It’s not uncommon on restaurant menus today to see where the ingredients in your meal are coming from: beets dug from a family farm in Virginia, pork pastured on a green field in South Carolina, blueberries from wild bushes in Maine. That menu might even tell you how many miles your food traveled to your plate, and the growing trend seems to be the closer the better. “Buy Local” is the buzz phrase — and those who do are called “locavores.” Maybe buying local should also be considered when it comes to power.
Public power seems to be gaining in popularity, or at least gaining attention. Some communities in the U.S. are making an effort to buy their distribution systems and run their own utilities, although the resistance from incumbent utilities has been stiff to say the least. Our business model is appealing — local decision-making, local jobs, and revenue that is pumped back into the community. It’s no surprise that as the buy local trend grows, so does the number of towns looking to go public with their power. Read more about communities interested in taking ownership of their utility in the magazine feature Buying Local.
Public power is in close to 2,000 cities and towns and serves 48 million people. If your customers experience an outage, they call you, a member of their community. And while the idea is gaining traction in communities throughout the country, many of our own customers don’t know the value of the utility they have in their own towns and cities. It’s our job at the American Public Power Association to help you tell your customers, your communities and the world the public power story.
Raising awareness of public power is one of six focus areas in APPA’s 2016–2018 strategic plan. The industry is changing, and that change is driven by technology and regulations that will impact your customers. Amidst this change, public power customers need to know the value they’re getting through their community-owned utility. Check out the Buying Local infographic and share it with your customers.
Another strategic priority APPA will be working on in 2016–2018 is addressing increased federal regulation of public power utilities. A prime example of this is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. In 2015, APPA staff labored long to provide comments to the EPA on its proposed regulations, which would have imposed drastic requirements on many APPA members.
When the final regulations came out in August 2015, the EPA had improved a number of its provisions. But the final rule is still challenging for many of our members, and in fact will be harder for some of them to meet than the first proposal. While APPA supports the need to lower CO2 emissions, we are concerned that the EPA’s plan still tries in many states to do too much, too fast. The ultimate outcome will be an adverse impact on electricity costs for a substantial number of APPA members.
But in the meantime, our members have to be prepared to help their states comply. You can read about how three very different public power utilities are gearing up to comply with EPA’s final regulations in the magazine feature Proceed with Caution.
The public power business model strives to deliver low-cost, reliable power while practicing good environmental stewardship. I’ve been representing community-owned utilities for more than three decades now and I believe in the mission of our members.
I hope you, as a member of your own public power community, appreciate and support your homegrown utility and know that you make a difference every day. We need to tell our story to our customers and fellow-citizens, so they know that too.