CEO’s Report: An essential service

Service is at the core of our operations.

One essential service Heartland provides is assisting customers with preparing and submitting Integrated Resource Plans.

As mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, customers with a power and energy allocation from WAPA are required to periodically submit Integrated Resource Plans.

The IRP must evaluate the full range of alternatives to provide adequate and reliable service to electric consumers at the lowest system cost. The IRP is an action plan describing how a utility intends to serve its load in the future. It identifies and evaluates past, present and future resources, energy planning and management programs, and load forecasts, considering regulations, projections, assumptions and other factors

IRPs must be submitted every five years, along with annual updates and reports. WAPA created a small customer plan (SCP) alternative for utilities with under 25 GWh of annual sales or use.

Because the reporting can be quite cumbersome, Heartland created a coordinated effort to facilitate the submittal of IRPs, SCPs and annual reports to WAPA. We have been doing this on behalf of our customers since 1997 to ensure our customers retain their valuable federal hydropower allocations.

We are currently working on a five-year extension of the original plans submitted in 1999, 2002, 2009 and 2014, with updates. You can view the IRP previously submitted in 2014 here.  

Heartland Director of Power Supply Adam Graff recently sent a letter to all customers with a WAPA allocation requesting assistance to ensure completion and approval of the final plan by the June 15, 2019 deadline.

While Heartland performs a majority of the tasks required, customer participation is necessary. In fact, an essential part of the IRP process is public input.

Heartland will help with this by soliciting written public comments through each city’s local newspaper. Once the plan is complete, each customer’s governing body must take action to approve the plan.

The IRP process is one of the most important of the many services Heartland offers to assist customers. Graff spends a considerable amount of time preparing the reports, as a significant amount of data must be collected and reported.

Without his efforts, most customers would otherwise have to hire outside consultants to complete the plans at an expense of a few thousand dollars each. Beyond cost savings, Graff’s assistance also ensures customers fulfill federal obligations. Penalties do exist if customers fail to submit an acceptable plan.

Working together, we are confident we will successfully complete the WAPA requirements. It’s a service we are happy to provide to help ease the burden for our customers.

Another important service I’d like to revisit is advocacy.

Last month I discussed the USDA’s letter of credit (LOC) requirement in relation to the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Program, and Heartland’s efforts to remove this unnecessary fee.

Several Heartland board members traveled to Washington, D.C. in late February to share our viewpoint with key legislators and federal officials during the APPA Legislative Rally. Unfortunately the winter weather prevented staff from joining on this trip, and although the group in attendance had meaningful visits, the critical nature of the issue led us to schedule an additional trip to D.C.

In late March, Heartland Director of Economic Development and Governmental Affairs Casey Crabtree and I met with several U.S. Senators, Representatives and USDA representatives to discuss the importance of the REDLG program and its role in rural development.

We reinforced our message that the LOC requirement needlessly passes on a fee to the recipient that essentially nullifies the 0% interest advantage the program offers. Ultimately, it may stop valuable projects from moving forward to the detriment of our customer communities.

During our visit we met with Joel Baxly, assistant to the secretary for Rural Development as well as other Rural Development staff; Doug Stout, energy policy adviser for the office of Congressman Adrian Smith of Nebraska; Congressman Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota; Laura Lee Burkett, energy policy adviser for the office of Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska; and Peter Wyckpff, energy and environment policy adviser for the office of Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota.

We also met with all of South Dakota’s Congressional delegation including Senator Mike Rounds, Senator John Thune and Representative Dusty Johnson.

We feel our message was well received and we look forward to continued progress on this important issue.