APPA’s Ditto, Governor Noem highlight historic Summer Conference

Since its origin in 2006, the Heartland Summer Conference has grown to become our premier customer event.

This year’s conference was no exception. Nationally-recognized keynote speakers, record attendees and a brand launch led to an event of historic proportions.

woman speaks at podium before a large crowd, seated at tables

APPA CEO shares industry update

American Public Power Association’s Joy Ditto gave the first keynote address. As CEO of public power’s national trade organization, Ditto advocates before the federal government to protect public power utilities and the people they serve.

After providing a brief background of the public power model, Ditto shared an update on APPA’s latest activities. Specifically, she discussed the regulatory, agency and industry topics on which APPA is currently focusing its attention.

Included among these are climate change regulations, grid security, federal Power Marketing Administration issues, and more. The Investment and Jobs Act infrastructure bill is also of particular interest, and Ditto said the agency is closely monitoring its implementation.

Finally, Ditto highlighted how APPA is planning for the future, including keeping up with an evolving industry. She shared challenges utilities are facing across the nation and how they are meeting customer expectations.

According to Ditto, APPA is working to create more opportunities in a variety of manners. The agency is seeking to better educate policy makers, leverage federal dollars and resources, share knowledge and resources across more platforms, and develop and maintain partnerships, all for the benefit of public power utilities.

Ditto’s Slide Deck

Joy Ditto speaks at podium

Governor Noem touts partnership

Another nationally-recognized leader took the stage following Joy Ditto. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem provided a keynote address in her first visit to the Heartland Summer Conference.

Noem spoke about Heartland Energy’s storied partnership with the state in promoting economic development. She said Heartland has been “incredibly powerful” in helping create opportunities for growth, allowing the state to be “extremely innovative in the proposals we put together.”

She praised Heartland Energy for providing businesses with more than power supply: consistency, certainty and long-term planning.

Noem also spoke about the energy industry and its impact on South Dakota. She said she’s been working with a coalition of Republican governors to weigh in on policies proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Noem said it’s critically important that the state–and nation–focuses on having adequate infrastructure in place with assurance it’s affordable for every single family.

Kristi Noem speaks at podium

Christensen shares development tips

Rounding out the speaker lineup was Brent Christensen of Madelia, MN. 

Christensen is the president and CEO of Christensen Communications Company, an Independent Local Exchange Carrier. He’s also the co-founder of the Madelia Area Redevelopment Corporation, or MARC.

The organization was created to spur economic development in the eastern half of Watonwan County, MN. It also became instrumental in Madelia’s recovery after a community-changing event.

In the early hours of February 3, 2016, a massive explosion and fire wiped out multiple businesses along Madelia’s Main Street. In response, MARC along with other organizations, businesses and residents rallied together to rebuild and restore.

Christensen shared his community’s story including their recovery action plan and lessons learned. He also discussed how local leaders focus on what he calls the three parts of economic development: retaining jobs, creating jobs and fostering collaboration.

According to Christensen, Madelia thrives because of various efforts to promote local business programs and improve communications, recruit start-ups and telecommuters, and create and foster cooperation and teamwork throughout the business community.

man speaks at podium

Afternoon entertainment enjoyed by all

As always, the Summer Conference is capped off with an afternoon of entertainment and networking opportunities.

Sixty-two golfers participated in the annual Heartland Invitational golf tournament at the Madison Golf & Country Club. Heartland Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree captained the winning team, which also included Matthew McCaulley, SD Senator Kent Peterson and SD Representative Will Mortenson.

Other guests opted to enjoy a boat tour of Lake Madison.

Parker grad receives valuable training at local municipality

Jason Ebeling earns lineworker scholarship from national trade association representing public power utilities

 

Jason Ebeling has always been interested in electric linework.

young man in hard hat and utility shirt
Jason Ebeling, lineworker intern in Parker, SD

“When the weather is bad, [lineworkers] are the real superheroes,” he said. “They brave the storms and fix everything to keep the power on. I thought it would be cool to do that.”

A recent high school graduate, Ebeling’s ultimate goal is to be a lineman, ideally working for a utility near his family farm. With help from American Public Power Association (APPA) and the city of Parker, he is one step closer to realizing his dream.

Ebeling earned a scholarship from APPA to help pay for technical education. In conjunction, the city provided a job shadow experience to help him get a glimpse of his future as a lineworker.

 

Student/Utility relationship

Ebeling the son of Sarah and John Ebeling. He graduated from Parker High School in May of 2022.

This fall he plans to attend Mitchell Technical Institute to study power line construction and maintenance. He received a $2,000 scholarship from APPA to help pay for the nine-month program.

One of the scholarship’s requirements is acquiring a public power sponsor. Luckily, he had to look no further than his local municipality.

Officials with the city of Parker invited Ebeling to shadow Electric Superintendent Tanner Plucker. The city also agreed to serve as a resource and mentor, providing Ebeling with more knowledge of the electric utility industry, including career opportunities in public power.

“This scholarship program is a win-win for all involved,” said Finance Officer Adam Jans. “We’re helping a student obtain a scholarship for a trade that is in high demand, and it’s of no cost to the city. Hopefully we can do it again in the future.”

Plucker, left, instructs Ebeling on bucket truck operation.

 

On-the-job training

Over the summer, Ebeling has received priceless on the job experience which will better prepare him for technical school. In July, he joined Plucker as he removed storm-damaged power lines and poles.

According to Plucker, the lines were owned by the city and previously provided electric service to a well just outside of town. Although de-energized for nearly a decade, the cables and 22 poles were still intact.

Extreme high winds recently snapped some of the wires, however, blowing them onto the nearby highway and creating a serious safety hazard.

Ebeling helped Plucker examine the poles and remove some of the wire. This included operating the city’s bucket truck—a first for the future lineworker.

He also got an up-close look at some transformers and utility boxes, all the while learning the importance of electric safety.

 

Public power partnership

APPA is the trade organization for not-for-profit, community-owned utilities across the United States. Parker is an APPA member through its wholesale electric power provider, Heartland Energy.

The membership gives Parker access to a breadth of programs and resources, including APPA’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments program. Also known as DEED, the program funds research, pilot projects and education to improve the operations and services of public power utilities.

Ebeling received DEED’s Lineworker and Technical Education Scholarship, which supports the education of students working toward lineworker and other technical careers that are in high demand by electric utilities.

HCPD is now Heartland Energy

Wholesale power supplier unveils new name and logo at annual Summer Conference

Heartland Consumers Power District unveiled a new company name and logo at their annual Summer Conference on Tuesday. The company will now be known as Heartland Energy.

Heartland Energy logo and tag Power with Purpose

The change came as Heartland Energy looked to update their branding, which led to a desire to simplify their name.

“While we remain a consumers power district in function, the name itself doesn’t resonate with people,” said Heartland Energy CEO Russell Olson. “Energy is an all-encompassing term that better reflects who we are as a company.”

Heartland Energy engaged the services of Lawrence & Schiller to assist with the re-branding process. L&S conducted focus groups with employees, board members and customers to collect input on the new name and brand identity.

Varying name options were presented to the groups with consensus that Heartland Energy was the most forward looking and focused option.

“Energy reflects all the different types of power in our portfolio,” said Olson.

A common theme, particularly from customers, during the focus groups, was that Heartland Energy was more than a power provider. They serve as a partner to customers to help their communities grow and thrive. They go above and beyond to provide the best service possible.

“Providing reliable, affordable electricity is at the core of our operations, but we’re doing that with a greater purpose in mind,” said Heartland Energy Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland.

The tagline Power with Purpose encompasses all the extra things Heartland Energy does for their communities.

“Re-branding was a necessary step to show as a company we are moving forward,” added Hyland. “The electric utility industry is constantly changing, and we are staying on top of those changes.”

SD Governor Noem and APPA CEO Joy Ditto
Governor Kristi Noem and APPA CEO Joy Ditto

The announcement was made at Heartland Energy’s Summer Conference, an annual event designed to provide tools and resources to help customer communities grow and thrive.

Special guest speakers at this year’s conference included Joy Ditto, CEO of American Public Power Association, the national trade association advocating for the 2,000 locally owned and operated public power utilities across the United States.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem also spoke at the conference, touting Heartland Energy’s partnership with the state of South Dakota to promote development.

Brent Christensen of Christensen Communications in Madelia, MN offered advice on marketing rural communities.

With the change, the company’s new website can now be found at www.heartlandenergy.com. Company email addresses will also change to a similar format.

Now that the new name has officially been unveiled, the staff at Heartland Energy looks forward to continuing to offer the same great service to customers with a more modern look.

Heartland Energy provides wholesale power to public power communities across South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. Based in Madison, SD, Heartland Energy also provides a suite of customer service programs including economic development, energy efficiency, cybersecurity and more.

CEO’s Report: Legislative priorities for public power

Each year, the American Public Power Association hosts the Legislative Rally in Washington, D.C. This is a time to collectively speak to members of Congress about issues crucial to the success of public power utilities.

Heartland staff have always actively participated in the Rally, meeting with members from the states where we have customers and generation resources.

I currently serve on the board of directors for APPA and am a member of the executive committee. The APPA staff does an excellent job of lobbying on behalf of public power utilities, keeping tabs on harmful legislation and communicating with members of Congress.

Concerns always seem to carry more weight, though, when they’re given by constituents who will be directly impacted by pending legislation.

While Heartland was not able to attend the Rally in person this year, there are still many issues of importance on the table and we are working on other ways to connect with legislators at the federal level.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to reach out to your elected officials and discuss your concerns about the future of public power. Some of the issues you may want to discuss are noted below. A complete list of issues can also be found on APPA’s website.

Supply Chain Issues

Nationwide, the U.S. supply chain for electric grid equipment is becoming increasingly disrupted. Manufacturers say shortages of labor and steel have cut their ability to meet demand for electric transformers used in electric power transmission and distribution.

Large regional utilities are likely to have direct relationships or long-term contracts with transformer manufacturers, typically making them first in line for receiving equipment.

Public power utilities with short-term bidding requirements are likely to see more issues and there is concern that small, rural utilities are particularly vulnerable.

Supply chain disruptions are expected to delay new economic developments as well as system upgrades needed to accommodate electrification.

APPA is working to communicate the effects of these supply chain disruptions to Congress and public officials to increase awareness and promote solutions before economic development and disaster response is put at further risk.

Preserving the Municipal Exemption from Federal Pole Attachment Regulations

The term pole attachment refers to the process by which communications companies can place communications infrastructure on existing electric utility poles. This reduces the number of poles that must be built to accommodate utility services, while reducing costs to users of both services by allowing providers to share costs.

Rules governing pole attachments must balance the desire to maximize value with concerns unique to electric utility poles, such as safety and reliability.

In 2009, Congress directed the FCC to develop and deliver a plan to Congress to ensure every American had access to broadband capability. The Commission recommended establishing a “harmonized access policy for all poles, ducts, conduits and rights-of-way.”

Attachments rates for public power utilities are usually determined at the local level. The Commission cited no cases where the exemption proved to be an impediment to broadband deployment.

The FCC has continued to recommend eliminating the exemption public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives have from FCC regulation of pole attachments under the guise of facilitating broadband deployment.

APPA opposes any efforts by Congress to weaken or eliminate the municipal exemption public power utilities have from federal pole attachment regulations. They also oppose the FCC’s efforts to circumvent well-established federal law that precludes the Commission from regulating public power utility poles.

You can read more about the issue here.

Grid Security

A reliable energy grid is the lifeblood of the nation’s economic and national security, as well as vital to the health and safety of all Americans. Public power utilities take the responsibility to maintain a secure and reliable electric grid very seriously.

Cyber-attacks have rapidly evolved and could have operational consequences. While federal standards are in place for cybersecurity and establish an important baseline for security, grid security is more than a compliance exercise.

APPA works directly with the Department of Energy on a number of fronts. Most recently, DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response (CESER) awarded APPA a grant of $6 million over a three-year period to develop and deploy cyber and cyber-physical solutions for public power utilities.

The program’s goal is to provide utilities with cybersecurity sensor capabilities to protect key operational technology assets that enable the safe operation of the physical systems that deliver electric power.

This effort builds on the accomplishments of another three-year grant CESER awarded to APPA in 2016, with which APPA assessed and helped to strengthen the cybersecurity posture of small- and medium-sized public power utilities. This grant enabled the development of a cybersecurity scorecard for public power utilities to assess their cyber readiness, the production of a cybersecurity roadmap, an incident response playbook, and other guidance documents to help utilities develop a culture of cybersecurity within their organizations.

Legislation based on the success of the 2016 grant program, H.R. 2931, the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act, was introduced by Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and Bob Latta (R-OH) and passed as part of a broad bipartisan infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) in November 2021. The provision directs DOE to carry out a program to promote and advance the physical and cybersecurity of electric utilities, with priority provided to utilities with fewer resources. The bipartisan infrastructure bill contains other provisions authorizing funding at DOE to work with industry on improving grid security.

APPA believes that close coordination among industry and government partners at all levels is imperative to deterring attacks and preparing for emergency situations. Finally, APPA believes that any additional cyber incident reporting requirements must be harmonized with the existing reporting requirements for the electric utility industry.


These are just a few of the Legislative issues we are keeping an eye on. We are also closely watching the distribution of funds available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

If you are unsure of who your representatives are in Congress, let us know and we will put you in contact with the correct offices.

CEO’s Report: How the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act affects public power

President Joe Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on November 15. The bill includes $1.2 trillion in funding, including $550 billion in new federal spending that was not previously authorized.

The bill includes $7.5 billion in federal spending for electric and alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure, $65 billion for broadband infrastructure, $65 billion for electric and grid infrastructure, $7.5 billion for zero- and low-emission school buses and ferries, and $47.2 billion for resiliency, including cybersecurity.

The American Public Power Association will host a free webinar for members on Thursday, December 9 at 1:00 p.m. on what was included in the new law and what potential funding opportunities may be available to public power in the coming years as a result.

All Heartland customers are members of APPA and are encouraged to participate in the webinar. More information and registration details can be found on their website.

In the meantime, I would note a few opportunities of interest to public power.

Grid Infrastructure and Resiliency

Several sections of the bill are dedicated to electric grid reliability and prevention of outages.

One section would create a $5 billion grant program through Department of Energy to prevent power disruptions, or events in which the grid can’t be operated safely due to extreme weather or natural disaster.

Eligible entities would include electric grid operators, electricity generators, distribution providers and others. DOE may make grants directly to eligible entities in addition to a formula grant to be distributed to states and tribes. The program includes a small set aside of 30% for eligible entities that sell less than 4 million MWh of electricity per year. Additional information can be found here.

Another section authorizes and appropriates $5 billion for a new competitive DOE program called the “Program Upgrading our Electric Grid and Ensuring Reliability and Resiliency.” States, tribes, units of local government and public utility commissions would be eligible to apply for funding to coordinate and collaborate with the electric sector to demonstrate innovative approaches to transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure that harden and enhance resilience and reliability.

It also appropriates $1 billion for a new DOE program to provide financial assistance to improve reliability and safety of energy in rural and remote areas defined as cities or towns with populations of 10,000 or less.

Cybersecurity

Enhanced grid security as well as rural and municipal utility cybersecurity will be a priority with this bill. One section will require DOE to carry out a program to promote and advance the physical security and cybersecurity of electric utilities, with priority provided to utilities with fewer resources.

$250 million will be available through DOE for a “Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program” to provide grants to utilities to detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity threats.

Charging and Fueling Infrastructure

A grant program funded at $2.5 billion will be available at the Department of Transportation to provide grants to eligible entities, including public power utilities, for the deployment of electric, hydrogen, propane or natural gas vehicle infrastructure along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors.

Entities are required to contract with a private entity for the acquisition and installation of fueling infrastructure. Fifty percent of the overall funding is set aside for “Community Grants” for which public power utilities would also be eligible. These grants do not require, but allow for, partnerships with private entities and can be used to deploy fueling infrastructure in public locations including parking facilities, public buildings, public schools and parks.

Other Funding of Note

In addition, the infrastructure bill includes $65 billion for broadband, $47 billion for climate resiliency, $21 billion for environmental projects and $2 billion for underserved rural areas.

I again encourage you to take part in the free APPA webinar on December 9.  APPA plans to hold an additional webinar in early 2022 to provide an overview of the federal grant process, including how to find and apply for grants, likely application requirements and any updates on the timeline for federal agencies to implement the infrastructure law.

Heartland staff will participate in the webinar and keep customers apprised of any developments related to the bill.

CEO’s Report: Emphasis on energy needed in infrastructure talks

Two infrastructure bills are currently floating through Congress, each with different meanings and implications for public power.

Each bill deals with a different type of infrastructure. One is geared towards more traditional infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The other is geared towards social infrastructure. The Biden Administration has expanded the term to include such provisions.

Social infrastructure

H.R. 5376, otherwise known as the Build Back Better Act, deals with social infrastructure. Last week the White House announced a $1.75 trillion “framework” for an agreement on the Build Back Better Act. It includes $550 billion over 10 years for clean energy and climate programs.

The package is likely to evolve, but today includes $320 billion in tax credits and $110 billion in incentives to increase domestic supply chains for solar, batteries and advanced materials.

Tax credits would be for “utility-scale and residential clean energy, transmission and storage, clean passenger and commercial vehicles, and clean energy manufacturing.”

The legislation would extend existing tax credits for wind and solar projects. It would also create a greenhouse gas reduction fund and provide state grants for electric vehicle charging stations.

The bill has undergone significant changes since the first draft was released, including dropping the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would have rewarded electric providers for meeting clean energy targets and penalizing those that didn’t.

CEPP would have placed unrealistic targets on utilities and created financial burdens for ratepayers.

House and Senate Committees must next move to flesh out details of the agreement and then finish drafting it as legislative language. While this process is underway, there is still time to modify the final contents of the bill.

The bill could be held up by Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.), who has demanded more time to evaluate the projected economic impact of the bill. The bill would likely require votes of all 50 Democrats in the Senate for passage, as no Republicans are expected to support it.

The American Public Power Association will continue to work to ensure that any extended and expanded energy tax credits are available to public power as refundable, direct payment energy tax credits; and ensure that an expansion of energy tax credits include hydropower tax credits as proposed by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Traditional infrastructure

H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, deals with more traditional infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill passed the Senate and awaits passage in the House.

Headshot of APPA CEO Joy Ditto

The bill includes $550 billion in new spending, including money for roads, bridges, railroads, airports, broadband infrastructure and more. It also includes $65 billion for the power grid to update power lines and cables and prevent hacking of the grid. Clean energy funding is also included.

APPA CEO Joy Ditto recently penned an opinion piece for The Hill, sharing thoughts on how the infrastructure bill represents a significant opportunity to support public power.


“It is no exaggeration to say that our energy infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economic and national security and is vital to the health and safety of all Americans…We urge congressional and White House negotiators to continue to treat energy infrastructure as a front-burner issue.”

Joy Ditto, APPA President & CEO

You can read her piece here at The Hill.

As always, Heartland will continue to monitor both bills and their potential impact on public power utilities.

CEO’s Report: Celebrating the advantages of public power

Each year we take time to recognize the many benefits of non-profit, community-owned public power utilities during the first full week of October. Public Power Week is a great time to remind your customers of the many perks that come with having a municipal electric utility.

At some point, likely many years ago, community leaders decided it was best for the electric utility to be locally owned and operated. That is a decision that benefits your community to this day.

Each year we tout those benefits, but what do they really mean for your community? Is your community really better off for having its own municipal electric utility?

I would say yes, and here’s why.

Local control

Public power utilities are in a unique position. Being governed by local boards or city councils allows flexibility. Unlike utilities that must report to state commissions, decisions can be made quickly and independently with the long-term future of the community in mind.

Who knows the community best other than those living there? Those vested in the community are best suited to make decisions about the future of the utility including operations, staffing and improvements. They also see first-hand the impact the electric utility has on the community.

Local ownership

The customers of a public power utility are the owners. Depending on the structure of the utility, customers can run for election or seek appointment to the council or board overseeing the utility.

For those not wanting to hold such a position, their voice can still be heard. Meetings are conducted in the open with the opportunity for public comment. Anyone with a concern can attend meetings and make their opinion known. The best part is the meetings are held right in town, making it easy to attend.

Public power utilities do not serve stockholders. They are owned by the community and run as a division of local government. They operate on a non-profit basis with the needs of the customers in mind. Decisions are never made behind closed doors.

Community impact

Public power utilities contribute to the communities they serve in more ways than one.

Revenues from public power utilities are invested right back into the community. Parks, pools, roads and other amenities are often supplemented with electric revenue. Street lighting is typically provided and maintained by the local utility.

The local utility also employs hard-working men and women committed to providing reliable electricity to their community: the people behind the power. From finance officers to lineworkers to council members and more, it takes a variety of people in a variety of roles to ensure the lights come on each and every day.

Service is never lacking in a public power community. If you have a question, concern or just want to pay your bill, you can reach someone locally by phone or visit their office right in town.

Community development

When it comes to business development and expansion, many companies prefer a public power community because it provides a one-stop shop for all necessary services. From electricity to water and sewer to roads and streetlights, public power communities make it easy for new businesses to set up shop.

They also know they can reach someone easily when an issue arises. Local personnel are quick to respond and help.

Heartland partners with our customers on a variety of projects, including energy efficiency, cybersecurity, economic development and more. We work with our customers to provide rebates, incentives and low-interest financing to both residents and businesses.

The idea of these programs is to support community growth and development. Whether it’s a local business that’s been in the community for years or a new one moving in, we want to support their efforts so they can in turn, serve the community.

Advantages abound

public power week 2021 graphic

Over 49 million people across the country get their electricity from a public power utility. The advantages of being served by these community-owned, locally controlled utilities are endless. Heartland is proud to support our public power customers during Public Power Week and always.

We especially want to recognize each and every employee of a public power community for constantly going above and beyond to serve your customers.

Public Power Week is a great opportunity to remind your customers of the many advantages offered by your utility.

Interns to develop utility resources

Projects will examine impacts of EV charging stations and value of public power

Two interns have joined Heartland’s staff for the summer. Kaden Karst will tackle an operations project while Sydney Powers will assist with marketing and communications.

Both will create tools to benefit Heartland customer utilities.

Karst to create utility cost model

Demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is surging. By the year 2022, over 500 EV models are expected to be available.*

By 2040, EVs will account for over half of all passenger vehicles sold, compared to 2% of new vehicles sold in 2019 in the United States.

As focus shifts to zero-emission vehicles, electric utilities are bracing for impact. EVs require charging stations, which could add strain to systems.

Karst will help Heartland customers plan for this eventuality.

“Our customers have many questions about EV charging stations, especially regarding costs,” said Heartland Chief Operations Officer Nate Jones. “We’d like to offer guidance to ensure utilities are adequately structuring rates to recover these costs.”

Over the next few months, Karst will examine the impact of charging stations on utility electric systems. This includes determining associated costs for charging an EV during peak and off-peak times.

In doing so, he will need to understand Heartland rates as well as that of Heartland’s customers and the power market.

Karst’s goal is to develop a model for utilities that provides appropriate cost and system coverage. This may include guidance for utilities to develop a time-of-use rate incentivizing EV owners to charge during off-peak times.

Initially the project will result in a spreadsheet model for use by Heartland customers. Eventually the hope is for it to function as an online tool, similar to Heartland’s solar calculator.

“We look forward to providing this tool for our customers,” Jones added. “We want to be proactive as EVs continue to grow in popularity.”

Heartland applied for and was awarded a scholarship through American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Development (DEED) program to help fund Karst’s internship.

DEED funds educational scholarships to help improve the operations and services of public power utilities. Terms of the scholarship include periodic written reports to DEED as well as sharing any tools developed over the course of the internship that could be beneficial to other public power utilities.

Kaden Karst

Originally from Plankinton, SD, Karst is pursuing an electrical engineering degree at South Dakota State University in Brookings. He plans to graduate in 2023.

He is a hobby rocket and sports enthusiast and enjoys driving and working on his vintage Honda motorcycles in his free time. He is also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, and serves as secretary of the board.

Though his interests lie in the power industry, Karst is currently unsure of a specific career path. He is excited for the hands-on experience the internship will give him.

“Electrical engineering has endless learning potential that I am genuinely curious about. I hope my time at Heartland will give me some direction for after graduation,” he said.

Powers to present value of public power

Public power utilities provide many benefits to the communities they serve.

Some benefits are tangible, like a positive financial impact. Others are less easily measured but still effective and valuable.

Often, these advantages are not known or understood by electric consumers.

Powers will develop an educational resource to address this trend. The final product will serve as a template to help Heartland customers tout their specific public power advantages.

Over the next few months, Powers will research the various advantages public power utilities offer. She will analyze tangible financial benefits such as wholesale power cost savings, value of donated services and rate competitiveness. She’ll also examine intangible benefits, such as local governance, local support and economic development assistance.

She’ll compile her findings into a summary report that is both visually appealing and easily understood. It will be a guide for future reports, easily adapted with branding and community-specific information.

Powers will use the city of Madison, SD to develop the template. If time allows, she’ll move on to other communities. Ultimately, Heartland would like to assist in creating a report for each customer utility.

“This should prove to be a very valuable resource for our customers,” said Heartland Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland. “We look forward to offering this benefit.”

Sydney Powers

Powers grew up in Brookings, SD. This December she will graduate with honors from Augustana University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and International Affairs.

Powers is passionate about volunteering and politics and finds ways to intersect the two. Throughout her collegiate and high school careers she volunteered for a wide range of campaigns, including school board and state legislature.

“I find political campaigns to be a constant stream of energy,” she said. “It’s a fast-paced environment that requires team players and uniform messaging. It’s a chance to meet other individuals and hear how we are more united than one might think.”

She also volunteers as a counselor at ALA SD Girls State and SD Teenage Republicans, a group with whom she’s been affiliated since age 13.

Powers previously served as a financial assistant and East River director for Friends of Dusty Johnson, the political action group for South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson. Her responsibilities included coordinating all volunteer efforts on the eastern half of the state. She also worked for SDGOP, serving the South Dakota Republican House and Senate caucuses by producing a weekly newsletter.

After graduation, Powers hopes to work in government affairs or as a policy advisor for the government or a private business.

*According to BloombergNEF’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020

Heartland earns Award of Continued Excellence

Heartland and the City of Tallahassee Electric Utility in Florida have earned the 2021 Award of Continued Excellence (ACE) from the American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) program.

Read the story from APPA here.

Featured image: Heartland staff with the APPA award. Pictured from left to right is Accountant Sharla Fedeler, Director of Human Resources Theresa Schaefer, Director of Market Operations McCord Stowater, Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree, CEO Russell Olson, Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland, Executive Assistant Katie Hahn, and Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl.

CEO’s Report: Legislative Outlook

The American Public Power Association recently published an article, Making a difference: Advocating for public power. It provides a concise account of why building relationships with legislators is vital to the future of public power.

Heartland has long advocated for customers both on the state and federal levels. It is important to be involved in the legislature so decisions impacting our future aren’t made without our knowledge.

APPA CEO Joy Ditto also penned an editorial worth reading, Everyone is an advocate.

Having served in the South Dakota Legislature for many years, I have a natural passion for the legislative process. Now, we have another advocate in with boots on the ground in Pierre. Heartland Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree serves in the Senate representing District 8.

Heartland also engages with lobbyists to keep an ear to the ground for bills that may impact any of our customers. We keep an eye on legislatures in each state we serve.

South Dakota

The last few years have been quite hectic during the legislative session. We saw bills aimed to restrict a municipality’s right to serve electric load in annexed areas. Heartland and our customers lobbied extensively against these proposals.

Fortunately, those bills never came to fruition as they would have been harmful to economic development in the state and hurt our customers.

This year, we aren’t seeing any bills of that extreme, but are still watching a few.

One bill the South Dakota Municipal League is keeping a close eye is HB 1050.

The bill would put in place an automatic increase for newspaper rates for publishing legal notices. It would also set up a statewide website through the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

The bill was put on hold after a fiscal note was requested on the House floor. Since the state also makes public notices, legislators would like to determine the cost to the state general fund before moving further.

An alternative bill, HB 1120, would have the state set up a website where meeting agendas, minutes and links to live meetings could be placed. SDML supports this bill.

A bill has also been introduced, HB 1117, to make permanent the ability for public meetings to take place virtually or via conference call if the entire governing body is meeting remotely. Notice provisions would apply as usual and information would be given to the public on how to participate.

Senate Bill 34 would appropriate $100 million to expand rural access to broadband services. It passed out of the Join Committee on Appropriations on a vote of 8 to 0.

If you don’t subscribe to SDML’s weekly legislative updates, I would encourage you to do so. Good information is provided, feedback is sought and concrete points give to communicate with your legislators.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, clean energy continues to be a hot button issue. Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association offers insight into the 2021 Legislative Session.

Clean Energy First (CEF) legislation seeks to increase non-carbon-emitting or “clean” energy in each utility’s resource mix through the Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process.

MMUA believes a well-designed CEF approach will steer utilities towards the continued increase in the use of clean energy without artificial deadlines that fail to recognize technological limits and physical obstacles. Minnesota utilities have already made changes that have resulted in significant reductions in CO2 emissions below 2005 levels.

The Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) continues to require modernization to allow utilities flexibility at the local level. The current CIP has exhausted much of its benefit in many communities. MMUA believes it needs to be re-energized to enable utilities to achieve conservation goals, enhance low-income customers’ access to energy-saving resources, and foster the development of emerging and evolving technologies more effectively.

MMUA also opposes any effort to impose the mandated use of 100% renewable sources of energy, or any similar legislation that creates an artificial threshold without addressing the need to maintain local and system-wide reliability. Massive improvements to the transmission system, and substantial advances in storage technology will be necessary before Minnesota can approach a 100% renewable system.

More information about these and other issues important to Minnesota utilities can be found by visiting MMUA’s website.

Iowa

Legislative priorities for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities on the energy side include transmission cost control and a digital services sales tax exemption.

Most of Iowa’s municipal utilities are distribution only utilities and are dependent on transmission owned by much larger, interstate public utilities. Municipal utilities are sensitive to the need to provide the lowest possible rates. IAMU supports costs controls for transmission projects to insulate municipal utilities from increasing transmission costs.

IAMU also supports tax exemptions for municipally owned electric and natural gas utilities who obtain digital products and services for their own internal use. Iowa law gives for-profit investor-owned utilities and non-profit financial institutions an exemption from paying the 6% sales tax on various electronic services used for commercial purposes. IAMU supports efforts to grant municipal utilities the same exemptions.

IAMU issues emails a legislative update title Capitol Links. Contact IAMU to subscribe.

Nebraska

The League of Nebraska Municipalities has voted to support several bills so far during their state legislative session.

LB 178 would establish a turnback of state sales tax revenue to provide funds to municipalities to pay for infrastructure improvements. The state would pay back a portion of the state sales tax imposed on fees associated with infrastructure.

LB 83 is a top priority bill for the league. Like South Dakota’s bill, it would allow public bodies to meet by teleconference or virtual conference, subject to the Open Meetings Act.

As always, we encourage you to reach out to your legislators. It’s always important to maintain a good rapport with those representing you. Invite them to coffee, attend a cracker barrel or invite them to tour your community. The better relationship you have, the easier it is to talk to them when an important issue arises.

We will keep you apprised of any major developments we see out of state legislatures within our customer base.

We will also be watching federal policy and participating in the APPA virtual Legislative Rally next month. I would encourage you to sign up as it is free this year to all APPA members. A new administration will certainly bring new priorities and it is important to stay abreast of the issues.

I hope you all are staying healthy and look forward to seeing everyone at our Annual Meeting in May.