It’s Smart Energy Provider Week (March 6-10, 2023) – a time to celebrate and highlight the achievements and efforts of public power utilities in managing efficient, sustainable electric systems. While utilities with an SEP designation are observing the week in their own ways, we gathered some thoughts from a few utilities with a current designation on what they do to support the Smart Energy Provider pillars – smart energy information, energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, environmental and sustainability programs, and customer education and communication – and what applying for and having the designation means to them.
Responses are from:
- Atineh Haroutunian, public benefits marketing manager, City of Glendale, California
- Mattias Järvegren, utility service supervisor, PUD No. 1 of Clallam County, Washington
- Travis Hardy, energy management supervisor, Northern Wasco County PUD, Oregon
- Maher Diab, customer solutions manager, Naperville Electric Utility, Illinois
- Pete Moulton, director of public works, City of Saint Peter, Minnesota
Why Utilities Seek the Designation
Clallam: At Clallam County PUD, to provide reliable, efficient, safe, and low-cost utility services in a financially and environmentally responsible manner is more than just a mission statement. Our service territory includes sections of Olympic National Park, five sovereign tribes, and a community with a long history associated [with] timber and natural resource industries. The SEP designation is a way for us to demonstrate to our ratepayers that we share their values and that we get up every day in order to be a part of this great community and to work [to] keep it a great place to live. When we learned about APPA’s Smart Energy Provider designation, we thought it would be a great fit for our organization.
Naperville: The Naperville Electric Utility has a proud history since its inception in 1899 and has continued to improve the electrical grid and make decisions that embrace innovative and cutting-edge technologies to achieve our goals. We understand that to power our world for future generations we must make environmentally friendly decisions today. Our goal is to make smart energy systems more accessible and more affordable for residents and businesses. We support the smart energy goals of advancing renewable energy, enacting policies that support clean energy, and engaging our community in clean energy practices while working to achieve them in our own community and in collaboration throughout the region.
St. Peter: Our goal as a community is to be as sustainable as possible yet meet all the other requirements of our customers. We are proud that as a community we are looked up to our efforts in leading the way as an example and a pioneer in trying new methods and activities.
What It’s Like to Apply
St. Peter: When Saint Peter staff got together to review the application process it was challenging to reflect on how we operate and do things. It was also an evaluation of our guiding principles we follow. In review, it was a time of reflection and self-evaluation.
Glendale: There is so much support provided from the SEP staff [and] questions are answered in a very timely manner. The email correspondences are very organized and timely. The supplemental guides are very easy to understand and provide step-by-step directions on how to respond to the questions, what information they are looking for, and how the responses are scored. This year, since this is our second designation, I referred back to our last designation’s scores and comments and it really assisted me with answering the questions this time around.
Benefits from the Application Process
NWCPUD: I found the SEP application process to be very enlightening. As a new employee to the Energy Management department, I was made aware of programs and aspects of our utility that I would not [have] otherwise been aware of. This process also helped to identify a few areas that we could improve our programs to reach more customers. It also helped in deducing that some existing programs and ideas would not be viable at our utility with a customer base of only around 10,000 customers. Being able to say that NWCPUD has joined the ranks of other SEP designee recipients has brought even more pride to my work.
Clallam: SEP allows us to benchmark ourselves with other utilities across the country with a similar mindset, and we use it as a tool to communicate to our ratepayers about the work that we do in order to meet the high expectations that they have of us.
Glendale: The fact that only about 100 utilities have this designation … is a very big deal because you stand out from other utilities. We really make it a point to share this designation with our community [and] our stakeholders and inform them as [to] why we are a SEP designee and what that means for our small utility.
Naperville: The Smart Energy Provider designation has improved our utility’s recognition in the community and is committed to providing our customers with electricity-saving choices in their homes and businesses as well as bringing clean energy to the Illinois power grid.
St. Peter: We are in the process of fine-tuning our policies because of the SEP designation. It is one step in the right direction, a continued effort to make our community livable.
What SEP Utilities Do for their Communities
Naperville: The utility has added more energy efficiency programs and changed the net metering policy for distributed energy resources, making it easier to install residential DERs with up to 1MW capacity. During periods of high demand, the City of Naperville Electric Utility and its power supplier, the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, offer a demand response program to customers that are large energy consumers. The demand response program benefits customers that can delay or schedule certain energy-intensive operations from times of peak energy demand to times when the demand on the electric grid is reduced. The demand response program also offers payment incentives that can shift usage away from times when … electricity is most expensive. It is risk-free to its participants and is designed to reward those who participate. We encourage time-of-use for electric vehicle charging through an EV Charging System rebate application. We ask for [a] commitment to schedule their electric vehicle charging to take place between 10 pm and 7 am.
Clallam: We first applied and were awarded the designation in 2019. The second time we achieved the designation, in 2022, our score improved from 73 to 87 out of 100 points possible. To achieve that, we added a program to track emissions associated with our fuel supply and associated emissions savings associated with our demand-side savings efforts, among other things. Planning for demand response programs and time of use rates have been incorporated into our strategic plan in part based on SEP-related objectives and information.
NWCPUD: I celebrate the fact that NWCPUD was already accomplishing the tasks highlighted in the SEP application and was able to receive the designation on the first attempt. This shows that our organization was already doing great work, and with the improvements, we make to future endeavors, NWCPUD could be exemplary. Since NWCPUD is the very first utility in Oregon to be awarded this honor, I know that NWCPUD goes above and beyond our utility peers for our customers. We hope to lead other utilities in Oregon in raising their standards to achieve the recognition they deserve by joining the list of Smart Energy Providers. We hope to be able to improve every aspect of our utility going forward, with the SEP designation as our base of excellence.
Learn more about the Smart Energy Provider program.