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A federal appeals court rejected appeals by APPA and others of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission orders approving changes to the minimum offer price rule (MOPR) of PJM’s capacity market—but said the commission’s actions were "worthy of condemnation." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit dismissed as moot the challenge by consumer-owned utilities of 2011 FERC orders eliminating a carefully negotiated guarantee that capacity market offers by self-supply resources would always clear the capacity market. That guarantee protected consumer-owned utilities and other self-suppliers from paying twice for the same capacity. The three-judge panel also rejected appeals by Maryland and New Jersey of FERC’s approval of the elimination of a separate exemption from the minimum offer price rule for state-mandated generation.

The court slammed the commission for its abrupt about-face on the exemption for state-mandated generation (which also applied to its reversal on self supply). In its Feb. 20 opinion in New Jersey Board of Public Utilities v. FERC, the judges said:
"It is more than mildly disturbing that, by endorsing a state-mandated exemption with perfectly predictable incentives, FERC would allow sovereign states and private parties to be drawn into making complex and costly investments, only to later pull the rug out from under those who were persuaded that the exemption was somehow real. That FERC has done so based on little more than the claim that the agency had an ‘ah ha’ moment when foreseeable outcomes approached fruition only makes matters worse. Our power to rein in bureaucratic behavior like this is, however, constrained. The ‘arbitrary and capricious’ standard of the APA [Administrative Procedure Act] is a high bar indeed, and many agency actions worthy of condemnation are not so deficient that they can be said to cross it. Such is the case here."
The court held that the consumer-owned utilities' self-supply appeal was mooted by a 2013 FERC order approving a compromise under which self-supply offers in PJM are exempt from mitigation entirely if they satisfy proposed "net-short" and "net-long" tests. That "completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the alleged violation," the court said.

The judges also took FERC to task for failing to provide a reasoned analysis of why it eliminated the self-supply guarantee. "In approving the removal of that provision, FERC eliminated guaranteed clearance for self-supply offers, fundamentally changing the MOPR’s treatment of self-supply, but barely acknowledging that it was making any change at all," the court said. "One strains to accept such scant treatment as ‘reasoned analysis’ sufficient to satisfy the demands of the [Administrative Procedure Act]."

The court agreed with the consumer-owned utilities and states that FERC had given short shrift to their arguments that the PJM’s Fixed Resource Requirement allowing a utility to opt out of the capacity market (if it supplies all of its own capacity) "is simply not a feasible alternative for them."

The court also rejected an appeal by incumbent generators (the PJM Power Providers) seeking changes to alter the mechanics of the minimum offer price rule.

The consumer-owned systems pressing the appeal were APPA; the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative; National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; North Carolina Electric Membership Corp.; Delaware Municipal Electric Corp.; and American Municipal Power, Inc.

The opinion is posted on the Third Circuit website. —ROBERT VARELA

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Dark clouds seem to find their way to Gardner, Kan., far too often. These are not the clouds that deliver bad weather; rather, they threaten the viability of the city’s electric utility.

For the last few years, Gardner Energy in Kansas has been the gold standard of smart utility management among municipal utilities in the state. Bill Krawczyk, director of the utility, has been a frequent speaker at various state association and joint action agency meetings. In those talks, Krawczyk relates the utility’s emergence from a near-death experience in 2007 to one of solid financial and reliability performance that began in 2008 when the city established an independent Electric Utility Board and vested it with authority to govern the utility in a business-like manner.

An article in the June 2012 issue of Public Power magazine chronicled the utility’s story. The Gardner utility was losing money when it was governed by the City Council, in part because utility revenues were siphoned off to support other city needs, said Krawczyk, who came to Gardner as interim director of the utility in 2008 and was appointed director in 2009.

In its first year as the utility’s governing body, the Gardner Electric Utility Board instituted purchasing and budget changes that immediately got the utility operating in the black. Key reforms included a policy change to increase the utility director’s spending authority from $1,500 to $40,000 and a decision to lease, rather than purchase, utility trucks. Within a few years, the utility had strengthened the physical resilience of the electric distribution system and established reserve funds that could be tapped if a storm or major equipment failure threatened reliable electric service.

But that success brought another cloud to Gardner Energy in 2011. The City Council searched for ways to prop up the struggling water and wastewater utilities and entertained a proposal to turn them over to a private company.  Gardner Energy would have been part of that package, to sweeten the deal for the private party.

That cloud dissipated in 2012 after the City Council appointed a special panel to evaluate the potential benefits of setting up an independent board to oversee the water and wastewater utilities. The 10-person panel, headed by then-city councilman, now mayor, Chris Morrow, recommended that the City Council follow the successful model of the electric utility and create a board of public utilities that would oversee the water and wastewater utilities, freeing the council to devote more time to other city business. The board would provide "focused oversight and planning specific to utilities exclusively," the panel said.

But that recommendation was never implemented, Krawczyk said last week. An interim city administrator did not want to move forward with the change. Last year, new clouds emerged.

According to reports in the local newspaper, the Gardner News, Cheryl Harrison-Lee, who is now city administrator, believes state law does not recognize the authority of the utility board to adopt a budget. Last October, city staff complained about utility salaries that were higher than those for city employees. The newspaper published an editorial Oct. 11 that criticized the utility for maintaining reserves and opined that the utility is not a business. "We never agreed that the utility should be run like a business. It simply isn’t one," the newspaper said.

In an op-ed column in the Oct. 21 issue of the newspaper, Ryan Beasley, a former member of the Electric Utility Board, said establishment of the utility's two reserve funds was one of the most important steps the board has taken. "These reserve funds are set up so that if there is a disaster or large equipment failure, it wouldn’t be a sudden burden to the people of Gardner to cover it with a large rate increase," Beasley said.

The utility has not increased rates since January 2009.

On Nov. 7, the Gardner News carried an editorial calling on the city to sell its electric utility, an idea that was summarily discarded by the city when it established the Electric Utility Board in 2008. The newspaper called the utility reserve funds a "mistake" and made the erroneous claim that Gardner is one of a few Kansas municipalities to own an electric utility. In fact, 119 communities in the state own their electric utility; only Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska have more.

On Nov. 18, the City Council rejected, on a 3-2 vote, a proposed ordinance drafted by city staff that would have revoked all of the Electric Utility Board’s authority and transformed it into a strictly advisory panel. But the overall intent of the ordinance has since been adopted by the council in a piecemeal fashion, Krawczyk said on Feb. 21.

Mayor Morrow on Friday said a meeting tonight (Feb. 24) may end up impacting the Electric Utility Board. He did not elaborate. —JEANNE LABELLA

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The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Unit 3 in Alabama has begun a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage that will prepare the unit to generate electricity for the next two years.

Browns Ferry Unit 3 was taken offline Feb. 14 to begin refueling for its 16th operating cycle. Units 1 and 2 will continue to generate electricity.

During the outage, 288 fuel assemblies will be replaced — roughly one third of the reactor core. In addition, maintenance on key equipment and systems will be performed, including work that cannot be done while the unit is online, TVA said.

More than 900 TVA and contract employees will supplement the site’s regular staff.  In total, about 181,000 work-hours are scheduled during the refueling and maintenance outage.

TVA said it is "committed to improving equipment reliability and operating margins across the nuclear fleet." The utility noted that all six TVA nuclear reactors generated electricity at or near full power during a severe cold spell in January.

The Browns Ferry plant reached a milestone on Dec. 14, 2013, when it marked 223 consecutive days of online operation by all three units. The Unit 3 outage ended a consecutive run of more than 351 days for that unit.

At maximum summer capacity, the three reactors at the Browns Ferry plant generate a combined 3,300 megawatts of electricity, TVA said. That is 10 percent of the utility's generation capacity and enough electricity to power more than 2 million homes.

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Danette Scudder, chair of APPA's recently formed Mutual Aid Working Group, wrote this account of how the mutual aid process worked to help a municipal utility in Tennessee get back on its feet after being hit by Winter Storm Pax. -editor


Over 500 public power individuals helped with restoration efforts in communities affected by Winter Storm Pax earlier this month.

While we don’t wish for significant weather events that result in widespread damage and outages, when they do occur, public power utilities consistently demonstrate their preparedness by calling upon our mutual aid networks to restore power to our customers. The manner in which utilities rally as a larger community to support one another during times of need is one of the strongest attributes of public power — and it’s something we all should be proud of.


Crews repair distribution lines in Palmetto, Ga., after the snow and ice storm. Photo courtesy of Jon Beasley

One community most impacted by Pax was the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) in Tennessee. EPB immediately engaged its local mutual aid networks and reached out to the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association (TVPPA), one of the public power mutual aid network coordinators in the region, to request aid from outside crews. TVPPA received the first call from EPB at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13 and power was fully restored to 28,000 customers who had lost electricity in that community by the evening of Saturday, Feb. 15.

More than 140 individuals from 22 municipal utilities in Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and other parts of Tennessee joined forces to help Chattanooga rebound from this powerful storm.

Jon Beasley, a network coordinator from Electric Cities of Georgia, who has many years of coordination and restoration experience in in Georgia and Tennessee, said, "This is just one example of what we do best. Mutual aid is public power in action, at our finest."

APPA held daily conference calls with public power mutual aid network coordinators and utility representatives to ensure that the response was quick, organized and safe for everyone involved. Coordinators provided status updates on customers without power, movement of crews, and any other pertinent information. APPA relayed that information on daily calls with Department of Energy, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other electric sector officials to help track the status of recovery. The link that APPA has with DOE and FEMA is critical in that it connects the energy sector with other critical sectors such as oil and gas, communications, and transportation.

It is important to celebrate our achievements and, from my perspective, public power’s mutual aid network was a big win during Winter Storm Pax. With that said, we must always strive to improve – this is why the work of APPA’s Mutual Aid Working Group is so critical to public power. You can learn more about the group on APPA’s mutual aid website at publicpower.org/MutualAid, or reach out to any of the members, or APPA staff.

Thank you to everyone in the public power community who was involved in Winter Storm Pax restoration efforts.

Danette Scudder
Mutual Aid Working Group Chair
Member Services Manager
Tennessee Valley Public Power Association

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The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority broke ground Feb. 13 on a 103-MW natural gas-fired plant, named the Charles D. Lamb Energy Center in honor of the chair of OMPA’s Board of Directors.

"This will be OMPA’s first greenfield power plant project in which OMPA is not a partner, but the sole owner and operator," said OMPA General Manager David W. Osburn. Construction of the plant is under way, with an estimated completion date of April 2015.

The plant will be used primarily for peaking power.

The 160-acre site near Ponca City and Blackwell was chosen due to its proximity to an existing Southern Star Gas natural gas pipeline and a recently built Oklahoma Gas & Electric 345,000-volt transmission line. Water for the plant will be supplied by the Ponca City Utility Authority, which has already constructed the water line to the site. The plant will use approximately 45 acres of the site, which will allow installation of additional units in the future, if needed, OMPA said. The remaining 115 acres will be leased for farming for now.

The OMPA board voted to name the facility after Lamb, the mayor of Edmond, Okla., who has been chairman of the board since 2001. He is the longest tenured elected official to serve on the board.

"Today represents a significant milestone in its [OMPA’s] 32-year history," said Lamb. "Being honored by the [OMPA] board was something that I didn’t see coming. I am truly, truly honored."

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EVENTS CALENDAR


Webinar – Duties, Responsibilities and Legal Obligations of Public Power Governing Boards
February 25

DEED webinar – DSTAR: Smart Grid Impact on Distribution Reliability
February 26

2014 Legislative Rally
Washington, D.C.
March 10-12

Webinar – Electric Utility 101: Transmission
March 19

DEED webinar – Developing a Cost-effective Conservation Voltage Reduction Program
March 27


Webinar – Federal Legislative and Regulatory Issues for Boards
March 31

CEO Roundtable
Phoenix, Ariz.
March 23-25

Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo
Oklahoma City, Okla.
April 4-5

2014 Engineering and Operations Technical Conference
Oklahoma City, Okla.
April 6-9

2014 Public Communications Committee Spring Issues Roundtable
Washington, D.C.
April 11

Webinar – Electric Utility 101: Distribution
April 16

Webinar – Cybersecurity Awareness Training Part III
April 17

DEED webinar – New Program Options to Engage High School Students on Energy Usage
April 23

Webinar – Industry Issues and Challenges Facing Public Power Governing Bodies
April 30


For a full APPA Events Calendar, visit Publicpower.org.


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CLASSIFIEDS

Education manager—The American Public Power Association, based in Washington, D.C., is recruiting for an education manager to work with the vice president of education and customer programs to develop, plan, schedule, market and implement APPA educational courses and special projects related to education. The position will serve as the liaison to the association’s Customer Accounting and Services Committee and Key Accounts Committee. The position will also oversee the development of sessions for APPA conferences, as well as handle member requests in these areas. Required education and experience:
  • a degree from a four-year college or university;
  • eight or more years of experience in a relevant field –preferably in the electric utility or related industries, specifically in technical and safety training;
  • the ability to undertake relatively complex management tasks with minimal supervision; and
  • excellent organizational and project management skills, as well as the ability to work in a deadline-oriented environment.
Apply: For more information, go to www.PublicPower.org. Interested candidates should email a cover letter and resume to HumanResources@PublicPower.org with "Education Manager" in the subject line. APPA is an equal opportunity employer.

Strategic planning manager—The City of Anaheim, Calif., is recruiting for a strategic planning manager. The position directs, manages, supervises and coordinates the activities and operations of the Financial & Administrative Division within the Public Utilities Department, including rate development, utility strategic planning, financial forecasting and financial modeling. The position also coordinates assigned activities with other divisions, departments and outside agencies. Qualifications: Six years of increasingly responsible administrative services, financial reporting, financial planning, forecasting, operations analysis, strategic planning, technology and communications experience, including two years of administrative and supervisory responsibility supplemented by a bachelor's degree, is required. Apply: City of Anaheim, Calif., applications will be accepted on a continuous basis until a sufficient number of qualified applications have been received. The first review of applications on this position will be Feb. 28. Applicants are encouraged to apply early. Recruitment may close at any time without notice after the first review date. To apply, visit http://agency.governmentjobs.com/anaheim/default.cfm. EOE.

Electric utility engineer—The City of Redding Electric Utility (REU) in California is seeking an electric utility engineer. Compensation: The salary for the position is $5,539 to $8,790 per month. The position performs a variety of technical support functions related to development, implementation, integration and automation of technology systems used by the Electric Department. Qualifications: Typical education includes a bachelor’s degree in an engineering, computer science or information technology discipline from an accredited college, university or equivalent. Typical experience includes five years relevant experience. Experience within the electric utility industry is preferred. Apply: Apply online at www.ci.redding.ca.us by 11:59 p.m. on March 13. EOE/FAAE.

Senior electrical engineer—Burbank Water and Power (BWP) in California is seeking candidates for senior electrical engineer within the T&D Engineering Section of its Electrical Services Division. The senior engineer reports to the principal electrical engineer of the Substation, Protection & Automation Group. The senior engineer will be responsible for directing the design of electrical distribution system substations and their auxiliary electrical systems, including protective relay and substation automation equipment and underground conduit and cable systems for transmission and distribution. He/she may guide system planning studies, oversee system protection calculations and settings, direct the design of new electrical systems for buildings, make/direct preparation of cost estimates for electrical installations; supervise the preparation and review finished work drawings for electrical construction; prepare and direct development of specifications and requests for electrical equipment; review drafting and engineering calculations; serve in a technical advisory capacity for the site plan review process; supervise the maintenance of records relating to system operations; and make recommendations regarding hiring, promotions and transfers. The position performs other duties and responsibilities as directed. Qualifications: The minimum qualifications for this position are any combination of education and/or experience that has provided the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for acceptable job performance as determined by the city. An example combination includes, but is not limited to, a bachelor of science degree from an accredited college or university with major course work in engineering (preferably electrical), and four years of professional electrical engineering experience, including two years at the level of electrical engineering associate. A professional engineer's license is a plus. Knowledge of electrical engineering, design and operating practices related to electrical transmission and distribution and related auxiliary equipment is required. For additional information and a detailed profile, contact Steve Dowdy by office phone: 303/816-0047; cellphone: 303/601-3915; or email: sdowdy@dowdyrecruiting.com. Dowdy Recruiting, LLC.

Engineering assistants—The City of Redding Electric Utility (REU) in California is seeking two full-time engineering assistants to perform a variety of engineering assignments, including design, economic analysis, resource planning, study preparation and production, cost modeling, technical research and contract administration. Qualifications: The typical education would include a bachelor’s degree in engineering or other technical degree, including economics. Limited part-time or no experience is required. Apply: Apply online by 11:59 p.m. on March 31 at www.ci.redding.ca.us. EOE/FAAE.

Lineworker—Advance your line career in Foley, Ala., with a progressive utility committed to providing exceptional value to our customers, employees and community. Riviera Utilities is just a short drive from Alabama’s beautiful beaches, and we are searching for an extraordinary candidate to fill a job vacancy for lineworker. Check out our website at www.rivierautilities.com for more information, or call 251/943-5001 today!

Director of electrical systems—Hibbing Public Utilities in Minnesota is recruiting for director of electrical systems. Description: The position is responsible for directing the business of the utility; establishing current and long-range objectives, plans and policies that are subject to the approval of the public utility commission; and representing the utility with customers, the financial community, the public, the bargaining unit and regulatory agencies. The position is responsible for providing efficient, economic and uninterrupted electric, gas, water and steam heat service to all customers. The position plans and directs all engineering activities of the utility. Compensation: The position's salary depends on qualifications, and provides a competitive benefits package. Requirements: Candidates with a degree in engineering, accounting, business administration, finance or equivalent are preferred. Candidates should have two or more years of increasingly responsible management-level experience. Apply: Applicants must submit a resume and an HPU job application form that is available online at www.hpuc.com. Applications should be sent by mail to: Jane Garrity, Human Resources, Hibbing Public Utilities, 1902 E. 6th Ave., P.O. Box 249, Hibbing, MN 55746; or by fax to: 218/262-7756; or by email to: janeg@hpuc.com. The application deadline is March 10.

Vice president, corporate services—Lincoln Electric System (LES) in Nebraska is recruiting for Vice President, Corporate Services. This position reports to the chief operating officer and oversees the Employee Resources Department, Transportation Department, Safety Department and Facilities Department. Requirements: The position requires proficient knowledge of human resources- and safety-related information systems, such as SAP and IndustrySafe, along with the ability to build and maintain internal relationships. The VP regularly interacts with LES’s administrative board and business consultants. Qualifications: Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree and a successful track record of increasingly responsible utility management assignments directing an organization similar to LES. Ten years of experience with facilities, safety, human resources and related information systems is preferred. A graduate degree in business is desirable. Lincoln Electric System is a municipally owned electric utility providing service to approximately 130,000 customers in Lincoln, Neb. LES employs a staff of approximately 475 non-union and union personnel. LES is governed by a nine-member administrative board. Apply: To apply, go to www.LES.com. LES is an EEO employer.

Electrical engineer (distribution)—The Middleborough Gas and Electric Department in Massachusetts is recruiting for an electrical engineer.The candidate will plan and coordinate system design, construction, operations and maintenance of an electrical distribution system; prepare specifications and cost estimates for installation, maintenance, repair and expansion of distribution system; provide technical staff assistance; coordinate compliance with state, local and federal regulations; assist with expansion of renewable and peak-shaving resources; and work with a management team and field personnel to perform related projects as assigned. Minimum requirements:
  • a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in electrical engineering;
  • a minimum of three years of experience in electrical engineering, preferably within the electric utility industry;
  • a familiarity with the National Electric Safety Code, industry standards, electrical loading and analysis programs;
  • a proven ability to lead and direct teams, interact with colleagues and clients and work in a fast-paced environment; and
  • strong oral and written communication skills.
Preferred qualifications:
  • professional engineer’s license, or progress towards this credential;
  • experience with underground and overhead radial and network distribution systems (4.8 kV through 13.8 kV); and
  • electrical engineering experience related to utility distribution systems.
Founded in 1893, Middleborough Gas and Electric Department serves approximately 15,000 electric customers and 5,000 natural gas customers in the Massachusetts towns of Middleborough and Lakeville. It is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Apply: Interested applicants should contact Human Resources, Middleborough Gas & Electric Department., 32 S. Main St., Middleborough, MA 02346, or by email at HR@middleboroge.com.


Check out APPA's career services on the Web

Visit the Career Center at PublicPower.org. Our career center allows job seekers to upload resumes, and recruiters to obtain resumes from job seekers. Classified ads in Public Power Daily and Public Power Weekly cost 70 cents per word for APPA members, and 80 cents per word for nonmembers, for a one-week run. Job posting subscriptions are available in packages of five, 10, or unlimited for a full year. The weekly deadline for placing a classified ad is every Thursday at 12 p.m. (Eastern time). If you have questions about classified ads, please write to jobs@publicpower.org, or call 202/467-2958.
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