After APPA’s National Conference in Minneapolis in June, those of us on staff had to take a breather. Pulling off the National Conference is an all hands on deck exercise, and everyone had to pitch in.
APPA’s post-conference summer, however, has been anything but easy. Inside the Beltway, we have had comprehensive energy legislation moving in both the House and Senate. Our legislative staff has had its hands full analyzing the many bills and lobbying our positions on the Hill. Luckily, reinforcements arrived at the end of July in the form of APPA’s Policy Makers’ Council. These elected officials from public power utilities around the country do a great job explaining to their Representatives and Senators what their utilities need to continue to provide reliable and affordable retail service in their communities. Our grass roots are one of public power’s great strengths.
As if energy legislation was not enough, the Environmental Protection Agency released its long-awaited suite of CO2 regulations at the beginning of August. APPA’s interdisciplinary team of environmental and policy experts, lawyers and engineers are plowing through the thousands of pages to figure out how our members are affected by EPA’s new regulations. The impact on them varies greatly by state, region and generation mix.
Our members’ own summer meetings are also in full swing. In July and August, I spoke at the annual meetings of the Texas Public Power Association, the Florida Municipal Electric Association, Electricities of North Carolina and the South Carolina Association of Municipal Power Systems. Later in August I will be in Minnesota and New Hampshire. My message to all of these groups comes as no surprise to those in our industry—change is coming quickly. We need to adapt the public power business model to meet the needs and demands of 21st century electric customers.
One thing has struck me as I have travelled around this summer—we are seeing a wave of retirements among public power leaders. Mark Zion, Executive Director of the Texas Public Power Association, announced his upcoming retirement at the TPPA meeting. Graham Edwards, CEO of Electricities of North Carolina, announced his retirement at the Electricities annual meeting. While they say no one is irreplaceable, we are seeing a major “shift change” in public power as our baby boomer leaders retire. While they have certainly labored in the vineyard to earn that more leisurely lifestyle, a vast amount of knowledge is still walking out the door.
Retirements like these reinforce the need for one of the strategic initiatives set out in APPA’s strategic plan approved at the National Conference in June—Workforce Planning. The Board has charged APPA staff to help APPA members meet their workforce challenges, by providing information and tools to assist members with recruiting, training and retaining new employees, and with transferring knowledge from departing employees. We on staff are in the throes of developing the draft work plan needed to implement the initiatives in the strategic plan. Doing this will require us to make some hard choices, because we have more ideas than we have resources to make them happen. We will review the draft plan with the APPA board this fall, and use their guidance to further refine it. One thing is sure—the rest of the year we will be in high gear.