Over the past few years, we’ve seen a spike in the number of scams targeting utility consumers’ pocketbooks. A common scheme typically begins with a caller posing as a representative of your electric cooperative; your caller ID might even show that it’s coming from your co-op.
The caller then threatens to shut off service unless you provide immediate payment using a reloadable debit card, prepaid gift card or online payment service like PayPal. That’s not the way your cooperative operates. Education and communication help reduce the number of victims, but some still fall prey.
Turn on your computer, and you’ll be greeted by even more attempts to take your hard-earned money. I’ve worked in public power for more than three decades, and I’m still amazed by the number of companies or individuals marketing energy-saving devices. Many offer legitimate products that truly help you manage and lower your energy use: programmable thermostats, energy-efficient appliances, outlet timers, etc.
There’s good reason to question a product claiming it provides “what the electric companies don’t want you to know.” The implication is that all electric utilities are out to take as much of your money as we can. The sellers have products that will lower your electric bill. You will, of course, have to use some of those promised savings to purchase the devices they’re selling. You also have to take their word that the products work.
It’s a good pitch. Everyone wants to use less electricity — including your electric cooperative.
Consumer-owned cooperatives operate on margins that don’t include paying dividends to investors. We don’t have to generate profits to increase our stock price. Every dollar taken in is used in running the system or reinvested back into the poles and wires that you own.
If there are energy-saving devices out there that can cut your electric bill, we want you to know about them. Electric cooperatives frequently give away CFL or LED lights. We provide free advice on energy efficiency. We promote geothermal heating and cooling systems that can dramatically reduce your electricity consumption. Some cooperatives even sell appliances that provide energy savings, sometimes offering rebates for their purchase. We provide incentives to contractors who build energy-efficient homes.
Do you see the theme here? We’re encouraging you to use less electricity.
This effort doesn’t stop with devices in your home. Electric cooperatives and the Tennessee Valley Authority encourage the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Though Tennessee isn’t an ideal location for wind turbines, solar panels can be located almost anywhere. Several large solar farms are already in operation or under construction in Tennessee. The price of the components for solar panels has fallen over recent years, making them increasingly affordable for homeowners.
Whether it’s a programmable thermostat or rooftop solar panels, please thoroughly research before making a purchase. As with any product or service, there are great manufacturers and some that are just looking for a way to separate you from your money.
The bottom line is that your local electric cooperative is concerned about your family’s bottom line. Our primary concern always has been keeping the lights on, but we also work hard to keep your energy affordable.
So, the next time you see the phrase, “what your utility doesn’t want you to know,” put your hand on your pocketbook.
In the meantime, ask your local electric cooperative about ways you can use less electricity.