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At Rhode Island's only public utility, "You never hear ‘that’s not my job’"


From the June 28, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published June 28, 2013

In Pascoag, Rhode Island, the utility district is often able to restore power to its customers after major storms with time to spare — time it uses to help the neighboring investor-owned utility, writes David L. Blaylock in a recent Public Power magazine article. 

Pascoag Utility District is Rhode Island’s sole public power utility, created by the Public Utility Commission in 2001. While the rest of the state was folded into National Grid service territory, Pascoag remained public power since its electric power was served through the fire district. A special charter by the state General Assembly convened to create the new utility district, which serves both water and electricity to the villages of Pascoag and Harrisville (electric only) in the municipality of Burrillville.

"We’re really lucky that our utility was able to remain public power," Mike Kirkwood, Pascoag’s general manager, told the magazine. "For us, it means we get to work in a rich environment where we have opportunities to work on the many aspects of a utility at the small scale and get involved in every part of that business. For our customers, they get a service provider who is focused on them and improving the community."

When Hurricane Irene took out much of the electric grid in New England in August 2011, Pascoag Utilities customers got a clear look at what their provider’s focus can do for them. As much of National Grid was working to restore power to the area, the crews in Pascoag were combing through their system to make their repairs. The district was back to 95 percent service within two and a half days while their neighbors across town in National Grid's territory were out for as much as two weeks. 

Even when the weather is calm, the team at Pascoag is focused on ways to improve the utility and, by extension, its customer owners, Kirkwood said. "You never hear ‘that’s not my job’ here because everyone realized that, regardless of title, making our utility district better for the customer is all of our main jobs."

Read more about customer service and reliability at Pascoag Utility District in the article, "A Public Power Island, posted on publicpower.org.

Subscriptions to the electronic and print editions of Public Power and all other APPA periodicals are free to all employees and governing board members of APPA member utilities and associate members. An online subscription signup form is on publicpower.org.

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Senior Vice President, Publishing 
Jeanne Wickline LaBella
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