Is your utility a smart energy provider?

December 1, 2023

APPA program recognizes utilities’ best practices

A core tenet of public power utilities is to incorporate efficiencies and sustainability while providing affordable electric service. 

Utilities that go above and beyond in their commitment are designated as Smart Energy Providers.

SEP is a best practices designation for utilities that show commitment to and proficiency in efficiency, distributed energy resources, renewable energy, and environmental initiatives. It was created by the American Public Power Association (APPA) to provide national recognition and to help utilities benchmark and evaluate their work on these topics against a set of industry best practices.

SEP Disciplines

The SEP Application assesses utility commitment and practices across four disciplines: smart energy program planning, energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, environmental and sustainability programs, and customer communication and education.

The application asks utilities to describe the leading practices for these disciplines in the following four sections:

  • Smart Energy Information: This section dives into how your utility structures its smart energy program, including how you establish goals and objectives and incorporate them into your operations; whether you engage in research and development in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainability, DERs, or other smart energy topics; and how you benchmark these programs against utilities with similar attributes.
  • Energy Efficiency and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs):  This section asks utilities to describe the various methods of energy efficiency and DERs — such as supply-side and demand-side energy efficiency programs, demand response, and distributed generation and storage — that you offer to your customers. This section also asks utilities to identify any specific hard-to-reach audiences these programs target.
  • Environmental and Sustainability Programs/Initiatives: This section assesses how a utility works to reduce emissions and other adverse impacts to the environment. The application asks utilities to describe what types of programs they engage in and which stakeholders within the community they collaborate with to improve environmental performance. Utilities must also indicate whether they track and evaluate emissions and emission savings from smart energy programs.
  • Communication/Education and Customer Experience: This section asks utilities to describe how they communicate smart energy policy, procedures, and programs with customers and how they evaluate customer satisfaction with smart energy programs. This section also asks about any training a utility offers to customer service representatives to provide better customer experience in these programs.

SEP Review Panel

Each application submitted is reviewed by an expert panel of public power representatives. The representatives are from diverse backgrounds and regions with substantial industry expertise in the smart energy program disciplines.

The SEP Review Panel has 12 members. Two of the panel members are the officers on APPA’s Energy Innovation Committee. The other 10 panel members are nominated by the chair of APPA’s board.

Heartland Energy’s own Adam Graff is on the panel for 2023-24. He recently met with his fellow panel members as well as APPA President and CEO Scott Corwin in San Antonio, Texas in conjunction with the Customer Connections Conference.

Currently 101 public power utilities hold the SEP designation. Most recently, 66 utilities earned the SEP designation for 2023-2025. The application for 2024 designation opened December 1.

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