Along Those Lines

NRECA's monthly podcast is focused on the important stories from across co-op country about the issues that matter most to rural America and the energy industry.

Season 3 Episodes

Nov. 8, 2021: As co-ops face workforce challenges due to retirements and changes in the industry’s key technologies, military veterans rotating out of active duty and into civilian life bring training and expertise that’s often ideally suited to co-ops’ needs. Hear from three veterans who served their country and now focus their skills on their communities as co-op employees, and learn about the Vets Power Us program from NRECA’s Desiree Dunham, who manages this effort to help veterans explore co-op careers.
This episode is sponsored by Milwaukee Tool.

Oct. 19, 2021: With the influx of electric vehicles into the U.S. market, utilities—including electric cooperatives—and other interests are working to build EV infrastructure that can keep pace with the expected demand, and this growing web of connected charging stations will create a host of new cybersecurity vulnerabilities. To learn more about what those vulnerabilities are and how to mitigate them, we’re joined by Shannon Murry with the FBI’s Cyber Division along with NRECA’s Brian Sloboda.
This episode is sponsored by Meridian Cooperative.

Oct. 11, 2021: Ransomware became a household word earlier this year when the Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel delivery source on the East Coast, was shut down for several days after hackers attacked its billing system. With these highly disruptive and costly network intrusions on the rise, how can electric co-ops avoid becoming victims of this sophisticated malware? And what should they do if they are attacked? Hear from NRECA’s Ryan Newlon as well as Dave Eisenreich, an FBI special agent in the Cyber Division.
This episode is sponsored by Meridian Cooperative.

Sept. 28, 2021: Typically, when a state is hit with a natural disaster and the power grid is impacted, utilities will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild to where the grid was before the event. Lately though, electric co-ops have been working to secure federal reimbursements for restorations that go further to harden their system and create more resilience. Learn more from Mike Heinen, general manager of Jeff Davis Electric Co-op in southwest Louisiana, and Martha Duggan, NRECA’s senior regulatory issues director.
This episode is sponsored by PLP.

Aug. 24, 2021: As utilities have deployed new connected technologies to monitor the grid, the need for strong cybersecurity on the operations technology side has grown exponentially. NRECA worked with co-ops and other partners to develop the Essence tool, which began as an innovative way to quickly identify anomalies on downline systems and evolved to become a robust method for detection, visualization and reporting of potential cyberattacks. Learn more about Essence from Emma Stewart, NRECA’s chief scientist.
This episode is sponsored by IPKeys.

July 26, 2021: The concepts of emotional intelligence and soft skills in the workplace have been around for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought them to the forefront. As electric cooperatives assess how they’ve managed the challenges of the past 18 months, how have lessons they’ve learned informed business practices going forward? Hear from NRECA’s Tracey Steiner and Charlie Dunn, CEO of Farmers Electric Cooperative in Greenfield, Iowa.
This episode is sponsored by LDR Leadership.

June 22, 2021: The electric utility industry has recently been moving in the direction of renewable generation. Solar has found widespread adoption, with a broad mix of installations, while wind power has been nearly all at utility scale. Now, the Department of Energy is working to change that with a new program called RADWIND. In this episode, we go inside this initiative with Michael Leitman, NRECA’s system optimization director, and Aaron Ruschy, VP of operations and engineering at Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative.
This episode is sponsored by RE Magazine.

May 25, 2021: When an unprecedented Arctic blast and winter storm hit the Midwest and South in February, Texans faced days of outages and crippling power supply shortages. What happened in Texas, why was it so much worse there than in other states, and what can we learn from this situation? Hear from Mike Williams, CEO of Texas Electric Cooperatives, as well as Mark Jones, who was part of a University of Houston research team that surveyed Texas power consumers in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
This episode is sponsored by Milsoft Utility Solutions.

April 22, 2021: NRECA’s Achieving Cooperative Community Equitable Solar Sources project, a three-year initiative funded by the Department of Energy, aims to bring the benefits of solar into low- and moderate-income communities. NRECA is partnering with seven co-ops across the country to deploy solar projects that help LMI consumer-members and share the lessons they learn. Hear from ACCESS principal investigator and technical adviser Deb Roepke, NRECA’s Keith Dennis and Oklahoma Electric Cooperative’s Nick Shumaker.
This episode is sponsored by Today’s Power Inc.

March 23, 2021: The bulk of the electric cooperative workforce has traditionally been filled by men due to the nature of the work that co-ops do. But over time, women have been stepping into more and more jobs across the industry spectrum. In honor of Women’s History Month, hear from several of the women making strides and taking on leadership positions in the co-op world: Amanda Opp of Flathead Electric Cooperative, Libby Calnon of Hood River Electric Cooperative and Janet Rehberg of Tri-County Electric Cooperative.
This episode is sponsored by CoBank.

Season 2 Episodes

Feb. 23, 2021: The need to close America’s digital divide is as crucial as ever, and the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund stands to have a huge impact, with billions in funding for deploying broadband to unserved communities. NRECA’s Brian O’Hara and NRTC’s Greg Santoro break down how the RDOF auction works and outline concerns about winning bidders with unproven technologies, and Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative’s Rachel Hauser gives the perspective from a co-op that’s looking to use RDOF funding to make major progress in its broadband efforts.
This episode is sponsored by Power & Tel.

Jan. 26, 2021: With a new Congress and new administration in place, how will co-ops engage with the government on their policy priorities—from the immediate COVID-19 health and economic crises to infrastructure to climate policy? Hear from Stacey Alexander, a former congressional staffer and now a political and policy consultant with the firm Subject Matter, and Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president of government relations.
This episode is sponsored by Sunrise Energy Ventures.

Dec. 14, 2020: When NRECA President Curtis Wynn took office, he set out to focus on how co-ops can navigate the rapid pace of change in our industry. This platform took on new meaning in 2020 with a heightened focus on racial inequality in America. As he approaches the end of his two-year term, Wynn chats with us about diversity, equity and inclusion in the co-op workforce and reflects on how the industry is managing change and innovation.
This episode is sponsored by NRTC.

Nov. 16, 2020: The proliferation of sensors and other downline devices means electric cooperatives now have access to mountains of system data. During the 2020 NRECA TechAdvantage Conference and Expo, NRECA’s Venkat Banunarayanan and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative‘s John Hewa discussed how co-ops are using that data to improve reliability, plan for the future and better serve their members.
This episode is sponsored by IPKeys.

Oct. 6, 2020: In celebration of National Co-op Month, we talk to electric cooperative employees whose routine workdays turned into lifesaving rescue missions as they came to the aid of community members. Crew members describe rescuing a woman trapped in a flooded creek in Tennessee, pulling two men from a fiery armored truck crash in Missouri, and saving an older resident from his burning Mississippi home.
This episode is sponsored by Hubbell.

Sept. 16, 2020: The beneficial electrification movement—using electricity to replace fossil fuels for everything from mowing your lawn to powering your car—has gained momentum and led to the formation of the Beneficial Electrification League. With chapters in states across the country and a national board, the league’s mission is to increase understanding of electrification’s economic, consumer and environmental benefits. The league’s co-chair, Gary Connett, formerly of Great River Energy, and Tri-State G&T CEO Duane Highley, who heads its Colorado chapter, chat with us about their goals for the group and how co-ops are getting involved.
This episode is sponsored by NRTC.

Aug. 6, 2020: Wildfires have caused massive destruction in Western states and across the country during recent summers. Electric cooperatives reduce fire risk by maintaining rights of way and keeping equipment up to date, but their efforts are often complicated by the need to coordinate with multiple government agencies that oversee federal lands. We talk to NRECA Regulatory Issues Director Janelle Lemen, Dave Markham, CEO of Central Electric Cooperative in Oregon, and the U.S. Forest Service’s Jim Menakis about how these partnerships work and how they plan to make them better.
This episode is sponsored by OFS.

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Part Two:

July 7, 2020: As local and national campaigns gear up across the country, electric cooperatives work to ensure their consumer-members are informed of the issues that matter most to rural communities and have the opportunity to make their voices heard at the polls. In this two-part episode, we talk first to NRECA’s Laura Vogel and Nonprofit Vote’s Brian Miller about national initiatives and resources for co-ops and possible changes to the election process. In part two, Stephanie Johnson of Jasper County REMC in Indiana describes what these efforts look like on the ground in her rural service territory.
This episode is sponsored by Hubbell Utility Solutions and NRTC.

June 9, 2020: Electric cooperatives across the South have already seen massive storm damage across their systems, and the 202 hurricane season is just now getting started. When outages are too much for one co-op to handle, neighboring co-ops from within their state and across state lines are quick to lend a helping hand. Experts talk us through how co-op mutual aid is coordinated and what it looks like on the ground, even with the added challenges of a global pandemic.
This episode is sponsored by OFS.

May 20, 2020: Electric cooperatives, by their very nature, are accustomed to dealing with disruptions large and small. But the landscape for managing crises is changing dramatically. Stephen Bell, NRECA’s senior director for media and public relations, and Bill Coletti, CEO of the reputation management firm Kith, talk us through their advice on how to plan for, respond to and recover from events that interrupt our normal course of business.
This episode is sponsored by G&T Communications.

April 21, 2020: While many Americans are working remotely to curb the spread of coronavirus, cooperative line crews and broadband technicians are essential workers, keeping members connected to power and internet. We talk to an expert at Great River Energy, a generation and transmission co-op in Minnesota, about how his co-op is maintaining the electric grid while keeping crews safe and cybersecurity tight. Then we hear from leaders at SEMO Electric Cooperative in Missouri and Jackson Electric Cooperative in Texas about safety measures for staff and meeting the challenge of growing demand for co-op broadband.
This episode is sponsored by Ribbon.

March 20, 2020: With the American workplace changing dramatically due to new technologies and generational shifts, how are electric co-ops adapting while facing additional challenges unique to their rural environments? Hear from Cheryl Cran, a workplace and leadership expert, and Holly Wetzel, NRECA’s senior director for marketing and member communications.
This episode is sponsored by Sensus, a Xylem brand.

Feb. 14, 2020: More and more electric utilities are deploying large battery systems to store power, but it’s a technology that’s still very much in its infancy. How are co-ops integrating storage, and how are they using it to serve their members? Hear from NRECA’s Jan Ahlen about the state of this key technology and from Anza Electric Cooperative’s Kevin Short and AEPCO’s Barry Brown about a joint utility-scale storage project to help Anza battle resiliency challenges.
This episode is sponsored by Power & Tel.

Jan. 10, 2020: We’re kicking off the election year by delving into the critical role of rural voters: What issues are important to constituents in electric co-op territories, and what are co-ops doing to make sure their voices are heard? Hear from NRECA Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Connor and pollster Keith Frederick on what to expect in terms of political engagement in co-op country this year.
This episode is sponsored by CoBank.

Dec. 18, 2019: Advancing Energy Access for All, a new NRECA initiative, focuses on low- and moderate-income households who are at risk of being left out of some of the latest advances on the grid. Hear from NRECA’s Adaora Ifebigh, who oversees the initiative, as well as Tony Anderson, CEO of Cherryland Electric Cooperative in Michigan, which has several programs aimed at helping members in need.

Nov. 12, 2019: Midwestern farmers faced devastating flooding last spring, with recovery efforts still ongoing. Nebraska farm owners Kristi and Drew Wolfe give a firsthand look at what it’s been like to cope with this disaster. Kim Christiansen, who was GM of the Nebraska Rural Electric Association before joining NRECA, discusses the overall impact in Nebraska, and Sam McDonald of NRECA’s legislative team sheds light on efforts to shape federal flood mitigation priorities.

Oct. 15, 2019: Season 2 of Along Those Lines kicks off with a look at co-ops’ role in protecting the national electric grid. Hear from Co-Mo Electric Cooperative’s Ryan Newlon, who works with the National Guard on projects that examine real-life threats and defense strategies for cybersecurity, and NRECA’s Barry Lawson, who discusses how co-ops work with key government agencies on cybersecurity.
This episode is sponsored by Sensus, a Xylem brand.

Season 1 Episodes

Sept. 10, 2019: An unintended consequence of the 2017 federal tax law is threatening electric co-ops’ tax-exempt status. NRECA’s Louis Finkel explains why it’s vital for Congress to pass the RURAL Act to fix this issue, and two co-op leaders discuss the impact of the tax dilemma firsthand: Tim Johnson of Otsego Electric Cooperative in New York and Scott Reimer of Federated Electric Cooperative in Minnesota.
This episode is sponsored by CoBank.

Aug. 20, 2019: With access to health care diminishing in many of the country’s rural areas, hear from three co-op leaders who are prioritizing programs to get critical care to members of their communities: David Lambert of Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, Shawn Taylor of the Wyoming Rural Electric Association and Geoff Oldfather of Arizona G&T Cooperatives.

July 18, 2019: If you work in the energy industry or follow its developments, you’re probably familiar with the term “beneficial electrification.” But do you really understand what it means? Get the full rundown from NRECA’s Keith Dennis, Jeff Haase of Great River Energy in Minnesota and Sam Adair of Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative in Illinois.
This episode is sponsored by Sensus, a Xylem brand.

June 14, 2019: NRECA President Curtis Wynn first entered the electric cooperative world as a teenager. Now, he’s charged with leading co-ops across the country through the challenges of a changing industry. Hear from Wynn on everything from his early career track—where his passion for community development came into focus—to his plans for helping co-ops navigate new consumer expectations and grid modernization.

May 14, 2019: The monarch butterfly is in trouble, with its numbers in decline for the last few decades, its habitat rapidly disappearing, and an Endangered Species Act listing on the horizon. We’re joined by NRECA’s Janelle Lemen and Stephanie Crawford along with Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Brad Foss to discuss the challenges the monarch faces and the steps co-ops are taking to save this iconic species.

April 16, 2019: As we spend April honoring lineworkers, it’s time to zero in on safety and what it takes to ensure that crews don’t come into contact with live lines. Heath Martin, a co-op safety director, shares the harrowing story of a mistake early in his career as a lineworker that could have cost him his life. We’re also joined by safety experts from NRECA and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange.

March 15, 2019: As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we take you behind the scenes with a woman who’s making her way in a male-dominated industry. Hear the story of Kaitlyn Vaillancourt, a 21-year-old apprentice lineworker at Pedernales Electric Cooperative near Austin, Texas—the only woman among the co-op’s 200 lineworkers.

Feb. 12, 2019: What is the evolving grid—and what does it mean for how we’ll consume electricity in the future? We’re joined by three experts to zero in on how electric co-ops are leading this trend: NRECA’s Jim Spiers, Patty Richards from Washington Electric Cooperative in Vermont, and Lee Ragsdale from North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

Jan. 15, 2019: With a new year and a new Congress, what will emerge as key policy issues for co-ops in 2019? We’re joined by Kirk Johnson and John Cassady of NRECA’s government relations department to discuss how the association works with members of Congress and their staffs to represent co-op interests, and what to expect on issues ranging from infrastructure to distributed energy resources.

Dec. 11, 2018: Changes in the rural population over recent decades have left many Main Streets across America looking like ghost towns. What factors can help reverse that trend in the coming years? We’re joined by NRECA’s Jeffrey Connor, Zack Mannheimer, a proponent of “creative placemaking,” and Midland Power Cooperative’s Norm Fandel to discuss community development and revitalizing small towns.

Nov. 8, 2018: For electric co-ops, the chance to play a role in bridging the digital divide brings a major opportunity to have lasting impacts on their communities. We’re joined by two rural broadband experts, Mike Keyser, CEO of BARC Electric Cooperative, and Brian O’Hara, regulatory issues director for NRECA’s government relations team, to talk about the key issues co-ops face in pursuing broadband projects.

Oct. 1, 2018: From the farmer at the end of the rural road to the commuters traveling the interstates to and from the suburbs, every electric cooperative consumer-member has a vote on Election Day. In the debut episode of NRECA’s Along Those Lines podcast, NRECA CEO Jim Matheson reinforces the value of each one of those votes.

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