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800-752-0025 SERVING THE SUWANNEE VALLEY OWNED BY THOSE WE SERVE 11340 100th Street • Live Oak, FL 32060
CEO’S COR NER
A historic year Michael S. McWaters Executive V.P./CEO
Happy New Year to all of our members! January is always a time for reflection, fresh starts and new resolutions. That is particularly true for Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative in 2017. As you may have noticed from the special logo above, this year SVEC celebrates its 80th anniversary as an electric cooperative. For eight decades, we have brought electricity to the people of the Suwannee Valley when the big utilities didn’t think it was worth the effort. That’s a milestone of which we are very proud. In this newsletter, you can read about how SVEC got here and what lies ahead from one of our longestserving board members, Bill Hart. His father, Clyde F. Hart, was one of the founders of the cooperative, and between the two of them, they've served our members for the cooperative’s entire 80-year history. You can also see photos that demonstrate how SVEC continues to be an important part of our community in other ways, like participating in charitable activities and local community and educational events. There are even some useful tips that can help you save on your electric bill this winter. We’re excited to celebrate this important milestone throughout 2017 as we continue to build on our successes. Cooperative electricity has grown tremendously, but it is still just as crucial to the people of rural America today as it was 80 years ago. We hope you’ll celebrate that with us. Thanks for reading.
currents January 2017
Stay warm without heating up your electric bill The colder months are a great time of year for gathering around the fire or showing off new winter coats, but for many people it’s also a time to turn the heat up in homes and offices. While it can be tempting to keep temperatures high for long hours, using that much energy can lead to surprising costs at the end of your billing cycle. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to use electricity efficiently and still stay warm. Try taking some of these easy steps and see what a difference they can make. • When you aren’t cozying up next to the fireplace, keep the damper closed. It may be out of sight, but leaving it open can still let cold air in. • Warm your home naturally by keeping the drapes or blinds open for windows that receive direct sunlight during the day. Keep them closed at night or during the
day if they don’t get direct sunlight. • Give your water heater less work to do by wrapping it and any exposed pipes that are in unconditioned spaces. The less your water heater has to run, the more money you’ll save. • Be diligent about changing your air filter each month. As it gets clogged, your home's heater has to work harder, run longer and use more electricity. • Fill in the gaps in your home by caulking around the fireplace hearth, as well as caulking or weather stripping around doors and windows. This ensures the heat in your home can’t get out and the cold outside air doesn’t get in. • Your nice winter clothes aren’t just for the outdoors. Keep the long sleeves and pants on around the house, or wrap yourself up in a warm blanket, to reduce the need to turn up the thermostat.
As a reminder, please do not attach signs or any other objects, such as lights, basketball goals, satellite dishes, etc., to electric poles. Doing so is a violation of the National Electrical Safety Code and may pose a danger to SVEC crews. Accordingly, any unauthorized objects attached to SVEC-installed poles will be removed. Tired of monthly electric bills? MyChoice Prepaid Billing makes it easy to keep track of your account balance and pay for energy as you use it. Visit svec-coop.com/mychoice.html or call 386-362-2226 to sign up today.
Bill Hart and Seminole CEO and General Manager Lisa Johnson cut the ribbon at the new solar facility.
Lighting the way How SVEC brought power to the Suwannee Valley In the months between the summer of 1936 and the end of 1937, Clyde F. Hart spent much of his time trying to convince his neighbors throughout Lafayette County of the impact electricity would have on their lives. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just signed the Rural Electrification Act in May 1936,
but hard work was still ahead for the men and women who would become the charter members of Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative’s board of trustees. “They traveled all over the county, he and Madison Smith and Eula Fletcher, but ran into quite a bit of opposition,” recalls Bill Hart, Clyde Hart’s son and a member of the
SVEC board since his father’s death in 1989. “It may seem surprising that some people would not put up the money for membership, but it cost $5 to become a member, and back then that was hard to come by.” For a year and a half, they spread the word about the benefits of electricity, and by Dec. 29, 1937, they had enough members to sign
SVEC's original service area covered only 69 members, but in just 10 years membership grew to more than 2,900.
the articles of incorporation and establish Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative. By 1940, the cooperative’s first lines were energized. That year, SVEC served just 69 members, but it had already begun revolutionizing life in rural Florida.
LIGHT IN THE DARK
While many large cities had access to electric light shortly after Thomas Edison built the first central station electric system in lower Manhattan in 1882, rural Americans remained largely in the dark for decades. For major utilities, building power lines to reach sparsely populated areas wasn’t worth the investment. “If you lived along a big highway, if you lived in Mayo or Branford, they would drop a line to you,” Hart says. “But if you were over a certain distance away, they wouldn’t bother with you because it was too expensive.” The Rural Electrification Act made it possible for cooperatives to provide electricity to regions the major power companies would not. The importance of cooperative electricity was evident to Bill Hart from the first moment he saw electric light in action when he was 7 years old. Before that, the only way he could do his homework after sunset was with a kerosene lamp in hand. “Lights were the first thing we got; I remember very well the first switch I pulled,” he says. “Seeing how we could light up the dining room and the living room with just one bulb surprised all of us.” Electric lighting was transformative, as it meant the hours of rural life were no longer
Bill Hart has served on the SVEC board since 1989, following in his father Clyde’s footsteps.
Clyde F. Hart helped found SVEC, serving on the board from its inception in 1937 until 1989.
dictated by sunrise and sunset, but it was far from the only life-changing improvement. In fact, while his mother most enjoyed the electric stove that replaced her old woodburning oven, it was a secondhand electric water pump that made the most difference to the young Bill Hart. “That kept me from having to pump water by hand for the animals we had or tote buckets of water into the house,” he says.
in technology and safety but believes the biggest change might just be a program that launched last year: Cooperative Solar. The new program lets members purchase blocks of solar energy generated by Seminole and apply the electricity generated from it to their account each month, allowing those who want to explore solar energy to participate without saddling members who aren’t interested with the cost of the system. And with pressure mounting to shut down coal-fired plants, Hart believes alternate sources of electricity like solar and gas-fired plants will become even more important as cooperatives face the energy challenges of the future. But while energy sources and technology may have changed drastically since SVEC was first incorporated, there are some constants that remain unchanged. Membership in the cooperative still costs $5, a much more affordable sum today than when Clyde Hart first went door-to-door convincing people to join. Members are still able to elect a board they trust to represent their interests. Perhaps most importantly, cooperatives are still looking out for the rural corners of this country that the big utilities don’t consider worth the expense. That’s a responsibility that Hart, like his father, takes very seriously. “These farmers and people in our area are very dependent on SVEC, even today,” he says. “Affordable electricity is a necessity for people in rural areas. So we’re trying to keep everything in check to make sure SVEC can keep serving our people.”
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Anyone who had been reluctant to pay for cooperative membership quickly changed their mind once they saw the benefits of electricity for themselves. SVEC began to grow quickly, stalled only by the United States’ entry into World War II. By 1947, its coverage area had grown to a point where two additional board members were needed to represent new districts. In 1950, 10 years after the cooperative had energized its first lines, SVEC served more than 2,900 rural farms and homes. Over the following decades, Clyde Hart continued to serve as a member of the board as board president and even on the board of Seminole Electric Cooperative, SVEC’s wholesale power provider. In 1989, remembering the way electric power changed his life as a young boy, Bill Hart took up his father’s mantle on the board and has continued the legacy of service to cooperative electricity. He has served as secretary, vice president and current president of the Seminole Electric board. In 2010, he was elected to the Florida Electric Cooperative Association. He has seen tremendous developments
Safety Safety Member Experience MemberExperience Outreach OutreachtotoCommunity Community Reliability Reliability Economic EconomicViability Viability
Outreach to Community SVEC is proud to support our members through charitable activities and participation in educational and community service events. Top row, left to right: Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch Career Day, Lions Club Golf Fundraiser. Bottom row, left to right: Recognition for donations made to United Way, State Capital Youth Tour, Live Oak Christmas Parade float.
Strong financial results benefit members SVEC outperformed its financial management goals in 2016, and, as a result, a total of $506,981.71 was returned to our member-owners in the form of an increased Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment (WPCA) credit in December bills. The return is an example of how our members benefit from the third cooperative principle — Economic Participation of Owners. The economic benefits of SVEC’s operations are reinvested in the co-op, used to provide owner services, or returned to our owners.
New on SmartHub: Report outdoor light problems At SVEC, we work to ensure that outdoor lights are repaired quickly when problems occur. Now, members can report an inoperable or malfunctioning street or area light by logging into SmartHub and clicking on the “Contact Us” icon and then on “AREA LIGHT ISSUE.” Reports can also be made by submitting a form at www.svec-coop. com or by calling SVEC Member Services at 386-
362-2226 or 800-447-4509 during office hours. Members who report a malfunctioning outdoor light will receive confirmation by email or phone that their report was received and that a technician will be scheduled to make the repair. Members registered for SmartHub can track the status of their repair order using the mobile app.
Sign up for SmartHub and win a Kindle Fire! Thinking about taking advantage of SmartHub’s easy tracking of usage, outages and repairs? Members who sign up from Jan. 15-Feb. 15 will be automatically entered in a drawing to win an Amazon Kindle Fire. Scan the QR codes below to sign up today! To access the SmartHub app on an iPhone or iPad, simply scan this QR code with your device.
To access the SmartHub app on an Android device, simply scan this QR code with your device.