March 7-9, close to 250 attendees gathered in Cary, North Carolina, for Connections Summit 2023 to discuss, share, learn, and problem-solve together.
With a focus on how technology and the customer experience are driving the energy industry, insightful speakers and panelists tackled topics that impact the success of a public power utility’s business.
Connections Summit Chair Ed Miller served as emcee and kept the conference moving.
Ed is the General Manager of New River Light & Power, and he serves on the ElectriCities Board of Directors.
Welcoming everyone to the conference, Ed acknowledged the board members in the room, as well as their work last year creating the strategic plan for public power in our region.
He told summit attendees, “These folks are representing you.” He encouraged attendees to talk with board members—to “share ideas, concerns, thoughts about the direction we’re moving in and the steps we’re taking.”
ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones gave the opening keynote address. He reminded us of the strategic plan’s vision, purpose, values, and priorities. And he shared good news about the state of public power in our region. “We have a tremendous story to tell, and it’s getting better and better,” he said.
Closing out the conference, Connections Summit Vice Chair Janelle Rockett added to that. “Our story isn’t just for our customers,” she said. “It’s also for our elected officials, our city council members, our county commissioners, and any other community partners we engage with on a daily basis.”
For more conference highlights, search for #ECConnect23 on our social media channels.
A big thank you to everyone who helped make Connections Summit 2023 a success.
If you attended, please take time to share your takeaways with your team. If you couldn’t make it, connect with someone who did. We hope to see you at next year’s Connections Summit or at our upcoming Annual Conference.
Starting on March 17, you can find slides from publicly shareable Connections Summit 2023 presentations here.
Mark your calendar now for the ElectriCities 2023 Annual Conference scheduled for August 14-16 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The newly elected and re-elected members of the ElectriCities Board of Directors have officially been sworn into office. Join us in offering everyone a warm welcome!
Jim Gallagher from Gastonia returned to the board this year. He served two terms from 2014 through 2019, chairing the board in 2019.
Re-elected to the board are:
Anthony C. (Tony) Cannon (Greenville Utilities Commission)
Costi Kutteh (Statesville)
Charles D. Nichols, III (Laurinburg)
Jonathan Rynne (Fayetteville Public Works Commission)
The 2023 officers of the ElectriCities board are:
Chairman: Randy McCaslin (High Point)
Vice Chairman: Troy Lewis (Tarboro)
Secretary: Costi Kutteh (Statesville)
Remaining board members are:
Mayor Eddie Braxton (Scotland Neck)
Whitney Brooks (Lexington)
Mayor Jack Edwards (Pineville)
Donald I. Evans (Wilson)
J. Richard (Rick) Howell (Shelby)
Edmond (Ed) Miller (New River Light & Power)
Kipling D. (Kip) Padgett (Wake Forest)
John M. Stiver (Newton)
Robert (Robbie) Swinson, IV (Kinston)
ElectriCities’ 16-member Board of Directors advises and directs the activities and policies for North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number One, North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency, and ElectriCities of North Carolina. Board members serve three-year terms.
Board members were sworn in and officers were elected during the ElectriCities Board of Directors meeting on January 27, 2023.
“Congratulations to our newly elected and re-elected members and to this year’s officers,” said ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones. “A big thank you to outgoing board chairman, Donald Evans, for his distinguished service and leadership this past year.”
“Many thanks also to Judge Allegra Collins from the North Carolina Court of Appeals for swearing in the newly elected and re-elected board members,” said Jones. “I look forward to working with this esteemed group to continue ensuring a bright future for public power in our region.”
Congratulations to Kevin Josupait, P.E., ElectriCities’ Manager of Projects & Contracts, on being unanimously elected president of the Southeastern Federal Power Customer, Inc., (SeFPC) Board of Directors.
The SeFPC is a group of municipal power companies and electric cooperatives that represent more than six million electricity customers in the Southeast. The group’s goal is to “raise awareness and build understanding of the benefits of hydroelectricity and to protect it as a natural resource,” according to its website.
Kevin has served on the SeFPC board since 2016, representing 47 Power Agency members that receive hydropower from the Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA). These Power Agency members are allocated 95 megawatts of hydropower capacity, the energy of which is produced at various dams in the southeastern United States that are operated and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
“Hydropower is a clean and renewable energy source and a small, but important, part of the power supplies of both North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number One (NCMPA1) and North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA),” Kevin said.
During his two-year term as board president, one of his responsibilities is presiding over the quarterly Board of Directors meetings. There, members hear from SEPA on the performance of the hydropower plants and the status of major projects, get updates on legislative issues affecting hydropower, and get reports from the SeFPC’s committees.
Kevin said he appreciates the comradery of the group. “I enjoy meeting with the other utilities and having discussions about their power supply, challenges, and how hydropower fits into their overall portfolio,” he said. “It’s an honor to lead and serve this group.”
As we’ve reported before, the General Assembly adopted House Bill 951 in 2021, which required the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to issue a Carbon Plan by the end of 2022. The plan was required to provide a path for Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress to achieve a 70% CO2 emissions reduction by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels) and a 100% carbon neutral portfolio by 2050. In drafting the plan, the NCUC was required to follow least-cost principles and preserve or improve reliability. The NCUC conducted an expedited process to meet the statutory deadline that saw Duke propose four alternative pathways to meet the goals with different resource portfolios, opportunities for public comment, and an evidentiary hearing. ElectriCities participated in that process, filing comments and meeting with NCUC commissioners, Public Staff, and other stakeholders. ElectriCities emphasized the importance of flexibility in any plan in order to minimize ultimate costs of compliance, expressed concern about the costs of new transmission proposed by Duke that would be built before any concrete solar generation projects sought interconnection, and argued that the ultimate plan could not meet least cost principles so long as Duke discouraged cost-effective demand-side management by wholesale customers.
Just before the New Year, the NCUC issued a plan with something for almost everyone to both like and dislike. The plan lays out a short-term, “least-regrets” path that directs Duke to:
Close 9 GW of coal plants;
Extend the licenses for its nuclear plants;
Pursue 2350 MW of new solar resources, 600 MW of storage tied to solar and 1000 MW of additional storage; and,
Evaluate new natural gas resources, off-shore wind, on-shore wind, and small-modular reactors.
The NCUC also found that Duke can move forward on some of its transmission plans. Even as the NCUC directs Duke to implement the Carbon Plan, it emphasized repeatedly that the plan does not preempt Duke’s obligation to obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for any new generation and does not guarantee rate recovery for development expenses (except for nuclear), or for any particular resources. Duke will continue to need to go through its Integrated Resource Plan process, the CPCN process, transmission planning processes, and rate proceedings. The plan specifically calls for a progress review every two years, at which point the NCUC will have the opportunity to adjust the plan.
The plan has already been criticized by environmental advocates and solar developers on one side for not going far enough or fast enough to counter climate change and by the John Locke Foundation for going too far, an over-reliance on solar generation, and threatening reliability. While ElectriCities is concerned about the additional costs the plan is certain to impose on wholesale customers, it is pleased that the NCUC has taken a wait-and-see position on most new resources, continues to impose the obligation on Duke to demonstrate that any new investments are cost-justified, and continues to emphasize the critical importance of reliability. We will remain actively involved to protect the interests of public power and our communities as Duke moves forward to implement the plan.
RALEIGH, N.C. (Jan. 18, 2023)—ElectriCities of North Carolina, Inc., the membership organization for municipally owned electric utilities—also known as public power providers—in North Carolina and beyond, awarded Downtown Revitalization Grants to four North Carolina public power cities: Gastonia, Laurinburg, Morganton, and Washington. Each city will receive $10,000 to help achieve its downtown revitalization goals.
“Study after study has shown that a thriving downtown is key to a thriving community,” said Carl Rees, ElectriCities Manager of Economic and Community Development. “Helping fund these high-impact projects injects needed energy into our members’ downtown areas, sparking growth and ultimately improving the quality of life in these public power communities.”
Gastonia’s Downtown Traffic Signal Cabinet Art Project
The City of Gastonia will use the ElectriCities grant to fund its Downtown Traffic Signal Cabinet Art Project, an initiative to enhance Downtown Gastonia with public art.
“This project reimagines traffic signal control cabinets as a blank canvas filled with a creative opportunity for the entire community to enjoy,” said Gastonia City Manager Michael Peoples.
Partnering with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Keep Gastonia Beautiful, the art project involves wrapping NCDOT traffic signal boxes with colorful designs at eight downtown intersections.
“This project will present artistic designs that make Downtown Gastonia come alive in colors, figures, and patterns, helping define a distinctive welcoming character that belongs only to Downtown Gastonia,” said Peoples. “Along with serving as a great placemaking tool, this project enables us to continue supporting the priorities we’ve outlined in our Economic Development Strategic Plan.”
Laurinburg’s Revitalization of 127 Main Project
The City of Laurinburg will put its grant proceeds toward restoring a cornerstone building at 127 Main Street in Downtown Laurinburg. The City has developed a two-phased approach to restoring the more than 13,000-square-foot building into quality, leasable space ideal for food and beverage service businesses.
Phase 1 is underway and includes environmental remediation, an overhaul of the electrical and plumbing systems, structural repairs, and preservation-minded cleanup. Funds from the Downtown Revitalization Grant will go directly toward the cost of repairing and replacing the building’s electrical systems.
“This Downtown Revitalization Grant will help provide a needed spark for encouraging economic development in Downtown Laurinburg,” said Laurinburg’s Downtown Development Coordinator Mary Allison Yancey. “The economic momentum we’re seeing downtown is challenged by the lack of quality, leasable space for interested businesses. Revitalization of 127 Main not only enables us to capitalize on that economic momentum, but it also demonstrates large City investment that will inspire future property and business owners to locate here.”
Morganton’s Coworking Project
The City of Morganton will put its ElectriCities grant toward developing a downtown coworking facility. Renovation of a building on South Sterling Street is underway, and funds from the grant will go directly toward constructing and up fitting the conference room.
“This location will be a great economic development tool for the City of Morganton,” said Morganton City Manager Sally Sandy. “Now remote workers and companies with only a few employees will have access to a convenient downtown office with the benefits of shared facilities, services, and tools that a coworking space provides.”
The City of Washington will use its funding to install lighting and security cameras in three of its downtown alleyways.
“Improvements from the City’s streetscape project have contributed to more foot traffic and increased retail business activities downtown,” said Washington City Manager Jonathan Russell. “That traffic revealed the need to increase visibility in the area, which when complete, will help attract even more visitors and businesses downtown.”
About Downtown Revitalization Grants
“These grant-winning projects demonstrate that there are many ways to improve our downtowns and to spark and support development and leverage private sector investment,” said Rees of ElectriCities. “While each community is as unique as the projects, as public power communities, they share a commitment to providing their residents and businesses with safe, reliable electricity and excellent service while supporting their local economies.”
ElectriCities awards the competitive Downtown Revitalization Grants twice a year—each spring and fall—to its members in the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) and in North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 (NCMPA1). Grant proceeds must be used for projects that advance the community’s downtown revitalization goals and are approved by the city or town manager or chief executive. The next cycle for ElectriCities Downtown Revitalization Grants opens in March 2023.
Happy National Apprenticeship Week! It’s our annual opportunity to celebrate apprentices and highlight the importance of apprenticeship programs.
Celebrating and supporting apprentices isn’t new at ElectriCities. Through our career development programs, hundreds of apprentice lineworkers, meter technicians, and substation technicians throughout ElectriCities member communities have gained and are gaining the skills and expertise needed to work safely and advance their careers by achieving journeyworker certification.
Craig Batchelor, Manager of Safety and Training at ElectriCities, says, “My hope is that every apprentice lineworker, meter technician, and substation technician who gets hired in any of our member communities enters one of our career development programs for apprentices. Along with providing top-of-the-line training, these programs teach safety first.”
ElectriCities’ development programs for apprentices include:
Apprentice Lineworker Program – In this four-level program, lineworker apprentices complete 72 online modules, eight in-person ElectriCities safety schools, and hands-on tests at the end of each school to gain comprehensive knowledge about installing, repairing, and maintaining overhead and underground electric systems. Participants gain an understanding of electricity and, in the more advanced levels, gain supervisory experience and knowledge of complex electric operations.
Overhead Lineworker Career Development Program – In this four-level program, lineworker apprentices complete approximately 60 online modules and four in-person ElectriCities safety schools to learn to install, repair, and maintain overhead electric systems. They gain an understanding of electricity and, in the more advanced levels, gain supervisory experience and knowledge of complex electric operations.
Meter Technician Career Development Program – This three-level program enables meter technicians at all experience levels to learn to test, install, repair, and maintain customer watt-hour meters. Participants learn about AMI technology and, in the more advanced levels, gain knowledge of complex polyphase metering.
Substation Career Development Program – In this four-level program, substation technicians learn the skills needed to handle technical substation responsibilities, including how to install, repair, and maintain all components of an electric substation. They gain an understanding of electricity and, in the more advanced levels, gain supervisory experience and knowledge of complex devices and switching orders located in substations and throughout the electric systems.
All programs require on-the-job training that supervisors must sign off on.
The newest and most comprehensive of the four training programs is the Apprentice Lineworker Program.
“We created the Apprentice Lineworker Program to provide members an option for more robust apprentice lineworker training,” Batchelor said. “Along with more online and in-person training, plus hands-on tests along the way, the program simplifies the process for member communities since ElectriCities handles the state registration process.”
Since the program opened to ElectriCities member communities in 2019, about half of them have moved from the Overhead Lineworker Career Development Program to the Apprentice Lineworker Program.
In May 2022, City of Lexington lineworker Brent Pope became one of the first graduates of the ElectriCities Apprentice Lineworker Program. He’d been working his way through the overhead program when Lexington Utilities transitioned to the Apprentice Lineworker Program.
After initially being apprehensive about the switch since it meant retaking some classes, Pope said he’s glad he stuck with it.
“It’s definitely about education and trying to make yourself better,” he said. “It might be a few more modules and a few more steps, but it’s worth it in the long run.”
He added, “The thing I enjoyed most was getting the different experiences, different skillsets, and different mindsets, not only from the instructors but from other students in the class.”
That’s by design, says ElectriCities Senior Safety and Training Specialist Jeff Freeman. “We try to make the schools so they’re compatible with every student across our member communities, covering all the skills that pertain to the smallest and largest utilities.”
Pope says the program is beneficial now, and he knows it will be in the future. It provides opportunities for people who may want to get into linework but are leery if they lack experience, he said.
ElectriCities’ Batchelor agrees. “That applies to all ElectriCities apprentice programs,” he said. “During National Apprenticeship Week, we thank our participating member communities and apprentices for helping us create a culture of safety through training.”
Whether your community’s load management programs use switches, generators, or both, October is the perfect time to start planning for the winter chill. The details may differ for each community, but the goal is the same: Reduce your wholesale power costs by decreasing the demand on your electric system when demand is highest.
Residential Load Management
Participating in a residential load management program involves having a remotely controlled switch attached to customers’ appliances that have the most impact on peak demand.
“October through early November is a good time to inform those customers who aren’t participating in load management about how your program works and the value of it,” says ElectriCities Field Operations Manager, Jason Thigpen.
Those already participating need a different message. Transitioning from summer to winter means:
Different appliances are affected. Water heaters are typically controlled year-round, but heat strips replace air conditioners in the winter months.
Load management time of day changes. In winter, peak demand is usually from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Summer peaks are typically in the afternoon.
Utility, Commercial, and Industrial Load Management
Much of non-residential load management involves generators on both sides of the meter. Whether your program involves generators owned by the city or town or by the customer, take time now to get them ready for winter.
Jack Yox, ElectriCities Lead Generator Specialist, advises:
Check for leaks, puddles, or other issues that need to be addressed before running your generator(s).
Ensure coolant and oil are at the appropriate levels.
Make sure block heaters are functioning properly so you can avoid starting a cold engine.
Make sure your batteries are fully charged and the battery charger is working properly.
“Almost every member participates in load management in some form, which collectively saves them millions of dollars each year,” says Thigpen. “Taking timely steps to prepare to manage the winter demand peaks ensures your utility and your customers don’t miss out on those savings.”
Welcome Wake Forest Town Manager Kip Padgett to the ElectriCities Board of Directors!
Padgett joined the board in July, and we recently caught up with him to learn a little more about his background, his thoughts on public power, and what he hopes to accomplish in the coming years.
Years before he moved from his home state of Georgia in 2015 to become Wake Forest’s town manager, Padgett was already connected to North Carolina. His wife and her family are from the eastern part of the state.
And, though he was familiar with public power in Georgia, this is the first time he has served in a town that owns and operates its electric system.
“The more I looked into it, I saw the value of public power and what it brings to our community,” Padgett said. Seeing the benefits of the town’s relationship with other public power providers and ElectriCities inspired him to get more involved by serving on the board.
When it comes to public power’s value, Padgett says public power’s record of reliability and the connectedness of public power providers stand out.
The relationships with all the different public power agencies, not just in North Carolina but throughout the nation, mean “we’re always there to help each other and keep the lights on,” he said. “We bring that value to our customers—we’re able to keep the lights on or get them on more quickly when they go out, compared to our counterparts.”
Padgett said being an ElectriCities member adds to that value. “All we get from working with ElectriCities we couldn’t do by ourselves,” he said. “The economic development, the technical assistance, the lobbying … it’s invaluable for what it brings, not just to the Town of Wake Forest, but also to all the citizens who are our public power customers.”
Looking ahead, Padgett said Duke Energy’s Carolinas Carbon Plan is something he’s keenly interested in. “It’s going to have an impact on all of us, not just through rates, but through regulations too,” he said. “It’s important to have a seat at the table when those decisions are being made to make sure it’s what’s best for our customers.”
Along with his more than 25 years of public service, Padgett brought to North Carolina his love for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. “I’m a BIG Georgia Bulldog fan,” he told us. Having a son who goes to N.C. State is not likely to change that—it just means he’ll pull for the Wolfpack as well. The jury’s out on who he cheers for if the two play each other.
“It’s a real honor to serve on the board,” he said “My fellow board members are all great and have the best interest of all our public power communities in mind. And we couldn’t ask for better staff to support us than we have at ElectriCities.”
Each year at the ElectriCities Annual Conference, we recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions to public power. At the 2022 conference:
Nick Hendricks received the Distinguished Service Award.
Tyler Berrier received the Rising Star Award.
Stephen Peeler received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Let’s meet and celebrate this year’s 2022 Distinguished Service Award winner, Nick Hendricks.
The Distinguished Service Award recognizes leaders with 10 or more years of experience who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to public power, brought their organization to a new level of excellence, led by example, and inspired their employees and staff to improve processes, services, and operations.
Nick Hendricks is undoubtedly one of those leaders.
More than 35 years ago, Hendricks joined the City of Kings Mountain’s Energy Department as a lineworker, and he never left.
Fueled by his love for the city, his dedication to improving the lives of its residents, and his commitment to ensuring the safety of electric department employees, Hendricks made his way to Director of Electric Utilities, Director of Energy Services, and then Assistant City Manager. He retired from the City on August 31, 2022.
He has served the public power community in many ways over the years, including a six-year stint on the ElectriCities Board of Directors. He has been the Alternate Commissioner for the Non-Power Agency Board of Commissioners since 1998, and he chairs the Lineman Career Development Committee.
Always quick to respond to calls for mutual aid, Hendricks has led crews to help folks recover from all sorts of disasters across North Carolina, throughout the southeast, and up north, where he worked on the snowy side of Hurricane Sandy.
Nick is a tremendous advocate for safety and training. He has a passion for ensuring that lineworkers stay safe on the job, and he has taught several to do that over the years—both on the job and as a course instructor. His team knows that when it comes to electricity, Hendricks says, “If we can’t work it safe, we’re not going to do it.”
He’s a conscientious leader—always considering how his decisions affect everyone, not just a few. Not one to cut corners, Hendricks has told his employees, “We don’t have to be first, but we’ll be the first to do it right.”
Though the City of Kings Mountain gifted him a rocking chair for his retirement, we can’t imagine him using it much. Well, unless he can continue to serve his community while rocking away.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has faced a major supply chain crisis, and the electric utility sector has been hard-hit. Supply chain constraints affect both the availability and cost of critical components required to provide reliable electric service to American consumers and business.
The public power community is responding. Many of those responsible for keeping the lights on in 72 North Carolina public power communities met in Raleigh Sept. 8 to discuss the ongoing supply chain constraints affecting the electric sector. The discussion among members of the ElectriCities Utility Director Advisory Committee followed a briefing held the week prior by public power’s national trade association, the American Public Power Association (APPA). At that briefing, APPA staff and members of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council’s (ESCC) Supply Chain Tiger Team, a nationwide team staffed by utility experts convened by the Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security, discussed crucial sections of the supply chain shortage and how to navigate workable solutions.
Some of the primary areas of concern include distribution transformers, conductors, utility poles, and large transformers. Utilities seeking to acquire all of these components are seeing significant delays and steep price increases: a pad-mount distribution transformer, for example, now costs close to three times more than it did pre-pandemic and lead times for delivery have increased by 12 months. Large transformer manufacturing will also have major long-term issues, with demand expected to double by 2027 and the steel industry already hitting maximum capacity.
This backlog can be credited in part to a shortage in labor and parts, but it is being exacerbated by a growing need for equipment driven by population growth, abundance of infrastructure funding, broadband deployment, and pole attachment shot clocks increasing demand at a level that production cannot maintain.
The ESCC Tiger Team is conducting a survey that includes public power organizations and manufacturers, to identify long-term and short-term remedies. Mitigating actions suggested by the team include temporarily changing standards to ease the burden of some of these constraints, sharing and encouraging folks in the industry to participate in the survey, and utilities sharing information and equipment, when possible, to help ease the burdens.
Following the APPA briefing, we spoke with John Maclaga, member of the ESCC’s Supply Chain Tiger Team and assistant director of Wilson Energy in Wilson, North Carolina, and asked some questions. His answers are paraphrased below, with the caveat that the briefing only allowed time for speakers to scratch the surface of the issues.
What supply chain issue do you believe is most concerning for public power in North Carolina?
Shortages of distribution transformers are a threat to both growth and ability to respond to outages. Meter bases, wire, connectors, meters, regulators, relays, substation transformers, and even humble wooden poles have been impacted by supply shocks.
Do you think public power communities in N.C. have worked well together to aid each other during these constraints?
Through ElectriCities, we have jointly purchased over 1,000 transformers. We got a relatively decent price, but only one quote from one company. We should continue to look for opportunities to do joint purchases.
What else can you tell us?
Conserving supply, recovering “lost” equipment on the system, getting used equipment refurbished, and seeking traditional and non-traditional suppliers and alternative parts or construction methods are best bets for getting through this situation individually.
Maclaga spoke about the concerns voiced during the APPA briefing to members who attended ElectriCities’ recent Utility Director Advisory Committee meeting. There was consensus among attendees that public power agencies will need to continue to work together to manage supply chain constraints in the near and distant future.
Utility directors and others continue to meet on these issues, and more information on supply chain constraints can be found on APPA’s website, here.