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MES there for you when power is not

When the lights go out, whom do you call?

If you’re a customer of McMinnville Electric System, company officials probably know your power has failed before you reach for your phone.

Thanks to advanced technology and remote-readable smart meters, MES technicians have instant electronic notice that the power is out at a particular street address, according to Rodney Boyd, CEO and general manager of the publicly owned distributor of electricity generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Boyd is fond of telling the story of a McMinnville family that left on vacation, not to return home until the next weekend. On Monday of that week, a squirrel got itself caught on high-voltage terminals — a frequent cause of brief outages — and cut power to the house. MES crews were dispatched immediately to restore service while the vacationing customer remained unaware of the power interruption.

“Can you imagine what it would have been like for that family to come home to a darkened house and opened the refrigerator?” he asked.

That home’s smart meter is an essential part of the smart grid, a concept for such devices and other technologies to become standard equipment across the nation. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, now making its way through Congress, earmarks $65 billion to upgrading and modernizing the nation’s electric power delivery system.  That proposed expenditure would be an offset against the estimated $70 billion in economic losses suffered every year due to power outages, according to the White House.

In its all-out push for the legislation, the Biden Administration points out that the jobs created by the massive legislation can’t be shipped offshore. The construction of new power lines, renewable energy generating plants, highways, bridges, ports and water systems have to be built on-site, spinning up high-wage employment in communities of all sizes.

Tennessee State University professor Frances Williams discusses aspects of the Infrastructure Bill when she appears this week in a FOCUS interview on McMinnville public radio WCPI 91.3 FM. The half-hour conversation airs Tuesday at 5 p.m., Wednesday at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 a.m.