Electricity Markets

Taking full advantage of our seat at the table

Public power had the unique opportunity to weigh in on key energy policy issues at meetings held by the Department of Energy throughout the U.S. in the spring.

More than a dozen public power leaders took full advantage of that opportunity to tell public power's story — how the industry is proactively addressing the growth of distributed energy resources and the rapidly changing customer expectations in a digital age.

We also used the opportunity to speak up on some of our biggest challenges, such as the shortcomings of wholesale mandatory capacity markets and the importance of keeping nuclear power in the power supply mix.

The regional meetings were tied to the second installment of the DOE's Quadrennial Energy Review, an integrated study of the U.S. electricity system from generation through end use.

The American Public Power Association's President and CEO, Sue Kelly, helped kick off the initial meeting in this round of QER sessions. She said that regional transmission organization-operated markets increasingly show that they don't support the development and maintenance of a lower carbon dioxide-emitting resource portfolio at a reasonable price. At a regional meeting in Los Angeles in May, Arlen Orchard, CEO and general manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California, said that public power is comprehensively examining distributed energy. He said his utility is doing so through energy efficiency, and supporting electric vehicles while considering energy storage options.

At San Antonio, Texas-based CPS Energy, the utility has seen "a very large demand for distributed generation resources — rooftop solar, community solar — so there's clearly a strong, strong demand for that type of product and service," said Cris Eugster, group executive vice president and chief generation and strategy officer at CPS.

At a late April QER meeting in Salt Lake City, Doug Hunter, CEO and general manager at Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, explained how communities are best positioned to implement distributed generation, energy efficiency and demand response.

And while all these changes take place at the distribution level, public power utilities are seeing changes in their communities and employee teams.

Marcie Edwards, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, mentioned an apprentice program that trains lineworkers to be ready to dive into the job.

"One of the things we have been working on in conjunction with our labor partners is something called utility pre-craft training," she said. "We migrate them around for up to two years and in the interim teach them how to pass a civil service exam. We've been having a lot of good luck with that program, and we're looking to expand it."