National award for BE Light & Water
‘The best of the best’ is how it is described.
Blue Earth Light & Water (BEL&W) recently was recognized as one of the top publicly owned utilities in the nation.
The award is called a Reliable Power Provider (RP3) designation and was presented by the American Public Power Association (APPA).
Only 13 percent of the nation’s 2,000 publically owned power utilities qualify for this designation. But Blue Earth’s public utility did even better than being in the top 13 percent.
There are three levels of the RP3, gold, platinum and diamond. BEL&W was given the top award, diamond, which is only given to 5-percent of those designees.
There are only five other publically owned utilities in Minnesota to receive this designation, and they are all much larger than BEL&W. They are Rochester, Owatonna, Willmar, Austin and Shakopee.
“This is really a great honor,” BEL&W general manager Tim Stoner says. “This shows how our whole staff has worked hard to achieve what needs to be done to receive this designation. It was a team effort.”
The award recognizes four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement.
“We have been working hard to be tops in all of these areas,” Stoner says. “Our reliability is one of the best in the area. Our System Average Interruption Duration is at 1.1 while other utilities can be as high as 133. That is for the number of outages for longer than five minutes.”
And while sometimes outages can last for four to six hours or even days in some areas, BEL&W has been able to keep many at 20 to 40 minutes tops.
“Safety for our employees and our customers is always a top concern as well,” Stoner says. “So is training for our staff. We do a lot of staff development.”
Stoner says the review process for receiving the RP3 designation is rigorous and requires substantial documentation. The APPA review panel is made up of 18 utility professionals from across the U.S.
“Receiving an RP3 designation is a great honor, especially a diamond level,” says Aaron Haderle, manager of Transmissions and Distribution Operations at Kissimmee Utility Authority in Kissimmee, Florida, and chair of the APPA’s RP3 review panel. “It demonstrates that a utility strives for a high level of service and is constantly looking to improve.”
The award was presented to some employees and board members of BEL&W at the APPA’s annual Engineering and Operations Technical Conference held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 1.
While it was not necessarily one of the primary areas of focus of the RP3 award, Stoner said one part of being a reliable electric utility is to have good sources of power and be able to keep rates low.
“We have a diverse portfolio of power suppliers,” Stoner says. “And that includes more wind-based contracts than many other utilities. Plus, our rates for electricity are some of the lowest in the area, and they will be staying that way. We have locked in contracts for power for the next 15 years.”
Stoner says while other utilities are looking at increases, BEL&W is not.
“The fact of having low business and residential rates helps the city be competitive when it comes to economic development efforts,” he explains. “Having a safe and reliable and competitively priced electric utility is very important. This RP3 designation is not just for our staff. It is a value to the community to have this recognition.”
BEL&W’s employees and board of directors are proud of the award, and they are already redesigning their logo to include the RP3 Diamond designation.
“We take a lot of pride in the work we do to power our community,” Stoner says. “So it is nice to be recognized as being among the ‘best of the best’ on a national level.”