As we forge ahead into 2022 – now the not-so-new year – it’s important to take stock of what we accomplished on our members’ behalf during the past 12 months. I think it’s helpful to pause at the beginning of the year and reflect on the progress we’ve made to prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie before us.
At APPA we have previously issued a formal annual summary of our accomplishments on behalf of our members -- the last such update reflected on what we achieved in 2019. We will return to a more robust “look back/look forward” at the end of this year. Instead, this year, the following informal, at-a-glance list of some major wins and accomplishments in 2021 is not intended to be a comprehensive summary. I’m sure I’ve left out something or even several things. If there is something you worked on last year that has helped public power in a meaningful way that I do not mention below, please know that my team and I deeply value your accomplishments and contributions, even if I haven’t explicitly mentioned them in this short compilation.
Advocating for public power
On the policy front, our team helped to achieve several key wins for public power:
- Ensured that public power utilities will be able to benefit from key provisions of the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including the $65 billion allocated for electric grid infrastructure, $65 billion for broadband deployment, $15 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, and $2 billion for cybersecurity. We also fought successfully to remove “asset recycling” proposals from the bill, which would have supported public power takeover activity.
- Secured an extension for $150 billion in coronavirus relief funds and an additional $350 billion in state and local fiscal relief funds, both of which can be used to help with utility expenses.
- Secured $4.5 billion in additional funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
- Pushed for the removal of the Clean Electricity Performance Program from the Build Back Better Act, which would have penalized utilities that are unable to increase their percentage of clean electricity by 4% annually through 2030.
- Obtained access to payroll tax credits to offset the cost of COVID-related paid family leave and paid sick leave through September 2021 for public power.
On the federal regulatory front, accomplishments include:
- Encouraged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to investigate the high natural gas prices during Winter Storm Uri.
- Released a fully revised compliance manual for the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 that provides in-depth guidance on how to navigate the law’s complex compliance requirements.
- Filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency on streamlining the Waters of the United States definition, sustaining Mercury and Air Toxic Standards requirements, and designating spent solar photovoltaic panels as universal waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
A key role for APPA is to foster the public power community. In this vein, in 2021 we:
- Returned to hosting in-person meetings and events, including the National Conference and other major conferences which attracted over 3,000 attendees representing 298 utilities. We also provided new virtual and hybrid meeting options, reaching over 11,000 individuals representing 563 utilities.
- Coordinated with our members, our fellow electric utility trade associations, and our federal partners to activate the national mutual aid network for response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Ida and other destructive weather events, including offering support after the devastating tornadoes in Kentucky and surrounding states.
- Celebrated Public Power Week in October in your communities on a scale larger than we've ever seen. Utilities across the country participated, as did the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), mayors, and state elected leaders.
- Participated in a Month of Giving in June (and throughout the year) to benefit community charities and organizations.
Making sense of changes
As innovation and disruption continue to drive major change for utilities, we’ve continued to support public power to thrive in the future, such as by:
- Establishing an Energy Transition Community of members to envision ways to preserve reliable grid operations in a low emission electricity future thanks to a new 5-year, $1.5 million DOE cooperative agreement.
- Securing a $4.3 million, five-year DOE cooperative agreement to enhance the security of U.S. critical energy infrastructure by mitigating the impacts of disruptive events and facilitating restoration from energy disruptions.
- Publishing resources such as Moving Public Power Forward: Community-Driven Solutions for Industry Transformation and Understanding Hydrogen: Trends and Use Cases.
- Exploring how to lower barriers to energy storage integration with fossil power plants through a five-year, $500,000 DOE cooperative agreement.
Better serving you
The APPA team and I have also been focused on finding ways to create efficiencies within the association and further diversify our revenue beyond membership dues so that we can better serve our members, and provide the maximum value. To that end, in 2021 we:
- Finalized our first-ever business plan, laying out a path for us to streamline our services over the next several years to better serve our members and the industry. The plan outlines how APPA can leverage its strong position and proactively tackle the challenge of aligning strategic and financial plans.
- Implemented a new state-of-the-art member management system, which streamlines our members’ experience in everything from event registration to dues payments and using our website and helps us to better understand and track our priorities.
- Continued our dedication to fiscal responsibility, which has allowed us to continue to pursue new ideas into 2022.
Thank you for joining with us to make these accomplishments possible in 2021. I look forward to another year of learning how APPA can continue to advance the interests of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities and help embrace the challenges and opportunities before us.