Every year, Public Power Week is an opportunity for utilities across the country to engage with their communities and to promote the benefits of the public power model. Check out how utilities around the country found their own special ways to celebrate.
Celebrating the Message
The City of St. Charles, Illinois celebrated the local nature of their service: “when you call about an issue, you are talking to someone in your community. And often the work is done by professionals who live right here in St. Charles.” The values of the St. Charles Electric Utility “are aligned with our customers,” added Tom Bruhl, Electric Services Manager.
Ann Hyland, the Communications Manager for Heartland Consumers Power District in South Dakota, emphasized the value of hometown power in an opinion piece for the Argus Leader. “Sioux Falls Light and Power takes their job of providing reliable electric service seriously. For them, there is something special about providing hometown power. It means the city is actively working to improve the lives of residents, while making sure the lights always come on when you flip the switch.” Heartland Consumers Power District CEO Russell Olson emphasized how public power often benefits local economies, and that a public power employee’s paycheck often goes right back into the community, circulating “an estimated four to five times.”
In a piece for the Columbia Basin Herald, Larry Schaapman, Grant County PUD commission president wrote about how important it is for utilities to connect with their communities. “Knowing our friends and neighbors helps us balance the demands of our current customers alongside the needs of future generations,” he wrote, “this model, as envisioned by those early settlers of this county, has allowed your PUD to do many great things for residents throughout our history.” Grant County PUD is based in Ephrata, Wash.
Community Engagement and Education
Fayetteville PWC in North Carolina opened its doors for “PWC Day”; executives and staff met with members of the community to answer questions and give all-access tours. Guests included representatives from city and state government, students, educators, and more.
Bryan Texas Utilities sponsored a free Sunday at the local children’s museum.
ElectriCities of NC’s Director of Public Services took time to get students excited about the strength of public power communities. They also created a logo for this year’s celebration, centered around the theme: “Powered by Excellence. Fueled by Commitment,” which celebrates resiliency and the devoted efforts of public power employees.
Cleveland Public Power in Ohio hosted its annual Solar Sprint, a competition in which teams of students build and race solar-powered model cars. The competition is in line with CPP’s overall community-focused celebration, which also included a nighttime bike ride aimed at promoting physical health and safe biking in the community.
Missouri’s Kennett City Light, Gas and Water sent linemen to visit fourth and fifth graders at a local school. There, they educated student about how electricity works and shared important safety tips.
Vermont’s Burlington Electric Department used the hashtag #WomenInPower to highlight the stories of the amazing women working in the public utility industry in the areas of engineering, sustainability, and more. The utility’s Sustainability Coordinator, Jennifer Green, expressed her enthusiasm for her work: “So much to do! So much variety! Whether it’s touting BED incentives, working with the team on program design, representing the City and BED on local, state or national networks, or organizing climate or energy events, no one day is the same.”
The Danvers Department of Public Works was a stop on the town-wide open house and trolley tour. The Massachusetts utility offered visitors bucket truck rides, lessons on energy efficiency, cookie decorating, and more.
Philanthropy and Public Power
Many utilities saw Public Power Week as the opportunity to go above and beyond on public power’s mission of “serving the community.”
City of Alcoa, Tenn. and Maryville City staff helped Second Harvest bag 1,960 pounds of food for the hungry, while other members of the Tennessee Valley Authority helped habitat for humanity build a home in Johnson City, Tennessee
Employees from Huntsville Utilities volunteered at the food bank of Northern Alabama. Utility CEO Wes Kelley added, "We have an obligation to help this community in any way that it needs help and our first and foremost responsibility is reliable utility service but if we are just doing that we're not doing enough."
At Lincoln Electric System in Nebraska, staff organized a drive for toys and sports equipment donations to children at the Malone Center, which provides local families with social, education, and welfare services.
Public Power Week Comes in Midst of Challenging Hurricane Season
The Municipal Association of South Carolina dedicated its celebration to workers on the front lines: utility linemen, who are often out in the elements making sure power is restored to customers.
This year, Public Power Week also came in the midst of a particularly strong Atlantic hurricane season.
The City of Hudson, Ohio voiced its support for the culture of mutual aid within public power: “Not only is HPP there for the community of Hudson […] they also help out around the country.” The utility sent a trio of linemen to Florida to aid in hurricane recovery.
The Florida Municipal Electric Association took the opportunity to commemorate the value of public power in post-disaster restoration: “All 34 of Florida’s public power utilities were affected by Hurricane Irma. Public power crews from across the state and nation worked tirelessly to restore power as quickly as possible. Two days after the storm, power had been restored to more than half a million public power customers, approximately 75 percent of the state’s total public power customers.”
Amy Zubaly, FMEA’s Executive Director, said, “Public Power Week is all about recognizing the reliable, affordable electricity our members and public power utilities across the nation provide the people of their communities.”
Public power utilities continue to find exciting and innovative ways to connect with their communities, both during Public Power Week and the other 51 weeks of the year.
It is never too early to start thinking about next year – in 2018, Public Power Week is October 7-13.