LCEC – Lee County Electric Cooperative

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Copper Theft – It’s not worth it!

Copper Theft – It’s not worth it!

Whether you live in rural Southwest Florida surrounded by produce farms and cattle or in the suburbs of a larger city, copper theft is a crime running rampant throughout the state and country, affecting electric utilities throughout Florida. As copper prices have increased, so have copper thefts. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) estimates that there are more than 50,000 copper thefts from electric utilities alone each year in the U.S. Not only is copper theft illegal, it poses serious public safety concerns, and could impact LCEC’s ability to provide affordable and reliable electricity.

Electric substations are dangerous and could be deadly for anyone who is not a trained LCEC employee. Someone unfamiliar with a functioning substation, full of energized electrical wires and electrically charged equipment, is vulnerable to making a fatal mistake. The ESFI estimates approximately 35 people die every year from attempted copper theft. Replacement wire and repairs affect the cost of doing business for utilities, and depending on the amount of damage, if any, that occurred to electric equipment during the theft, electric service may be disrupted. 

In an effort to deter this crime, Florida’s electric cooperatives successfully promoted a copper theft bill in the Florida legislature that was signed into law in 2012, and amended in 2013 to make the penalties more severe. Today, copper thieves in Florida could receive a prison sentence of up to 30 years, as well as a fine up to $10,000. In addition, once inside the substation, copper thieves can be prosecuted for trespassing on private property, which is owned by the electric cooperative.

What can you, the Member consumer, do to help LCEC? If you notice or suspect any unusual activity at an LCEC substation, or any other electric facility, call your local law enforcement or 239-656-2300 to report a possible crime. By supporting Florida’s zero tolerance for copper theft, you will not only be helping your electric cooperative, but you may be saving a life.

Electricity – easy as a flip of the switch!

Whether it is your ceiling fan keeping you cool or your cell phone being charged, you are regularly using electricity. The demand for power means constant generation and transmission, making the flow of electricity an ongoing task. Considering all the steps in delivering electricity, you will find it is not as simple as flipping a switch, but LCEC makes sure that it is that easy for you.

LCEC does not generate electricity but purchases electricity from Florida Power & Light. They utilize several fuel sources, including renewable energy. Since electricity must be used as soon as it is generated, it is immediately transfered through bulk transmission lines at high voltage, usually 230,000 volts. Using high-voltage transmission enables large amounts of electricity to travel long distances to the location of where it is needed.

The U.S. electric transmission grid is a complex network of more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission line. Visually, the grid resembles a high-powered spider web spanning the country, delivering electricity from power plants to homes and businesses. The electric transmission system in Peninsular Florida currently has approximately 16,000 miles of transmission line rated from 69,000 volts up to 500,000 volts.

Traveling at nearly the speed of light, electricity flows through high voltage transmission lines until reaching “step-down transformers,” where the voltage is reduced, usually down to 69,000 volts or less. After the electricity is further reduced, it is transferred to smaller distribution lines that travel safely from LCEC to your home or business.  LCEC owns and maintains nearly 7.000 miles of distribution line throughout its territory. Lastly, voltage is decreased for residential use, typically 120 volts or 240 volts. The energy passes through your meter, tracking the electricity you use. This usage is reflected as “kilowatts used” on your monthly bill and considering the journey it took to get to you, the value is pretty good.


The Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) awarded Laura Puerto, APR, senior public relations specialist at Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC), with the distinguished Doris Fleischman Unsung Hero Award at their 76th Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla. on Aug. 12, 2014. The award honors the heretofore unrecognized contributions an individual FPRA member has made to the public relations profession and the organization.

Puerto has served as the senior public relations specialist at LCEC for the past 11 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Gulf Coast University. Puerto has been a member of the Southwest Florida Chapter of FPRA for 11 years and has volunteered her time, including serving on the board of directors for 10 consecutive years. Puerto was honored by the Southwest Florida Chapter of FPRA as the Rising Star in 2007, Chapter Member of the Year in 2009 and Unsung Hero in 2013.

The Doris Fleischman Award was established to honor the achievements and contributions of Doris Fleischman, business partner and wife of Edward L. Bernays, the “father” of public relations. In essence, this is an “unsung” hero award, intended to reward that individual who consistently provides support and assistance to the organization. The award recognizes those FPRA members, who, like Fleischman, make contributions to the field of public relations through their consistent, tireless efforts. The award is meant to honor a member for his/her “behind-the-scenes” work and FPRA volunteer efforts that go unnoticed by chapter members and are not recognized by other awards programs.

The Florida Public Relations Association was founded in 1938 and is the oldest public relations organization in the United States. FPRA is dedicated to developing public relations practitioners who, through ethical and standardized practices, enhance the public relations profession in Florida. The Southwest Florida Chapter of FPRA is dedicated to programs and activities for public relations professionals in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. For additional information, please visit the Southwest Florida Chapter of FPRA website at or Like Us on Facebook at

Ten Years Later…LCEC Remembers Hurricane Charley Restoration

On Friday, August 13, 2004, LCEC came face to face with the most powerful storm to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Southwest Floridians watched as Charley churned in the Gulf of Mexico and took a turn to the east that brought the storm to our doorstep. As Charley’s 145 mph winds tore through Southwest Florida, a path of damaged homes, broken trees and downed power lines was left in the aftermath. More than 150,000 of LCEC’s then 169,000 customers were in the dark. LCEC employees, line crews, contract crew and tree trimmers worked tirelessly in the days to follow to reenergize the community. Over five relentless days of restoration, employees witnessed images that will forever echo in their minds. Each with a job to play in restoration, LCEC’s 345 employees watched as the CEO mopped the floor to ensure safety, as the CFO helped prepare meals for delivery to line crews and as hundreds of co-workers used their storm training to keep do their part to get the lights back on. Employees were anxious to report to begin working to restore power to the community, even the 24 who had completely lost their homes in the storm. On the toughest, hottest of days, we will forever remember the image of linemen who were welcomed into neighborhoods by residents so thankful for their hard work and dedication that they brought out refreshments and even lightened their spirits with rousing applause. Together, LCEC employees weathered Hurricane Charley with patience, perseverance and genuine concern for all those customers impacted by the storm. As we continually practice and refine our restoration plan, we proudly look back at Charley and remember the overwhelming joy we felt when all of our customers had their power restored. It is a feeling that no LCEC employee will forget.

By the numbers:
150,000 customers without power
50,000 calls addressed in contact center
1000+ poles replace
500 LCEC and contract line crews and tree trimmers from around the nation
384 consecutive hours the contact center was staffed during Charley
345 dedicated employees who worked around the clock to restore power
250+ thank you letters and yard signs from LCEC customers
46 media inquiries per day
24+ employee homes completely devastated during Charley
7 tractor trailers of Gatorade for thirsty line crews

An Integrated Business Planning Energizes the Future for LCEC Customers

LCEC has been utilizing a formalized strategic planning process for more than 20 years. The practice has evolved over the years to a pretty sophisticated process today. Chief Executive Oofficer Dennie Hamilton currently champions the effort and Chief Financial Officer Denise Vidal facilitates the initiative.

Four sessions are held annually in preparation for the following 3-5 year time span. The leadership team participates in each two-day session led by a nationally renowned strategy expert Richard Chang. Employees throughuot the organization and customers provide input to guide the team during planning sessions.

The year-end deliverables  are Strategic Priorities supported by Business  Objectives supported by Cross-Function Projects and Department Initiatives (ready in time for implementation the following year).

Once the annual plan is finalized, a State of LCEC meeting is held for all employees. This is critical so that each employee is aware of the plan and they have opportunities to ask questions and provide input. Employee receive a copy of the Corporate Scorecard that serves as a quick reference to the plan after they leave the meeting. Employees look forward to the meetings every year. It keeps them involved, engaged and informed.

Although the Strategic Priorities may change from year to year the LCEC mission remains consistent: providing efficient, reliable, cost competitive electricity and quality service to customer!


LCEC Honored as Fit-Friendly Worksite by American Heart Association

For the second year in a row, LCEC was honored through the American Heart Association Fit-Friendly Worksite program. LCEC was recognized at the Gold Level, which means that the company: offers employees physical activity at the worksite, has increased number of healthy eating options available to employees, promotes a wellness culture onsite and embraces at least nine criteria outlined by the American Heart Association in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and culture.

As a Fit-Friendly Worksite, LCEC is considered a corporate trailblazer who has adopted the spirit of the initiative and has the vision to improve the health and wellness of employees and their families.


Established in 1940, LCEC is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative serving Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Marco Island, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Pine Island, Everglades City, Immokalee, Ave Maria, and parts of Lehigh Acres. LCEC is committed to providing efficient, reliable, cost-competitive electric and emerging energy solutions and excellent service to our customers. LCEC is also a major contributor to the local economy as one of the largest employers in Lee County with nearly 400 employees and by its support of many local agencies through charitable giving, volunteerism and environmental stewardship.


An award given by the American Heart Association. Since the Fit-Friendly program began in 2007, more than 2,700 worksites representing more than 5.6 million employees have participated.


Vegetation Management – an investment in reliability

Rights of Way and Reliability – the importance of vegetation management

Vegetation management, commonly referred to as right-of-way maintenance, is essential in providing safe and reliable electric service. LCEC works hard to ensure that rights of way are cleared regularly of trees and brush to help reduce potential outages and hazards. Trees and branches growing in or near power lines can cause safety issues or interruptions in service. Uncontrolled brush can impede access to utility structures for restoration if outages occur.

 Keeping safety first

Trees and branches pose significant safety concerns when they are too close to power lines. Children climbing trees in this situation could be severely injured or even killed if they contact an energized line. Adults are also at risk. Pruning trees near power lines should be left to qualified vegetation management professionals.

Additionally, trees and branches can break and fall across power lines during strong wind and inclement weather. Although weather-related outages are not always preventable, successful vegetation management minimizes damage, injury, and outages.

Reducing the likelihood for power outages

In August 2003, approximately 40 million people lost power for roughly two days in the northeastern United States. The root cause for this massive blackout – overgrown trees that contacted high-voltage power lines. The importance of vegetation management may not be stressed enough. In fact, the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) has established mandatory requirements for transmission vegetation management. LCEC and its power supplier complies with all of these compliance regulations.

Vegetation management for distribution lines is addressed through the National Electric Safety Code (NESC). LCEC is committed to providing safe, reliable, and affordable power, and our right-of-way program is key to fulfilling that promise.

In addition to safety concerns and outage prevention, vegetation management is necessary to reduce unexpected costs. By keeping rights of way clear, LCEC crews are able to restore power more quickly, improve reliability, and prevent expensive repairs to systems damaged by fallen trees or neglected vegetation.

Vegetation management is performed throughout the LCEC service territory on a regular cycle, depending on the area and types of vegetation. Should you notice any trees or brush that need attention, please request attention at This will help ensure our efforts to deliver safe, reliable power at the lowest possible cost.

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