmental surcharge will vary from month to month. A surcharge percentage rate will be calculated every month and applied to the electric bill. For example, if in a given month a customer’s bill for service is $50.00 and the surcharge rate for the month is 5 percent, the surcharge will be $2.50. The amount recoverable through the surcharge is always subject to the review and approval of the PSC.
Q. What should I do first if my electric power is interrupted?
A. Before calling to report a power outage, first check the fuses and/or breaker switch in your service panel. If fuses or breakers are okay, check with your neighbors to determine if they are experiencing an outage. If you believe the trouble is not in your equipment/wiring, report the problem to Farmers RECC.
Q. What causes my lights to blink?
A. A temporary blink actually means that devices (called circuit reclosers) used by cooperatives to protect the system are operating properly. When the recloser senses a disturbance, such as a bird or small animal on the line, a tree limb touching the line or lightning, etc. it automatically and instantaneously opens and closes (trips) up to three times before stopping the flow of electricity. If the disturbance is no longer present following a trip, electricity continues to flow.
Q. Why does my neighbor have power and I don’t?
A. There may be damage to the service wires leading only to your home. These
don’t affect your neighbor’s electric supply.
Your neighbor’s home may be served by a different circuit or feed than your home, even though you’re right next door. The homes and businesses on our system are not connected in series like the dot-to-dot game you played as a child; they are connected more like a spider web.
There may also be as many as three different “hot lines” (phases) on the pole in front of your home. Your neighbor may get service from a different “hot line” than you. A problem down the street that’s affecting the same phase as your home could be keeping the power off for all homes attached to that particular “hot line.”
Q. A truck just drove right by my house and didn’t stop. How come?
A. The crew you saw was probably working on getting the backbone of the electric system repaired. Our first priority in a catastrophic outage is to get the main circuits (or trunk lines) back in operation. Not every wire out on the street is considered a main circuit. There are thousands of lines that feed off of main circuits (these feeder wires are also called “taps”). So after the main trunks are “back hot,” we start repairing taps.
After trunk lines are functioning, we make repairs that affect the most people at one time. This means repairs that affect only one or two locations will probably be last.
Q. I have underground wires to my house. Why did my power go off?
A. Even though the wires in your subdivision or from the street to your home are buried, overhead wires bring electricity to those underground wires from the substation. The distance from the substation to your subdivision could be miles.
As new homes are built, it is reasonably economical to bury the wires that serve them. But it would cost millions and millions of dollars to tear down our existing overhead lines and then re-install them underground.
Even though your power was out, your underground wiring still helped you avoid problems.
Q. I tried and tried to call and all I got was a busy signal. Do you take the phone off the hook during large outages?
A. Absolutely not. On a normal day, Farmers RECC receives a large number of calls. We are staffed to handle this volume on an efficient basis. A large outage can increase the amount of phone traffic exponentially.
During these extreme conditions, you may experience a busy signal when you call in your outage. If so, please try to contact our office again. Please have your account information ready to relay to the Farmers RECC personnel. During large outage, we use this data to help determine where to send repair crews.
Q. I’m on the priority list because of a medical condition. Why isn’t my power restored instantly?
A. Farmers RECC can’t guarantee your electric service. Things beyond our control, like ice storms, and car-power pole accidents, will always tear down power lines and disrupt the flow of electricity.
That’s why members who depend on electrical equipment for a medical necessity should always have alternate plans in place in case the power goes out for an extended amount of time. This may include a backup power source, extra medical supplies or an alternate location until the outage is over. Make sure supplies of prescription drugs are adequate and have a first-aid kit.
And even though we give these accounts priority, we still must repair the damage to the backbone of our electric system before we can turn attention to individual priority accounts.
Q. Why does the Cooperative cut trees?
A. Trees and/or tree limbs growing too close to power lines can fall during storms and break thereby, causing an outage.
Q. Where should I plant trees to avoid branches becoming entangled in power lines?
A. Taller trees, such as maples, oaks, spruces and pines, should be planted at a distance of 50 feet or more from overhead utility lines to avoid high branches overhanging the line or toppling into the line during storms. If you must plant trees within 20 feet to either side of power lines, plant species that will not exceed 25 feet in height, such as redbuds and dogwoods.
Questions About AMI
Q. What is AMI?
A. AMI is the acronym for Automated Meter Infrastructure. AMI is a method of using communications technology to transmit meter data to a central location.
Q. How does AMI work?
A. The AMI meter transmits data via power lines to the substation. The data then travels by telephone line from the substation to Farmers RECC headquarters.
Q. Why is Farmers RECC installing an AMI system?
A. The AMI system will make the cooperative run more efficiently. It will also improve members’ customer service experience and allow the cooperative to increase electric service reliability.
Q. What do the AMI meters look like?
A. The AMI meters have a digital LED screen that updates every few seconds. The screen scrolls 8’s and then flashes the digital meter reading.
Q. What is the difference between the AMI meter and my old meter?
A. The AMI meters are digital electronic devices, while your current meter is an electro-mechanical device. The AMI meters continue to display the meter reading, but it is in a digital LED format. The key difference is inside of the meter. The AMI meter contains technology that allows it to transmit energy usage data over power lines to Farmers RECC substations, which then communicate the information to the cooperative’s office.
Q. If no one has to read the meter does it still need to be accessible?
A. Yes. According to the Kentucky Public Service Commission, reasonable access to Farmers RECC facilities still must be maintained.
Q. Will someone other than Farmers RECC be able to read the meter?
A. No. The AMI system’s computer software is specially written for Farmers RECC. Someone using a home computer will not be able to read the AMI meter.
Q. On what day of the month will be meters be read?
A. The new meters will allow Farmers RECC to read them at a variety of times to obtain a history of account information for billing purposes.
Q. How secure will the AMI meter be?
A. The meter display is visible for you to see so you can check your consumption, all other information and data stored in the meter is secure and the meter is sealed.
Q. Can the cooperative disconnect power using the AMI system?
A. Not at this time. However, the new meters are compatible for the installation of technology that would allow Farmers RECC to disconnect and reconnect meters remotely.
Q. What if my bill reports more kwh usage than normal or if I think my new meter is not working correctly?
A. Contact Farmers RECC at 1-800-253-2191 right away to discuss your billing concerns.
Q.What is Green or Renewable Resource Power?
A.Green Power, or Renewable Resource Power, is electric power that is generated from sources other than “fossil fuels” (coal, natural gas, or fuel oil.) Renewable Power sources include wind, hydroelectric. Solar, geothermal (heat from below the earth’s surface), and bio-energy (wood byproducts, waste products, or landfill gas.)
Q.Why is Renewable Resource Power good?
A.Renewable energy uses existing and replenishable sources of fuel to produce energy. Many of the sources have no by-products as a result of their use, and some produce by-products that are much less harmful to the environment than if the fuel source itself remains unused and in the environment. This is particularly true of landfill gas, made up mostly of methane gas. Methane is a “green house” gas and some scientists believe it contributes significantly to global warming. By using landfill gas to produce energy, the byproducts of the combustion of this gas are much less of a concern to the environment than letting the methane escape into the atmosphere. Added to this is the positive step of using a previously untapped and wasted energy source.
Q.Does this mean that coal-based power is somehow bad?
A.No. Our power supplier, East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC), has spent millions of dollars over the past few years to reduce by-product emissions from power plants. EKPC has installed new equipment in its plants to improve efficiency and reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). In fact, sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced approximately fifty percent since 1995, and this decrease has occurred despite a significant increase in energy production during this period. New technologies such as selective catalytic reduction, coal gasification, fluidized bed boilers, and carbon storage will cut emissions even further in the future. Coal will continue to be a key component in producing affordable and clean power for many years.
Q.What is the source of the Renewable Resource power that we sell?
A.The power is produced from landfill gas utilized in East Kentucky Power’s landfill gas generation units located in various parts of the state.
Q.How do I purchase this power?
A.The power may be purchased by any member, residential to commercial, in 100 kwh blocks. This means that the minimum amount anyone can purchase is 100 kwhs. They can purchase as many blocks as they want, as long as we have the capacity available to meet our sales demand. This source of power is finite, so there might be a time when we cannot sell any further kwhs until more supply can be generated.
The price of the power is $2.75 per 100 kwh block or $0.0275 per kwh.
Every 100 kwh block of Renewable Power the member purchases adds $2.75 to their bill each month. This is known as an “EnviroWatts kwh Surcharge” and is shown as a separate line item charge on the bill.
Q.Can I arrange to have all of my kwh usage supplied by Renewable Resource power each month?
A.If the member wants to, they may purchase an amount approximately equal to their average monthly usage. The concept here is that it would work much the same way as our budget billing plan. The member’s EnviroWatts hwh surcharge would exceed their actual usage some months and be less than the actual use in other months. Over the course of a year, their Renewable power purchases should approximate their actual usage.
Q.How do I sign up?
A.Simply fill out an EnviroWatts application form, contact one of our offices, or visit our Internet web site. The power purchase contract will become effective with the member’s next bill.
Q.How long is the contract?
A.One year. It is automatically renewed unless the member chooses to cancel on the anniversary date.
Q.What if I don’t actually use as much as I have contracted for?
A.Regardless of the actual amount of energy the member uses during the billing period, they will always be obligated to pay for the Renewable energy they have contracted for.
Q.Will I actually receive the energy produced from renewable sources?
A.No. It is impossible to track the actual flow of electrons in the electrical grid. The Renewable energy contracted for by the member is purchased and placed on our system by EKPC. While the member may not actually be receiving the exact Renewable energy electrons through their meter, they are guaranteed that their commitment is generated and placed on our system, and it replaces an equal amount of energy that would ordinarily be generated by EKPC – thereby conserving natural resources.
Q.Why is there an extra cost for Renewable Resource Power?
A.Renewable Resource energy is more expensive because it costs more to produce at this time. The power is typically produced from newer and smaller facilities. The extra amount paid also helps cover our marketing/administrative costs and the development of additional green power generation.