Power Lines Blog

Fall In Big Ten Country


The fall series of public power group meetings continues to unfold!  On September 29, I was back in Columbus, Ohio (home of the Ohio State Buckeyes) to speak to the annual meeting of American Municipal Power.  (Sadly, I missed the Westerville Firehouse Chili Cook-off by a week.)  AMP always puts on a good meeting.  Marc Gerken, AMP’s CEO, gave a great overview of AMP’s recent activities, including an update on AMP’s progress on its new run-of-the-river hydro facilities.  Jolene Thompson, an AMP SVP and Executive Director of the Ohio Municipal Electric Association, moderated a panel on EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and Ohio’s plans to address it.  And AMP also had a panel with Arlen Orchard, CEO of Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Bob Gibson, VP of Knowledge (I love that title!) for the Solar Electric Power Association, discussing solar integration and development. SMUD, being in California, is on the cutting edge of dealing with renewables, distributed generation integration, solar power, etc.  I personally appreciate Arlen’s willingness to travel to other regions to share SMUD’s experiences with other public power groups.

One of the breakout sessions featured APPA’s own Alex Hofmann, who discussed APPA’s eReliability Tracker service.  This computer data base, which APPA developed with the help of a DEED grant, allows public power utilities across the country to enter in their own reliability statistics, look for patterns (heat maps showing squirrel-related outages, for example!) and benchmark their performance against their peers across the country.  Slick!

The following week, I crossed the Big Ten football border from Ohio to Michigan, to attend the annual meeting of the Michigan Municipal Electric Association in Grand Rapids (home of the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum; see http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/museum/aboutmus.asp for more info).  I had never visited with MMEA, and I very much enjoyed my time there.  Jim Weeks, MMEA’s Executive Director (and a true aficionado of Michigan state politics) had worked up a great agenda, filled with informative break-out and general sessions.  We heard from Valerie Brader, Executive Director of Governor Rick Snyder’s Michigan Agency for Energy, and Norm Saari, a brand new Michigan Public Service Commissioner.  I was very impressed with Valerie’s grasp of energy and environmental regulation.  Her clear message to the audience: if Michigan does not move to address its own energy and environmental regulatory issues, FERC, MISO, PJM and the EPA will take these decisions out of Michiganders’ hands.  It was also very nice to hear her acknowledge the substantial efforts that Michigan’s municipal utilities are making to address the environmental impacts of the generation fleet in the state.  Shutting down an operating generating unit is never easy, but our members in Michigan are facing these issues head on.

Sandwiched in between these two member meetings was APPA’s own Fall Board meeting.  This is the longest board meeting of the year, and we got a lot accomplished.  We welcomed our new board members (Dave Koster, Holland, MI, Arlen Orchard, SMUD, CA, Hugo Hodge, USVI, Tom Kuntz, Owatonna, WI, Barry Moline, FL, Steve Renfrow, Crisp County, GA, Jolene Thompson, AMP) with a new, beefed-up orientation held with our officers and executive committee.  We conducted regular business, but also held meetings of three new board committees over lunch, and had an in-depth session to discuss EPA’s new 111(b) and 111(d) regulations and their potential impact on APPA members.

Finally, we had a half-day session on the proposed work plan staff had developed to carry out the six external initiatives in the APPA 2016-2018 Strategic Plan. We had a good discussion about the proposed activities, and we on staff were given our marching orders.  We will be spending the remainder of the year developing the 2016 budget, staff teams, and performance measures to implement the 2016 portion of the three-year plan.  It was good to know that our Board sees things the same way we on staff do.  We have our work cut out for us, but the more I travel around to various member meetings, the more I believe we in public power have some real opportunities to be of even more service to our retail customers in our respective communities.

Sue Kelly

Sue Kelly

President and CEO


  1. I’m really enjoying your blog, Sue. I gives me a glimpse into other public power communities around the nation, the issues they face, and the pace of your schedule. Thank you for making a point to attend all these meetings scattered from sea to shining sea, with a few occasional respites in the Midwest and Upper Great Plains. I enjoy learning about what you are doing and, through that, what the APPA Board and members big and small are facing. Keep on blogging!

  2. As a single parent and business owner I have had limited time to TRY (again) to promote public electric power. I served 8 years and 3 terms on a REC in Michigan. I am a conservative entrepreneur; I fully believe in private enterprise. I understand the day to day needs involved in operating a complex business like the electric power business.

    It’s almost pure oddity that I tried (again) to locate anyone blogging about such a thing that is to the vast majority of people simply too esoteric and worse than boring – while being so important.

    So I throw this out: from Clyde Ellis’ book “A Giant Step” – “The cost of money is particularly important to the rural electrics because they are initially almost 100 percent debt financed and must repay principal along with interest on a rigid schedule as the consumer-owners replace the government capital with their own. The commercial power companies, by contrast, never expect to pay off their indebtedness, and never do. They just keep floating new issues of securities to cover old ones which come due.”

    Electricity is a commodity. Publicly owned and operated utilities almost always do a better job than IOU’s. IF true believers were true believers and not just job holders, there should be a major effort to replace IOU’s by providing the legislation to buy out OVER TIME the existing private immense works and investment and recreating that system as publicly owned.

    The arguments coming in retort would use words such as communist and socialist but in truth such a system would be more conservative and beneficial to the community at large, and as the large debt was paid for, over time, society would reap huge savings.

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