WPUDA Honors Lewis County PUD’s Moses and Young
The Washington Public Utility District Association recently awarded the WPUDA Good Samaritan Award to two Lewis County PUD employees. The WPUDA Good Samaritan Award is given to a member or members who, in the past year, demonstrated meritorious action in a life-threatening situation.
Corenne Moses and Bonnie Young were presented with the award for their quick actions in coming to the aid of an individual experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency. Young administered CPR while Moses called 911. Their actions saved the life of the individual.
Reiser Named New AEA Executive Director
The Alaska Energy Authority Board of Directors announced that it has appointed Janet Reiser as its new executive director. Reiser is currently the chair of the Chugach Electric Association Board of Directors.
AEA Board Chairman Russell Dick said, “We are pleased to appoint Janet as AEA’s new executive director, and look forward to the leadership and vision she will bring to the AEA team in their work developing and implementing efficient, practical, and affordable energy solutions for Alaska’s communities.”
Reiser holds a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Reiser’s resignation from the Chugach board will be effective December 31, with her start date at AEA on January 2.
Chelan PUD Customer Communications Receive Award
Awkward roommates, unaware trail walkers, and young career-seekers had one thing in common last year: they were each featured in communication efforts by Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) and judged award winning in competitions hosted by the Northwest and American Public Power Associations.
Chelan PUD received eight communications awards this fall. Conservation’s “Say Hello to Your New Roommate” ads and video, the third installment of the “Conservation Makes Cents” campaign, received an Award of Excellence from the American Public Power Association for print and digital campaigns. That is the top award in the PUD’s category of similar-sized utilities.
The “Don’t Be Those Guys” park safety campaign received an Award of Merit as did the STEM Academy video produced with the Foundation for Water and Energy Education. Wenatchee’s North 40 Productions produced all three. The awards were announced last month in Sacramento at APPA’s Customer Connections conference.
Benton PUD Offers Energy Savings for Donations to the Helping Hands Program
Benton PUD (Kennewick, Wash.) is offering customers an energy efficiency kit with a low-flow showerhead and two LED light bulbs with a home energy audit to customers who pledge a recurring $1 donation or more each month, increase their current monthly donation, or make a one-time donation of $20 or more to Benton PUD’s Helping Hands program.
Cold temperatures impact electric bills making it tough for many in our community this time of year. The Benton PUD’s Helping Hands Program provides an opportunity for customers to help others on their electric bill by donating to the program. All donations (100 percent) are distributed by the Community Action Connections to Benton PUD customers who need help on their bill and meet the guidelines. Donations to Helping Hands are tax deductible.
Benton PUD customers may donate to Helping Hands year around with a one-time donation or by requesting an additional amount of $1 or more to be added to their electric bill each month.
The offer is available for a limited time and while supplies last only to Benton PUD customers. The kits must be picked up at either of the Benton PUD offices. The showerheads and LEDs qualify for conservation mandates Benton PUD must fulfill as required by the Energy Independence Act (Initiative 937).
No Electric Rate Increase in Chelan PUD’s 2018 Budget
On December 4, Chelan County PUD (Wenatchee, Wash.) commissioners unanimously approved a 2018 budget that supports strategic priorities of investing in key assets including major work at Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams, continuing to pay down debt and funding existing Public Power Benefit projects.
There is no increase in retail electric rates for the sixth straight year. Since 2000, Chelan PUD electric rates have only gone up 9 percent while the consumer price index has risen by 39 percent. In the coming years, however, General Manager Steve Wright said the District will evaluate how long this can be maintained without creating risk of large rate increases in the future.
Next year’s spending plan continues the strategy of investing for long-term value, said Wright. The 2018 capital budget is the largest in at least 15 years.
The significant capital projects in the 2018 budget will make sure Chelan PUD’s valuable hydro assets – that produce low rates and high reliability – are in shape to provide superior performance for decades to come. Wright said the District is in the midst of accomplishing roughly double the amount of major refurbishment work at its hydro projects than would occur in a normal five-year period. “It’s going to be a challenging year to get all this work done,” he said.
Chelan PUD expects to end 2018 with a positive bottom line of nearly $72 million, down from the $85 million forecast in last year’s budget. Expenditures of $366 million include paying down debt by another $24 million. Expenditures are up 7 percent from last year, reflecting the investment at the dams and in the power grid to serve forecasted growth in the county.
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Survey Shows Strong Support for Columbia Generating Station
A survey by Bisconti Research found 87 percent of residents near Columbia Generating Station have a favorable impression of the nuclear energy plant and the way it is operated, which is slightly higher than the national benchmark of nuclear plants. The poll of 300 residents living within a 10-mile radius of the plant was conducted in October and November. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percent.
One of the key survey findings is that support for Columbia, located 10 miles north of Richland, Wash., comes from safe plant operations and favorable views of owner Energy Northwest regarding safety, the economy, jobs, the environment, and community outreach.
“If you look at similar surveys across the county, the people closest to us, who know us the best, give us the strongest support,” said CEO Mark Reddemann. “They understand but look beyond the energy piece of providing reliable, carbon-free electricity. They see the tangible impact of a thousand good-paying jobs and people who volunteer their time to strengthen our community.”
Columbia plant neighbors also show a deep favorability to nuclear energy in general. A full 94 percent favor its use in the U.S. That’s 13 points higher than the national plant neighbor average, which includes a total of 59 plant sites. Ninety-two percent of Columbia neighbors believe nuclear energy will be important to meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the future.
When it comes to the benefits associated with nuclear energy, job creation, clean air, reliability, and advanced technology led the survey results. All results were higher locally than the national plant neighbor average, as were affordability, energy security and nuclear energy as a solution for climate change.
SMUD’s Credit Rating Highest in Three Decades
Two of the three leading credit agencies have raised their assessment of SMUD’s credit worthiness. Fitch and S&P upgraded SMUD’s credit ratings to AA, from AA-. Meanwhile, SMUD’s credit worthiness continues to be rated Aa3 by Moody’s. This is the strongest SMUD’s credit ratings have been in 33 years.
The agencies cited improved finances, sound operating fundamentals, competitive rates, and a diverse energy portfolio among the many reasons they raised their assessment of SMUD’s credit worthiness.
Exceeding financial goals helps SMUD maintain solid credit ratings and provides for lower interest rates when SMUD borrows. The upgrades are expected to save three basis points (0.03 percent) on SMUD’s upcoming bond transaction, which is worth $350,000 net value over the term of the debt. Additionally, SMUD will continue to pay lower interest rates every time the electric utility issues debt in the future.
According to Fitch: “The rating upgrade reflects the district’s strong and sustainable financial performance, moderate leverage with manageable capital needs, and management’s proactive plans to comply with environmental mandates and adapt to a rapidly evolving industry.”
S&P noted: “We have assigned SMUD a business profile score of ‘3’ on a 10-point scale, with ‘1’ being the highest, reflecting our view of SMUD’s competitive electric rates, diverse and coal-free resource portfolio, strong financial management, and stable and diverse service territory.”
Local Students Take Behind-The-Scenes Tour of MEA Power Plant
Nearly 60 students earned a behind-the-scenes tour of MEA’s Eklutna Generation Station as winners of this year’s Power Pledge Challenge. Brad Kirr’s second period science class from Gruening Middle School was the regional winner for Eagle River/Mat-Su and Jenny Tennant’s sixth period science class from Palmer Junior Middle School was the statewide winner. In addition to the tour/lunch for the class, Tennant also took home $1,200 in energy gear for her classroom.
“This is a good experience for our students,” said Tennant. “It gets them thinking about their personal energy consumption and start connecting that to what their families are spending on electricity. It’s a cool field trip.”
Over 1,800 eighth grade students from the Mat-Su and Eagle River area recently completed the 2017 Power Pledge Challenge in collaboration with Renewable Energy of Alaska and other Alaska utilities.
The Power Pledge Challenge began in 2012, offering energy presentations to 700 students in the Anchorage area. The now statewide initiative is held through support of Alaska Energy Authority, Alaska Energy Light & Power, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Chugach Electric Association, ENSTAR Natural Gas Co., Homer Electric Association, Matanuska Electric Association, Municipal Light and Power, and Renewable Energy Alaska Project.
NCPA to Support East Bay Community Energy through the Provision of Wholesale Energy Services
East Bay Community Energy announced on December 7 that it has selected the Northern California Power Agency to provide wholesale energy services.
East Bay Community Energy is a joint powers authority whose members include the unincorporated area of Alameda County and 11 of its cities. EBCE was established in 2016 to provide cleaner electricity as a local energy provider. EBCE’s governing board authorized its CEO to negotiate a final contract with NCPA to have the agency provide electricity scheduling and portfolio management services, develop portfolio management strategies, and support EBCE’s execution of enabling agreements with energy suppliers. This agreement is an important step for EBCE as it prepares to start providing electricity to its ratepayers in early 2018.
“EBCE and NCPA’s partnership is an important step forward for EBCE to start serving its customers in 2018 and also helps to cement the strong relationship EBCE is seeking to forge between Community Choice Aggregators and California’s strong public power sector. NCPA brings decades-long expertise working with communities to meet their local energy requirements, and EBCE expects to draw heavily from this capacity to deliver on its goals of providing clean, cost effective, and local energy solutions,” said EBCE Chief Executive Officer Nick Chaset.
“This relationship is an ideal fit for both organizations,” said NCPA General Manager Randy Howard. “NCPA has been providing local communities and agencies with wholesale energy services since 1968. We currently provide similar services to our existing members based in Alameda County—Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Port of Oakland, and the City of Alameda—and two others located in the Bay Area, including the City of Palo Alto and the City of Santa Clara. We look forward to providing the same expertise and economies of scale to support East Bay Community Energy in its goal to deliver affordable, reliable and clean electricity to its residents and businesses.”
EBCE’s service territory will cover areas currently serviced by investor-owned electric utility PG&E. A state law passed in 2002 authorizes local governments in investor-owned service territories to establish their own programs to purchase electricity on behalf of their communities.
This is commonly referred to as community choice energy. Under this framework, the local government makes energy resource decisions, while the investor-owned utility maintains the transmission and distribution system, including responding to outages.
PCWA Board Adopts 2018 Budget
At its December 7 meeting, the Placer County Water Agency (Auburn, Calif.) Board of Directors adopted the Agency’s 2018 budget. The combined budget totals $111.3 million.
PCWA’s budget is comprised of three divisions: water, power, and agency-wide. In 2018, the operating budget for water totals $38.7 million, while the operating budget for agency-wide totals $2.5 million. The power division, totaling $22.3 million in operating costs, is funded through appropriation from the Middle Fork Project Finance Authority. In addition to the operating budgets, the 2018 budget also designates $47.8 million to capital improvement projects, which includes $7.5 million for capital-related debt service.
“Development of the budget is an interactive, team effort that commences in the spring,” said Director of Financial Services Joe Parker. “I want to thank the entire Agency for participation in that process, especially the finance personnel who worked tirelessly to finalize a lean budget for 2018.”
PCWA’s 2018 budget is available on the Agency’s website at pcwa.net.
Electric Company Incident Management Teams to Deploy to Puerto Rico to Support Ongoing Power Restoration Mission
Many of our members have asked for updates regarding restoration of electric service in Puerto Rico. It has been, and continues to be, a devastating time for family and friends who live in Puerto Rice and for those responding to the devastation. Here is a short joint update provided by APPA/NRECA and others.
Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty Regime
The United States and Canada will begin negotiations to modernize the landmark Columbia River Treaty regime in early 2018. Certain provisions of the Treaty—a model of transboundary natural resource cooperation since 1964—are set to expire in 2024.
The Columbia River’s drainage basin is roughly the size of France and includes parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and British Columbia. The Treaty’s flood risk and hydropower operations provide substantial benefits to millions of people on both sides of the border. The Treaty has also facilitated additional benefits such as supporting the river’s ecosystem, irrigation, municipal water use, industrial use, navigation, and recreation.
For further information, please email WHAPress@state.gov.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released the following statement in response:
“The Columbia River Treaty is of immense importance to the economy, environment, and culture of Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. It is clear the Columbia River Treaty in its current form needs to be updated to meet the modern-day issues facing the Columbia River Basin, the region, and the nation. The outcome of pending negotiations will have major impacts far into the future for families in my home state and beyond. I welcome the news that the United States and Canada will begin negotiations, and I support these critical talks moving forward in an efficient, constructive manner that benefits every party involved.”
Peak Reliability and PJM Connext Agree to Jointly Explore Reliability Services and Markets in the West
Peak Reliability, the reliability coordinator for the majority of the Western Interconnection, and PJM Connext announced a formal agreement to explore reliability services and markets in the West. PJM Connext is a wholly owned, non-regulated subsidiary of PJM Interconnection, operator of the largest wholesale electricity market in the world and of the largest grid in North America.
Talking about the relative strengths of Peak and PJM, Marie Jordan, president and CEO of Peak, said, “PJM has an established track record as an innovative and cost-effective provider of system operations and market services. Our partnership seeks to leverage Peak’s West-wide system model, PJM’s markets expertise, and our combined processes, people, and tools. Both Peak and PJM share a strong commitment to developing solutions, tailored to the Western Interconnection.”
“PJM has extensive experience developing and implementing markets in a timely, cost-effective manner,” said Andrew L. Ott, president and CEO of PJM Interconnection. “We believe that our partnership will lead to a viable and credible alternative structure in the West, and we’re looking forward to working with the Peak team to develop that option.”
Peak and PJM Connext will begin review of potential reliability services, market design, governance, product suites, rules, technology, and organization. That process will include an outreach program to industry leaders and stakeholders in the Western Interconnection. The two companies expect to report the results of the review by the end of March 2018.