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America's Public Power Utilities-Maximizing Efficiency

Public Power: Good for the Bottom Line

Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble (Dec/Jan 09)
Keeping a tight rein on business costs has probably never been more important than it is right now, with the global economy in tatters and practically every news story including some variation of the ominous words "the worst since the Great Depression." A lot of companies are discovering that their very survival depends upon controlling expenses and finding the most efficient and effective ways to get the job done.

 There's no need to face such challenges alone. To build a brighter tomorrow, businesses need to do more than just commiserate - they need to build partnerships, and the most fortunate ones are finding valuable partners on the other end of the electric line.

Public power utilities have long been in the business of helping business, so they're already well-equipped with business assistance programs and services. Because they're owned not by investors but by the communities that they serve, they have a clear and unambiguous mission of serving their customers, improving the quality of life and the health of the economy.

They're committed to keeping overall rates low, but, beyond that, they're also committed to helping customers reduce their consumption to further boost their profitability. They do this in many ways, from energy audits that uncover opportunities for efficiency, to rebates and financing options that make efficiency projects more affordable, to technical assistance programs that venture beyond energy issues to help participants squeeze out savings in their manufacturing processes.

"We do it as a public power entity to better serve our customers," says Kevin Martin, key accounts manager for Danville Utilities in Virginia. "It's a service motive - if we can bring resources that help them, it's wonderful. We want our businesses to remain healthy and viable businesses. We want our businesses to grow and flourish."

"We believe that it is important to help our customers use our product, electricity, as efficiently as possible," says Mary Medeiros McEnroe of Silicon Valley Power in California. "It's good for the environment and it's good for the customer's bottom line. If we can help the customer be as profitable as possible, we can keep that customer in business here."

The motivations of City Water, Light & Power in Springfield, Illinois, are similar. As William Mills, manager of the energy services office, explains, helping customers be more efficient is good not only for the businesses themselves, but also for the utility and the environment. "As a municipal utility, the energy efficiency aspect of our mission is to save the utility's customer/owners on their energy bill, save on the amount of energy we need to service our native load, and to reduce the carbon footprint of our native load," he says. "The most effective technology toward all three of those goals is energy efficiency. Avoiding the generation of energy beats any other form of conservation."

That link between the efficiency of the power provider and the bottom line of the customer is evident in Nebraska, too. "The Nebraska Public Power District understands that every dollar it spends, its customers have to pay," says Dennis Hall, Nebraska Public Power District's (NPPD) economic development manager. "For this reason, NPPD as a publicly owned utility focuses on ways to improve the bottom line - not only its own, but its customers', too."
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