Power Lines Blog

Powering strong communities by giving back


By Susan Partain, Senior Editor & Content Strategist and Sam Gonzales, Director, Digital and Social Media, American Public Power Association

When the American Public Power Association launched a new brand in January 2017 — with the intent to be a better face and voice for public power — we embraced our new tagline, “Powering strong communities.” However, more than a tagline, this is a core value of public power.

The Association’s annual Day of Giving is now in its tenth year. This event showcases public power’s commitment to community service and gives our National Conference attendees the opportunity volunteer with local service projects. In addition to engaging in a day of meaningful volunteer activities, participants get to spend the day meeting other members of the national public power community and making lasting connections.

We hope many of you can join us for the Day of Giving this year in Orlando, Florida on June 16. But if you’re not able to make it this year, maybe there’s something you can do right in your local community. Find a local service project that could use some help and invite your staff and board or city council members to volunteer. Or maybe you’ve already done some service projects. Either way, do tell us about it. Share some pictures of your community service projects on social media on Friday, June 16 and remember to use the hashtags #PublicPower and #DayofGiving.

Here’s what other public power utilities like yours are doing to give back to the people they serve and to raise awareness of the utility’s role and commitment to powering strong communities. We hope you’ll be inspired to replicate some of these projects in your own community, or come up with new ideas.

Community Education

A great way to support your community is to educate people on energy use and safety. From going to schools to promote safety to sharing energy efficiency tips with customers of all ages, educational activities are mutually beneficial for the utility and customers.

  • Newberry Public Utilities in South Carolina recently observed National Electrical Safety Month by visiting local schools to warn kids about the danger of downed power lines and provide safety tips.

  • Keys Energy Services in Florida held a contest for kids to submit artwork of their energy conservation ideas for a community calendar – giving youth the chance to learn about energy conservation and educating community members to whom they distributed the calendar.
  • Bonneville Power Administration has ongoing programs to teach students of all ages about electricity and STEM career opportunities.

Educational opportunities aren’t limited to school-aged children. Sometimes educational benefits to your community come from providing helpful tools for customers, such as cost calculators that estimate bills based on proposed rate changes. Franklin County Public Utilities District in Washington posts the “Christmas Light Cost Calculator” on its website during the winter holidays.

Public power utilities also distribute educational materials to customers, such as energy saving tips or safety guides. For customer-friendly information and tools, check out our public education materials web page, the Department of Energy’s energy saving tips (or appliance energy calculator), or the Electrical Safety Foundation International’s electrical safety website.

Community Resources

Public power utilities invest significantly in their communities, from developing the next generation of the workforce through scholarships, internships, and participation in career fairs to enhancing infrastructure. Sometimes these improvements have a clear connection to electrical utilities, and other times they provide a general community benefit.

  • River Falls Municipal Utilities in Wisconsin set up a free bike share program with help from the local high school’s National Honor Society and a small grant from New Belgium Brewing.just-painted-bikes-with-kids1
  • Silicon Valley Power partnered with the public library to provide a tool lending library that includes a range of efficiency tools such as Kill-a-Watt meters.
  • The Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency set up “waystations” for monarch butterflies on municipal properties to increase the presence of local pollinator plants and restore lost habitat. The agency also provided customers with seeds to follow suit on their own property.

Volunteering and Community Events

There are many opportunities for your utility and your employees to support local events — from taking part in science fairs to staffing food drives and other charitable events. A utility presence at these events sends a clear message that you do more than mail out the bills and that you call the community home.

  • Burlington Electric Department participated in the city’s Kids Day, with employees volunteering to give local kids rides in a bucket truck and other activities.18342330_1534252919932045_971296804250145597_n
  • Provo Power employees observed Arbor Day by planting trees across their community.
  • Grand River Dam Authority participate in an annual event to restore fish habitat.

How do you give back to your community? Share your photos and stories with us by tagging @PublicPowerOrg or #PublicPower #DayofGiving on your social media posts or email us at News@PublicPower.org.