Community Engagement

December in the West

I have spent much of the last two weeks visiting APPA members in the West. I spoke at the Midwest Electric Consumers Association Annual Meeting in Denver, the Public Power Council Annual Meeting in Portland, and, most recently, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City. Spending time with our members in the West reminds me just how the interests and concerns of our members vary around the country. Nothing animates our members in the Pacific Northwest more than a discussion about increased salmon runs and bio-op" litigation — a language that is close to Greek for our Eastern Interconnection members!

At the UAMPS meeting, we heard from Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who is vice chair of the National Governors Association past chair of the Western Governors' Association. He was a breath of fresh air, and well-versed in energy issues. He noted how we take electricity for granted when we turn on the switch, but just how important affordable, reliable electric service is to Utah's economy, and the need make it cleaner and more sustainable. He talked about how he had become governor during the depths of the Great Recession, and developed a four-part plan for the state's economic recovery--one prong of which was energy. He and his state energy office brought a diverse group of interests together to develop a 10-year energy plan (how nice it would be if our federal government could do that!), which continues to evolve as conditions change.

He complimented UAMPS for pursuing the option of using small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) produced by NuScale Power as possible base load units to replace UAMPS' existing coal units. He noted he had talked to Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu about nuclear power; Dr. Chu told him the United States had wasted 30 years by not developing it. Governor Herbert believes that nuclear has to be part of an "all of the above" strategy if the U.S. is to reduce carbon emissions. Finally, he praised the local government officials in the room (of which there were many!), for being the first responders when disaster strikes, noting that Utah's "Be Ready Utah" disaster response initiative has been adopted by FEMA and is serving as a model for other states.

During the question period, he was asked about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed regulation of CO2 emissions from existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. He said he was disappointed by the treatment of coal-fired power in the proposed rule, as we should not take this "arrow out of our quiver," but expressed the hope that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy would be receptive to making changes in the final rule.

UAMPS' General Manager, Doug Hunter, also addressed the group. He talked about the major changes facing the industry and UAMPS' members, including the need to reduce reliance on coal-fired power (given the extremely complex and expensive regulations that will burden these units), improve retail energy efficiency programs, and develop better ways to deal with distributed generation, incorporating it into power supply. He also discussed the SMR effort, noting that the UAMPS Board is studying this issue extensively, having taken field trips to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant, the NuScale facility in Corvallis, Oregon, and the Idaho National Lab.

It was a pleasure to visit these Western members, and to hear first-hand about the diverse issues they face and the specific plans they have to address them. It was a great way to cap off my year of travel to meet with APPA members from coast to coast and all points in between. Happy holidays to all in public power, and as Tiny Tim said, "God bless Us, Every One."