As we approach the week of October 3-9, I am excited about the preparations we at APPA are making to celebrate public power. Known, fittingly, as “Public Power Week,” it is a time when we highlight the unique attributes and benefits enabled by our not-for-profit, community-owned part of the electric sector.
During Public Power Week, the 2,000 publicly-owned utilities across the country (in 49 states and five territories), which collectively serve 49 million Americans, find special ways to celebrate with their communities. They hold parades, barbecues, festivals, rides in bucket trucks, electrical safety demonstrations, community service projects…and the list goes on. The variety of ways that public power utilities celebrate demonstrates the myriad and highly localized preferences of each community they serve. This local focus underpins the history and inception of public power – local communities deciding to take their economic future into their own hands by providing electric service. From that premise flows local governance (utility boards, city councils, and mayors), decisions about electric rates that are based on the cost to deliver the service while allowing for investments back into the system and into the community in the form of payments instead of taxes, and innovation in response to community needs.
This mindset has resulted in consistently higher reliability and lower electric rates for customers than our investor-owned and coop utility brethren, on a national basis. It has also resulted in major innovations: energy efficiency programs that are best in class, community solar projects, enhancements to distribution systems, work on advanced nuclear, advanced hydropower, energy storage, landfill-gas-to-energy projects, geothermal energy, and much more. Public power utilities represent the best of what electric service can be: highly reliable, affordable, environmentally sustainable, and innovative. They are accountable to their communities, not only because community members are involved in key decision-making, but because employees live there, raise their kids there, and want their hometowns to succeed.
This year, we are specifically celebrating the people behind public power — utility employees — who work tirelessly to keep their communities running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These dedicated staff members work in many functions — including human resources, administration, accounting and finance, public relations, field supervision, and engineering and operations — and pull together with the common goal of keeping communities powered.
To help celebrate the week, we developed several new resources and templates that our member utilities can easily download, customize, and use. These resources include press release templates, coloring sheets, graphics, and a brand-new video to recognize the people behind public power.
As I have in recent months begun to travel again to see our public power members across the country, I’ve used a quote from Casey Kasem, who ended his popular radio show by encouraging his listeners to “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” In this statement, he is describing public power perfectly – we must focus on delivering power 24/7/365, but we must also look to the future and the opportunities before us.