The week of September 18 was a “bi-coastal” one for me. I started out at a member meeting in Upstate New York, where fall foliage is starting to turn, looped back to D.C. for a day in the office and the repacking of my suitcase, and then took off for Lake Tahoe, California for the Northern California Power Agency’s Annual Meeting.
NCPA is one of those joint action agencies that clearly illustrates the benefits of joint action: it has a very diverse portfolio of generation resources, including natural gas, geothermal and solar; very astute and professional staff who represent NCPA in state legislative and regulatory matters, as well as at the California ISO and in Congress; and engaged and informed distribution members, who guide the activities of NCPA through its commission and committees.
To get to Lake Tahoe, I flew to Reno and then rented a car to drive up into the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is interstate most of the way, but the road is very winding and goes up and up through some beautiful country, with mountains bisected by the Truckee River. Part of this area is served by the Truckee-Donner Public Utility District, an NCPA member. Driving through it once again brought home to me the varied country and terrain that public power utilities serve.
The meeting was at a hotel in Squaw Valley, which is a beautiful place during all seasons of the year. And I pretty much saw all four seasons during my two days there. It was sunny and warm when I arrived, but it snowed the next day during the conference. The trees had their fall foliage, but flowers were still blooming. When I left the next morning, I had to scrape the frost off my rental car with a notebook! Not having anticipated the temperature drop, I suffered when I went outside from not having brought the right clothes.
The theme of the conference, opened by NCPA’s General Manager, Randy Howard, was “Connectivity.” That theme made great sense, given the current movement to regionalize the power grid in the west. There were sessions on potential governance models for a regional ISO and on the progress, benefits, and potential of the western Energy Imbalance Market. NCPA assembled a great slate of speakers from throughout the west to discuss these topics — including Commissioner Doug Little of the Arizona Corporation Commission; Commissioner Mike Florio of the California Public Utilities Commission; Chris Parker from the state of Utah and representatives from Seattle City Light, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the California ISO EIM Governing Body.
APPA has watched the movement towards regionalization in the west with great interest, and has helped our western members work together to develop common principles and positions on the issues regionalization raises. Among other things, we have tried to help our members in the west incorporate into their thinking the “lessons learned” (sometimes the hard way!) by our members in other regional RTOs.
At lunch, NCPA heard from The Honorable Jim Cooper, a California State Assemblyman who represents the district where the City of Lodi, an NCPA member, is located. As a former captain in the Sacramento county sheriff’s department, he knows city government from the bottom up. He spoke very eloquently to the need for Assembly members to learn about their districts, and the concerns of their constituents. As a self-described “moderate Democrat,” he stressed the need for legislators to understand the impacts of their policies on all California residents, and to inject some common sense into their work.
NCPA also honored its outgoing commission chair and the mayor of Roseville, CA, Carol Garcia, with its Spirit of Public Power Award. I was able to sit next to Carol at lunch, and quickly saw why she was getting this award. Somehow she has managed to balance multiple obligations as the mayor of Roseville, chair of the NCPA commission, and her day job as a local banker. Carol is also a breast cancer survivor who has been very open with sharing her experience with others in the community. She has spearheaded a great deal of fundraising for breast cancer research, raising over $1 million for the cause. Public servants like Carol are the community backbone of public power, and deserve all of the recognition they get.
NCPA members, being in California, are on the cutting edge of the technological and policy changes affecting public power utilities. They are tackling these challenges with the can-do attitude that characterizes public power at its best. It was a pleasure to spend time with them and to catch up with my long-time work colleagues on the NCPA staff. So thanks to NCPA for the invite, and for the opportunity to see all four seasons in Lake Tahoe in just two days!