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ElectriCities Safety & Training Supervisor Receives Public Power Service Award

The American Public Power Association (APPA) has honored Kenny Roberts, Supervisor of Safety & Training and mutual aid coordinator at ElectriCities, with the Harold Kramer-John Preston Personal Service Award. The award recognizes individuals for their service to APPA.

Roberts accepted the award on June 14 at the APPA National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I’m humbled and honored,” he said. “I’m thankful that I’ve been able to spend my entire career working in public power and helping public power communities serve the people who live there.”

Roberts began his career as a groundsman at Huntsville Utilities in Alabama and worked his way up to supervisor. He also served as mutual aid coordinator and as lead instructor for the utility’s apprenticeship program. Roberts retired after 30 years at Huntsville Utilities, but he wasn’t ready to leave public power.

“I wanted to keep contributing to our industry,” he said. “I’m a lifelong fan of public power and the value it brings to the communities it serves. I wanted to continue to serve public power

And that he did.

In 2017, Roberts joined ElectriCities. As Supervisor of Safety & Training, he works with nearly 100 municipalities in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to help oversee and develop safety and training programs for their lineworkers. He also serves as the statewide municipal mutual aid coordinator, connecting crews who need help with crews who can help in the wake of disasters or other issues that damage electric systems.

Kenny Roberts accepts the Harold Kramer-John Preston Personal Service Award from Tony Cannon, chair of APPA’s Awards Committee and General Manager/CEO of GUC (left), and Colin Hansen, APPA board chair and CEO of the Kansas Power Pool (right). Photo courtesy of APPA.

Roberts has been a member of APPA’s Mutual Aid Working Group since 2011 and serves as a national regional coordinator. He served on APPA’s Reliable Public Power Provider Review Panel from 2013 to 2014, and he’s a former chair and vice chair of both APPA’s Safety Committee and Engineering & Operations Section. Roberts has served on APPA’s DEED board since 2015 and currently serves as vice chair. He is a member of the Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo executive committee and serves as Journeyman Master Judge, and he serves on the Safety Manual Revision Task Force.

“Public power is a culture—it’s a family,” Roberts said. “It’s not just a paycheck or a job. It’s service. It’s devotion and dedication to helping other parts of your family do a better job doing what they’re doing.”

From all of us at ElectriCities, thank you, Kenny, for your years of service and tireless dedication to public power. Congratulations on this well-deserved award!

 

Kenny Roberts with coworkers, friends, and family, left to right: Andy Fusco, ElectriCities Vice President, Member Services & Corporate Planning; Craig Batchelor, ElectriCities Manager, Safety& Training; John Worrell, GUC Director of Electric Systems; Kenny’s wife, Kathy Roberts; ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones.

Shelby & Greenville Score Downtown Grants

Congratulations to the North Carolina public power cities of Shelby and Greenville, recipients of ElectriCities Downtown Revitalization Grants for spring 2022. Each community will receive $10,000 to help achieve its downtown revitalization goals—Shelby for its Uptown Depot Restoration project and Greenville for its Emerald Loop Artistic Lighting Plan, which is part of a larger development, the Emerald Loop.

Shelby’s Uptown Depot Restoration Project
The City of Shelby will use its grant funds to complete a study to determine the best use of its historic railroad depot that sits along its developing Carolina Harmony Trail.

The single-story, 6,000-square-foot depot, previously known as the Norfolk-Southern Railway Depot, is a contributing structure in the Central Shelby National Register Historic District. With its early 20th-century structure and location on the Carolina Harmony Trail, the depot is an economic development opportunity for Uptown Shelby that’s part of the bigger Carolina Harmony Trail project, said Shelby City Manager Rick Howell.

Rendering of Shelby’s restored train depot, courtesy of Uptown Shelby Association. Click to enlarge.

The City of Shelby purchased the retired Norfolk-Southern rail corridor that’s located through the corporate limits of the city. The City has fully engineered the northern 1.2 miles of the rail trail, recently named the Carolina Harmony Trail.

“The Carolina Harmony Trail provides an opportunity for renewal and revitalization of Uptown Shelby,” said Howell. “It will strengthen community connections and spur economic growth by creating a significant recreation, community, and tourism asset that attracts residents and visitors to Shelby, southern Cleveland County, and the region, and restoring the depot is a big part of that.”

Carl Rees, ElectriCities Economic and Community Development Manager, said, “It’s an additional piece of the tapestry that’s making Uptown Shelby one of the most picturesque downtowns in the North Carolina foothills.”

Greenville’s Emerald Loop Project
The City of Greenville, designated a SmART City by the North Carolina Arts Council in 2018, will use its Downtown Revitalization Grant to fund part of its Emerald Loop Artistic Lighting Plan.

The lighting project is part of the larger Emerald Loop Vision Plan, which came about in partnership with the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge and community stakeholders. The group’s goal was to create a project that would transform Greenville’s downtown through the arts.

“The Emerald Loop is a multimodal urban arts trail—a conceptual necklace—connecting Greenville’s artistic, cultural, and community gems, while bringing together the surrounding neighborhoods and communities,” said Kathy Howard, Business Development Specialist at Greenville Utilities Commission, which provides electricity for the City of Greenville. “The grant will help us implement the overall lighting plan, which involves adding programmable colorful LED lighting to several downtown buildings, starting with the radio tower on 5th Street.”

Conceptual design of illuminated buildings on Greenville’s Emerald Loop, courtesy of Pitt County Arts Council. Click to enlarge.

In Phase I of the project, the team has designated 11 buildings and structures for artistic lighting, including the city hall, county courthouse, and a new boutique hotel.

Along with the artistic lighting plan, main components of the Emerald Loop project include:

  • Intersection gateway murals
  • The Emerald Express, an “art on wheels” trolley system
  • Trolley stops and sheltered benches

“This is an arts master plan for Greenville’s downtown area, as well as an economic development strategy based off the SmART Communities designation that demonstrates how the arts transform downtowns and fuel sustainable economic development,” said Holly Garriott, Executive Director of Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, who is serving as project manager for the Emerald Loop planning process. “This is truly a partnership between the public and private sectors, with funding assistance provided by several stakeholders as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, North Carolina Arts Council, and other foundations and grants like this one from ElectriCities.”

The next cycle for ElectriCities Downtown Revitalization Grants opens in October 2022. Learn more about them and other ways ElectriCities’ Economic Development team can help you spark growth in your public power community here.

Prime Industrial Site in Rocky Mount Earns ElectriCities Smart Sites Designation

Designation expedites development for new and expanding businesses

RALEIGH, N.C. — ElectriCities of North Carolina, Inc., has designated a 55.5-acre Smart Site in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The designation guarantees that the prime industrial site has met stringent requirements and is shovel-ready for new development.

“Smart Sites designation takes the guesswork out of an industrial site,” said Carl Rees, ElectriCities Manager of Economic and Community Development. “During the certification process, we perform exhaustive due diligence, including environmental reviews, geotechnical reviews, preliminary infrastructure studies, and facility siting studies, readying the site for industrial permitting at local, state, and federal levels.”

Located on Thomas A. Betts Parkway near Peele Road and Boseman Road, the new Rocky Mount Smart Site is approximately:

  • 5 miles from Interstate 95
  • 3 miles from U.S. 301
  • 3 miles from the Carolina Connector Intermodal Rail Terminal

The City of Rocky Mount supplies the site’s utility services, including electricity, natural gas, water, and wastewater.

“We knew this site had great potential when the city acquired it in December 2020,” said Rocky Mount Interim City Manager Peter Varney. “Adding the Smart Sites designation makes it even more appealing to private investors who develop shell buildings that would attract manufacturing or distribution companies to our community.”

ElectriCities created the Smart Sites program in 2014 to help its public power member communities—cities and towns that own and operate their electric systems—prepare shovel-ready sites for economic development. Potential sites must meet specific requirements and undergo an extensive review process by site selection experts. Each site must have municipal electric service, have water and sewer access within 500 feet, and be within 5 miles of an interstate or interstate-quality highway. ElectriCities markets Smart Sites at trade shows and industry events around the world to get the word out about prime development sites in North Carolina public power communities.

“ElectriCities Smart Sites are a smart choice for businesses ready to grow now,” Rees said. “Shovel-ready for development means faster construction and less risk, and Smart Sites’ locations in North Carolina’s public power cities and towns provide benefits beyond our state’s top-rated business climate.”

Since public power communities own their electric system, they maintain local control and decision making over their operations, providing unbeaten reliability, local jobs, and support for their local economy. That local control also means public power communities have more resources and agility when negotiating with prospective businesses.

The safety and reliability of the City of Rocky Mount’s electric service has been recognized at the state and national levels. The American Public Power Association designated Rocky Mount Public Utilities a Diamond-Level Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3), and the City recently received four ElectriCities 2021 Public Power Awards of Excellence.

To learn more about Rocky Mount’s new Smart Site, contact Oppie Jordan at 252-442-6224 or ElectriCities at sites@electricities.org.

ElectriCities Smart Sites are located in public power communities across North Carolina. See the complete list of Smart Sites on the ElectriCities website. To learn more about the Smart Sites program or economic development in public power communities in North Carolina, contact Carl Rees at crees@electricities.org or visit http://www.electricities.com/EconDev.

Rocky Mount community leaders debut the new Smart Site on Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Mayor Sandy Roberson; Oppie Jordan, Vice President, Carolina Gateways Partnership; Thomas Betts, Rocky Mount civic leader and namesake for the parkway on which the Smart Site is located; and Norris Tolson, CEO, Carolina Gateways Partnership

2 Things You Don’t Have That Are Costing You Money

Did you know that not having these two items in your home could add up to 5% to your monthly energy costs? We know every dollar counts. Invest in some low-cost, energy-saving opportunities by adding these items to your next shopping trip:

Weatherstripping.

You don’t have weatherstripping around your doors and windows, or it needs replaced.  Not sure if your weatherstripping is worn out? Try the dollar test. Close a door on a dollar bill and try to pull it loose. If it slides out easily, you need to replace your weatherstripping. (Did you know that an 1/8” gap around a door or window lets out the same amount of air as a 2 ½ “ hole in your wall? Yikes!)

Weatherstripping isn’t just a cold-weather concern. It helps to keep the cool air inside your home during the summer months, too!

 

A Clean Air Filter.

You’re doing your furnace a disservice by not changing its filter regularly. Dirty filters make your HVAC unit work harder, meaning it uses more energy to get results. More energy means a higher bill! Ditch the dirty filter and swap in a fresh, clean one. Your unit (and your monthly bill) will thank you!

 

Hurricane Preparedness

Be prepared before, during, and after the storm.

Nobody looks forward to hurricane season and the destruction storms can bring to our communities. But rest assured, our experienced, locally based electric crews are prepared to respond and restore power quickly and safely. Here are some tips to help you and your family prepare in the event a hurricane hits our community.

BEFORE the storm:

  • Gather emergency supplies such as flashlights, battery-operated radios, and batteries.
  • Move yard items and furniture inside.
  • Monitor official weather bulletins.
  • Charge your devices, like your phone or external backup batteries.

DURING the storm:

  • Turn off and unplug electrical appliances and equipment, such as televisions and computers.
  • Stay indoors in an interior room, away from windows.

AFTER the storm:

  • Watch for downed power lines. Stay back and consider them energized. Energized lines can conduct electricity through the ground up to 35 feet away from the line.
  • Check for electrical damage inside your home, such as frayed wires, sparks, or the smell of burning insulation. If you find damage to your meter box or weatherhead, don’t turn your power on until an electrician inspects your system and makes necessary repairs.
  • Do not connect your generator directly to your home’s electrical system. It is dangerous to you, your neighbors, and utility workers.

 

Downloadable Resources:

Hurricane Preparedness Bill Insert

Hurricane Preparedness: Checklist

N.C. Department of Emergency Management: North Carolina Hurricane Guide

FEMA Hurricane Guide

APPA Recognizes 19 ElectriCities Members for Exceptional Reliability in 2021

Congratulations to the 19 ElectriCities of North Carolina member utilities that received national recognition for achieving exceptional electric reliability in 2021:

  • City of Albemarle, N.C.
  • City of Elizabeth City, N.C.
  • City of Kinston, N.C.
  • City of Laurinburg, N.C.
  • City of Lumberton, N.C.
  • City of Monroe, N.C.
  • City of Newton, N.C.
  • City of Rocky Mount, N.C.
  • City of Shelby, N.C.
  • Fayetteville Public Works Commission (N.C.)
  • Martinsville Electric Department (Va.)
  • New River Light & Power (N.C.)
  • Seneca Light & Water (S.C.)
  • Town of Apex, N.C.
  • Town of Granite Falls, N.C.
  • Town of Smithfield, N.C.
  • Town of Tarboro, N.C.
  • Town of Wake Forest, N.C.
  • Wilson Energy (N.C.)

Each earned a Certificate of Excellence in Reliability from the American Public Power Association (APPA).

Honorees have been tracking their power outage and restoration data through APPA’s eReliability Tracker. Using the web-based subscription service, utilities can collect, categorize, and summarize outage and restoration data and run reports throughout the year.

Once a year, APPA’s Reliability Team compares this data to national statistics that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) tracks for all types of electric utilities. APPA awards Certificates of Excellence in Reliability to those utilities that have a System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) in the top 25% of utilities nationally.

“It’s encouraging to see—once again—that public power’s track record for providing highly reliable service is backed up by the data,” APPA VP of Operations and Technical Services Alex Hofmann said in a news release from APPA. “These communities should be proud of their local power providers and appreciate the hard work that goes into earning this recognition.”

“Even when faced with hurricanes, ice storms, and other natural disasters, our member communities continue to shine each year, providing their customers with safe, reliable electric service,” said P.J. Rehm, Manager of Technology and Renewable Programs at ElectriCities. “We congratulate these utilities and commend them for doing what it takes to keep their communities powered.”

According to data reported to the EIA, the average public power customer nationwide is without power for less than half the amount of time customers of other types of utilities are.

North Carolina’s public power customers fare even better. They experience 40% fewer outages than other power providers’ customers in the state. And when the power does go out, the outage lasts, on average, only about one-third the time of those other providers.

eReliability Tracker service is an ElectriCities member benefit. If you’re interested in tracking your utility’s reliability, contact PJ Rehm.

View the national list of 2021 Certificate of Excellence in Reliability recipients at www.PublicPower.org. For a comprehensive list of awards ElectriCities member utilities have won, visit the Awards and Accolades page on the ElectriCities website.

Are You Guilty of These 3 Energy Wasters? STOP NOW and Save Big!

You probably didn’t even realize you were doing these things that increase your monthly energy usage, but it’s true! Check out our list below for three quick and easy fixes that will save you money on your utility costs.

You’re keeping your house too cold in the summer (and too warm in the winter).

78°F is the recommended temperature setting for your thermostat in the summer. 68°F is the recommended setting in the winter. Every degree off from those amounts adds 3 to 5% to your heating and cooling costs! To put it simply, every degree below 78°F in the summer or above 68°F in the winter is costing you extra money. But fans of sweater weather, rejoice — the reverse is also true! Every degree below 68°F in the winter will save you roughly 3 to 5% on heating costs, but don’t go crazy. You don’t want your pipes to freeze.

You’re still using incandescent bulbs.

Switch to LED’s. They last longer (try 15,000 plus hours!) and save you $25 to $45 dollars in energy costs over the life of the bulb. LED’s emit 80% less heat than incandescent bulbs. And if you plug them in to a smart switch, you can program your lights to turn on and off automatically, streamlining your energy routine.

You’re washing your clothes in hot water.

Cold water cleans your clothes just as well as hot water, and it costs you less because you’re not paying for the energy to heat the water in addition to the energy to run the washer. According to Energy Star, 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes goes towards heating up the water. Only 10% is used to actually run the motor in the washing machine.

Bonus Tip:

Turn that water heater down to 120°F, which is a safer temperature setting to avoid accidental burns. Plus, it saves you money! Every 10° lowered from factory settings saves you 3 to 5% on your water heating costs.

5 ElectriCities Members Earn National Award for Outstanding Safety Practices

Five ElectriCities of North Carolina member utilities have earned the American Public Power Association (APPA) Safety Award of Excellence for safe operating practices in 2021.

Recipients of the 2021 Safety Award of Excellence are:

  • Greer Commission of Public Works, S.C.: First in Group B (systems with 15,000 to 29,999 worker-hours of exposure
  • City of Newberry, S.C.: First in Group B (systems with 15,000 to 29,999 worker-hours of exposure)
  • Town of Granite Falls, N.C.: First in Group B (systems with 15,000 to 29,999 worker-hours of exposure)
  • Town of Smithfield, N.C.: First in Group B (systems with 15,000 to 29,999 worker-hours of exposure)
  • City of Shelby, N.C.: Third in Group B (systems with 15,000 to 29,999 worker-hours of exposure)

Greer Commission of Public Works, City of Newberry, Town of Granite Falls, and Town of Smithfield also received APPA Safety Awards of Excellence in 2019 and 2020. City of Shelby received APPA Safety Awards of Excellence in 2018 and 2020.

“ElectriCities and our members value safety above all else,” said Craig Batchelor, ElectriCities Manager of Safety and Training. “We’re proud of these public power providers for their dedication and for putting in the hard work it takes to create and maintain an exceptional safety program.”

According to an APPA news release, 138 utilities nationwide earned Safety Awards of Excellence in 2021 out of the 318 utilities that entered.

Entrants were placed in categories according to their number of worker-hours and ranked based on the most incident-free records during 2021. The incidence rate, used to judge entries, is based on the number of work-related reportable injuries or illnesses and the number of worker-hours during 2021, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“In our industry, safety is the top priority,” said Bob Scudder, Chair of APPA’s Safety Committee and Industrial Hygiene and Corporate Risk Manager at Grand River Dam Authority. “This is a commitment that needs to come from the top down and permeate every aspect of operations. These awarded utilities have embraced this priority, and they deserve to be celebrated.”

View the national list of 2021 Safety Awards of Excellence honorees at www.PublicPower.org. For a list of awards ElectriCities member utilities have won since 2019, visit the Awards and Accolades page on the ElectriCities website.

6 ElectriCities Members Earn RP3 Designation

Six ElectriCities of North Carolina member utilities have earned the Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) designation from the American Public Power Association for providing reliable and safe electric service.

The RP3 designation, which lasts for three years, recognizes public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement. Receiving it demonstrates a utility’s sound business practices and a utility-wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity.

RP3 designations are awarded in three levels based on the number of points a utility earns in each of the four disciplines: Diamond (98-100 points), Platinum (90-<98 points) and Gold (80- <90 points).

Congratulations to these 2022 RP3 designees:

Diamond Level

  • Fayetteville Public Works Commission
  • Lexington Utilities (previously held Platinum level)
  • City of New Bern

Platinum Level

  • Front Royal, Va. (previously held Gold level)

Gold Level

  • Town of Clayton
  • City of Newton

“The RP3 program enables public power providers to confirm that they have the practices in place to safely deliver reliable electricity to their customers, and it enables them to ensure they can continue to do so through employee training and continuous improvement practices,” said ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones. “I’m proud of these public power providers for reinforcing their commitment to their customers and their communities.”

“Running a reliable and safe utility has never been as important as it is today,” Aaron Haderle, Chair of APPA’s RP3 Review Panel and Manager of Transmission and Distribution Operations at ‎Kissimmee Utility Authority, Florida, said in a statement. “Utilities that have earned this designation have demonstrated commitment to serving their communities and constantly looking to improve.”

These six ElectriCities member utilities are part of the 54 utilities nationwide that earned the designation in 2022. They are among the 275 of the more than 2,000 public power utilities nationwide that hold the RP3 designation.

In North Carolina, 26 public power communities hold RP3 designations—more than in any other state.

A full list of the ElectriCities member utilities with RP3 designation is available on the Awards and Accolades page on the ElectriCities website. A national list of designees is available at www.PublicPower.org.

Reporting Outages Using the ElectriCities Outage Map

Communicating with customers when you experience outages is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction. But when it comes to major weather events, it’s also important to keep ElectriCities informed on how your community has been impacted. That’s key in helping the ElectriCities Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) operate smoothly, quickly coordinating mutual aid for the communities that need it.

Incorporating your community’s outages on the ElectriCities Outage Map is a simple process.

The map populates using information from members who:

Submit your outages via a link you receive from ElectriCities

OR

Have your outage map integrated to the ElectriCities map.

When a major event is forecast, if your outage map isn’t integrated with the ElectriCities map, our EAP team will request outages from you at pre-announced times—usually in the morning and afternoon. Those times are based on the schedule determined by North Carolina’s State Emergency Response Team, or SERT.

When it’s time to report outages, you’ll receive a text and email from the EAP team. The notification provides a link to a form you can use to submit your outages.

You will:

  1. Click on the link.
  2. Confirm your utility from the dropdown.
  3. Enter number of outages.
  4. Click “Submit.”

“It’s very important to respond with accurate outages—even if you don’t have any,” says PJ Rehm, Manager of Technology & Renewable Programs at ElectriCities. “Not only do we want our outage numbers to match what you’re telling your customers, many entities, including SERT, view our map for statewide outage numbers. Accurate numbers help SERT and the ElectriCities EAP determine which areas are most impacted.”

If your outage map is integrated with the ElectriCities outage map, this process happens automatically, so you can skip the steps above. If you have questions about reporting outages, or if you’d like to integrate your outage map with ElectriCities’ map, please contact PJ Rehm.