Later this month we will travel to Washington. D.C. to participate in the annual American Public Power Association Legislative Rally.

Each year, electric utilities, and public power utilities in particular, face new issues and regulations that impact our ability to provide affordable, reliable power.

This year is no different. We plan to spend our time in D.C. wisely, educating our Congressional leaders on the value public power provides and the impact decisions they’re making in D.C. has on our customers.

Some of the topics we plan to broach this year include protecting federal ownership of the power marketing administrations, market concerns, solar distributed generation, as well as grid security.

#1: Preservation of the PMAs

It seems every few years the notion of privatizing the federal power program gets brought up. While the idea has never gained any real traction, the Trump administration recently proposed selling the transmission assets of the federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs).

Many Heartland customers receive cost-based hydroelectric power produced at federal dams and marketed by the PMAs. Therefore, Heartland will continue to advocate on their behalf and oppose these measures which could result in substantial, unjustified electric rate increases.

#2: Congressional oversight of FERC market policies

While participating in the RTO-operated wholesale energy markets, such as the Southwest Power Pool, can produce benefits for public power utilities in terms of cost savings and additional opportunities to sell power, there are still potential problems with the markets that require oversight. One of Heartland’s main concerns is the ability of some generators to strongly influence market prices, most of which is downward pressure.

For example, generators located away from load centers can provide a burdensome downward pressure on the market due to transmission constraints. Pricing influence can also be upward during emergency conditions. FERC has traditionally taken a hands-off approach as to whether resulting rates are just and reasonable within the RTOs. Heartland and APPA support congressional oversight of FERC market policies to ensure fairness.

#3: Fair governance of solar distributed generation

Utility customers across the country are installing distributed generation (DG) facilities that employ small-scale technologies to produce electricity. The price of solar panels continues to decline, and incentives are made available to offset the price of installation, leading to growth.

While solar installations can play an important role in energy production, solar DG customers must still pay their fair share of costs of keeping the grid operating safely and reliably.

Heartland and APPA oppose any attempts by Congress or federal agencies to federalize standards for DG implementation or rate designs. These are matters of state and local regulation and should be designed to reflect costs and assure that those who benefit from the grid are sharing the costs of building and maintaining it.

#4: Grid protection against cyber threats

Cyberattacks are becoming more predominant and the strength of the electric grid remains a top concern. While the industry has made great strides in addressing cybersecurity threats, there is still much work to be done.

Heartland continues working with SBS Cybersecurity locally to protect our customers, but will also be addressing necessary regulations and legislation to ensure the grid is protected.

Heartland board members and staff met with U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) during the 2017 APPA Legislative Rally.

These are only some of the issues we will bring before our members of Congress later this month. In past years we have met with legislators from every state in which Heartland has a customer or resource including Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Iowa and Nebraska.

During some meetings, we provide education on public power, Heartland, our resources, and our customers. Others already have a great knowledge of public power and the issues facing our industry.

If there are specific concerns your utility or your customers have that you’d like addressed at the Rally, please let us know. We are there to advocate for our customers and look forward to productive meetings with our representatives.

To learn more about APPA’s position on key issues, visit their website at www.publicpower.org/policy-positions.