Every public power utility is dealing with its own special blend of resources, customer desires and local laws. This means that when navigating important issues such as distributed energy, hydropower, or the environmental regulations, each state association has specific challenges and needs. Advocacy can't and shouldn't be one-size-fits-all.
"Neither the importance nor the impact [of an issue] is universal throughout the membership . . . It's important to understand that when we look at any one of these issues, the impact or importance is going to be determined by your location," said Dan Hodges, executive director of the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities. "If you're in the Pacific Northwest, the Clean Power Plan is going to have much less bearing on your decisions than it would if you were sitting in the Midwest. Your generation is going to determine how you look at these things."
Individual utilities can look to their state associations to do the heavy lifting in advocating for their needs and navigating policy issues. State associations are the experts in the unique fabric of local laws and available resources, but it's a job that requires a lot of work, and constant communication across their membership.
"The most important characteristic of an association is communication," said Barry Moline, who is stepping into the role of executive director of the California Municipal Utilities Association. He has long years of experience in public power, having most recently served as executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association. "You have to … be in touch with members, have a constant dialogue to understand what their concerns are, and do everything to bring them together so everyone can coalesce around a position that we can all go advocate for together."
Cleaning up the Renewable Portfolio Standard
With the vast majority of its power coming from hydroelectric sources, and with plans to shut down its only remaining coal plant within the next
10 years, Washington state is one of the greenest energy markets in the country.
Even so, the state's renewable portfolio standard has proven to be a constant source of struggle for the Washington Public Utility Districts Association. For purposes of compliance with the standard, hydropower is not considered an eligible renewable resource. And, in the case of public utilities, neither are incremental improvements in turbine efficiency. To meet the requirements set forth by the renewable portfolio standard, WPUDA has invested in wind power. With no real load growth in Washington, and therefore no need for additional generation, this means little more than switching from one source of green energy to another.