Johnson County Rural Electric Corporation
Writer & Photographer / Jim Eichelman
If you live in Johnson County or own a business here, it is likely that you receive your electric service from Johnson County REMC (JCREMC). We all receive bills, write checks and maybe gripe if the power goes out. Nevertheless, the JCREMC goes quietly about the business of providing reliable energy to heat and cool our homes and businesses, cook our meals, light our homes and power our gadgets.
But what do you really know about the JCREMC and what they can do to help make your life better and maybe a little less expensive? REMC is an acronym for Rural Electric Membership Corporation. Our REMC is a power distribution cooperative whose mission is “to provide reliable, competitively price utility services to its customers and the community.”
A Bit of an Explanation
If we look closely at the name, a few things stand out. First, it says Rural. What the heck? Large portions of Johnson County, especially the areas where our readers live, are no longer rural. The Center Grove and Greenwood areas are decidedly suburban, along with other growing communities such as Bargersville.
However, when incorporated in December 1935, the area served by JCREMC was primarily rural and agricultural. The large urban electric utilities found that providing electric service to such areas did not meet their profitability threshold, so they said “no thanks.” This left large unserved geographic areas in much of Indiana. Roosevelt’s New Deal created Rural Electric Membership Corporations (REMC) to meet that need.
Second, the letter “M” in the REMC acronym stands for “Membership.” That means you are not a customer but a member. You share ownership in the JCREMC with over 21,000 other members.
The JCREMC is a not-for-profit corporation whose board of directors is made up of members of the cooperative. Therefore, JCREMC is not focused on satisfying a remote group of stockholders whose only interest is profitability. They answer to members whose interest is the delivery of reasonably priced, reliable electric service.
The JCREMC is a “power distribution cooperative.” They have no power generating capabilities themselves.
JCREMC purchases its power from Hoosier Energy, a Bloomington-headquartered generation and transmission cooperative that provides wholesale electric power and services to 18 member distribution cooperatives, like JCREMC, in central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois. Hoosier Energy generates the electricity and sends it to Johnson County. Our JCREMC then is responsible for getting it to consumers.
The JCREMC strives to maintain competitive pricing. Communication Manager Sandy Thompson believes that they are price competitive with the large, urban power utilities, even though they serve considerably fewer members per mile of power line than their larger counterparts.
Money Saving Opportunities
However, competitive pricing is not the only way the JCREMC can make life more affordable. They have programs and incentives that can save you money!
Do you know that the JCREMC has an “online store” (jcremc.com/rebates) where you can order energy efficient CFL and LED light bulbs and receive a rebate? They apply the rebate at the time of purchase; none of that mail-in rebate nonsense here.
There are also rebate programs for energy saving improvements you make to your home. The JCREMC provides rebates for adding insulation to your attic (certain restrictions and limitations apply). Another program is a duct-sealing rebate. Air leakage in a home’s duct system can be a significant contributor to increased energy costs, particularly in older homes. Rebates provided for sealing air ducts in your home can significantly offset the cost of this energy and cost saving improvement.
The JCREMC also offers rebates for installation of energy efficient heating and cooling units. If you are anticipating replacement of your furnace or air conditioner, you should check out the rebates available for these investments.
While the JCREMC provides higher rebates in their programs if you live in an all-electric home, their smaller rebates can be combined with rebates from natural gas providers (such as Vectren) if your home and/or water is heated by fossil fuels.
Combining these rebates makes such improvements more affordable and reduces the amount of time to reach the break-even point on your investment. John Gates, director of member services, also recommends researching state and federal tax credits to determine if your improvement is eligible.
Improving Technology and Service
Some of the activities of the JCREMC that will improve your life may be virtually invisible to you, the member. For more than 10 years, all electric meters of JCREMC members have utilized radio frequency technology to transmit usage data.
Meter reading is done with a “drive by” method where a JCREMC employee uses a device (that looks a lot like a walkie-talkie) to scan usage data from a distance. There is no longer a need for the reader to approach your house. This reduces the time required for meter data collection significantly, thus reducing expenses.
In the near future, every JCREMC member will receive a brand new meter on their home or business, which will communicate your usage data directly back to the operations center in Franklin over a wireless network referred to as Wi-Max. This will eliminate the need for any “meter reading” at all.
There are several benefits to this new technology. First, it will eliminate the expensive practice of having JCREMC personnel travel the county to collect usage data. Second, your usage data will be available to you via the SmartHub. The SmartHub can be accessed through the JCREMC website or using a special app available for your smartphone or tablet. You can perform tasks such as paying your bill, setting up recurring payments or reporting outages online. Reviewing usage data will allow you to determine if you can move certain activities to non-peak times and lower your electrical costs.
Finally, JCREMC operations personnel will be able to monitor the power grid in Johnson County in real time, resulting in quicker recognition of outages and almost instantaneous reconnects when needed. According to John Gates, this conversion is more than 30 percent complete, and implementation should be complete by early 2016.
If you want to know more about JCREMC programs and services, visit their website at jcremc.com.