Ben Kostick has served as a commissioner of the Lewis County Public Utility District in Washington state since 2007 and serves as chair of the American Public Power Association’s Policy Makers Council. This interview occurred in conjunction with the Policy Makers Council Summer Fly-In meeting in late July.
Why are groups like the Policy Makers Council important for public power?
We’re told that being elected officials talking to other elected officials is more impactful and effective than a paid staff person doing the same thing. Their constituents are our constituents, we share that common bond.
I feel like this is an effective group. Since we meet in small groups, the summer fly-in feels like both sides are more relaxed and more willing to listen and interact.
Meeting two times a year (at the fly-in and the Legislative Rally), they get to recognize us and know us, and that makes conversations easier. Members and their staff usually are engaged and already informed on the topics we bring to them. If not, they are not afraid to ask questions.
We should be the people they come to if they have questions on energy issues. In my follow-up emails, I tell them that: “Please think of us first.”
How important is the relationship between the public power utility and local elected boards/commissions?
People have a wide range of thoughts on how the board should interact with the staff and management of the utility. I think it is important that we keep in touch. They know much more about the inner workings than any commissioner ever could.
In Washington state, the board has the responsibility for three employees at the utility — the general manager, the auditor, and the comptroller/chief financial officer. For some commissioners, those are the only three people they have any contact with. I try to interact with employees but not micromanage the utility. I don’t mind sitting down and having a cup of coffee with a tree trimmer or an IT department. Before I came to the summer fly in, I sat down with our power supply manager who is directly involved with Bonneville Power Administration to ask about specific issues, so that I could have more intelligent questions for our representatives.
Are there any legislative or regulatory concerns that keep you up at night?
It is our job to defend the principle of what public power stands for. Our job is really to fend off all the attacks on public power — and we’re getting attacked from many different sides.
Selling the power marketing agencies is a topic that won’t go away. Every administration seems to think it is a big, juicy apple hanging low on the tree. But once you pick that apple, it is gone. It is a one-time shot to the treasury, and then you don’t have that asset anymore.
The latest discussion around pole attachments is another attack on our philosophy. We own the poles, and we rent space on the pole at a rate based on our cost. Each utility is going to have a different cost. The effort to get the [Federal Communications Commission] to have a standard rate for every pole in the country takes away our local control and this cost-based approach.
How does your background as a CPA help when it comes to advocating for public power?
When I started coming [to Washington, D.C.] 11 years ago, being a CPA, I was asked to talk about the preservation of the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. I can give examples of bond owners that aren’t rich millionaires. After about seven years, I asked the executive director of our state association if I was being effective. And his response was, “They are still tax exempt, right?”
Having a utility board made up of people with varied backgrounds makes a more well-rounded board. If you had a three-member board and all three were CPAs, I think you’d be in trouble. You need people with different backgrounds to bring different perspectives to each issue.
Our newest board member is the administrator of a nonprofit hospital. That’s a great background for a commissioner because they have seen both sides of the boardroom table.
I truly believe in the philosophy of public power — it is a great cause and it’s easy to advocate for.
Position opening: Power Plant Operator
Reports to: Power Plan Superintendent
FLSA Status: Non-exempt
Benefits: Health, Dental and Vision
Salary range: $17.37 hour – $24.72 hour
Under the supervision of the Power Plant Superintendent, the Power Plant Operator is a limited-supervisory position. The employee in this position works daily on machinery, building repair and maintenance, and works with and assists other departments with projects as necessary. The Power Plant Operator will be required to perform skilled and semiskilled labor, and have the ability to organize and follow through on all required paperwork.
CERTIFICATIONS, LICENSES, REGISTRATIONS
- Valid Driver’s License.
- Must be insurable by City’s insurance carrier.
- Successful completion of KMU Power Plant Technology Certification course through Flint Hills Technical College within two years.
Minimum Required Experience: Three years related experience and/or training. Electrical experience is required. Employee is expected to have acquired the necessary information and skills to perform the job reasonably well within six to twelve months of employment.
Minimum Required Education: High school diploma or General Education Development (G.E.D.).
Preferred Experience: Four years related experience and/or training. Experience with power plant facility to include operations and maintenance. Management experience.
Preferred Education: Associate’s degree from a college or technical school; or equivalent combination of education and experience. Degree or coursework in electrical distribution.
For additional information on this position, contact Rob Culley at 785-594-3261 or email email@example.com
Applications to: Laura Hartman, City Clerk/Human Resources firstname.lastname@example.org
Application deadline 12/28/2018
Apply online at: Apply online
Westar will build and operate 1 MW solar facility
TOPEKA, Kan. – Nov. 19 – The City of Baldwin City is adding solar to its energy mix through an agreement with Westar Energy. The Baldwin City mayor will sign the agreement at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Baldwin City Library, 800 7th St., Baldwin City, preceding the Baldwin City Council Meeting. Media are invited to attend.
Baldwin City will purchase energy from the 1 megawatt solar array that Westar Energy will own and operate. The array will be next to the city’s new public utilities building at 1100 Orange St. in Baldwin City and construction will begin in the next few weeks. The array is scheduled to be complete summer 2019.
“I am proud and excited for this day to be here,” Baldwin City Mayor Casey Simoneau said. “Baldwin City will be one of the smallest, greenest municipality owned utilities in the State of Kansas once this solar farm is completed. Our current council and city staff have been working on numerous green energy initiatives throughout this year. We currently purchase wind and hydro energy and with this we will now be producing solar in our backyard. We have increased the net metering lid for citizens and businesses and have been diligent to ensure we are continuing to utilize green energy to help control our production costs for our citizens.”
“Westar appreciates the opportunity to help Baldwin City meet its residents’ energy needs with sustainable sources that are located in the community,” said John Bridson, vice president, generation services.
Westar Energy offers comprehensive energy management solutions, asset optimization, risk management and advisory services and renewable energy options to utilities, large industrial customers and independent power producers.
About KCP&L and Westar Energy:
Serving approximately 1.5 million customers in Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light Company (KCP&L), KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Company and Westar Energy are the electric utilities of Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG). Together we generate nearly half the power we provide to homes and businesses with emission-free sources. We support our local communities where we live and work, and strive to meet the needs of customers through energy savings and innovative solutions.
With low storage levels and an early blast of winter weather, the natural gas industry has been on a tear the past few weeks.
- Daily Mid-con prices on November 1st posted around $2.70 per MMBtu
- Today, November 20th, they are approaching $4.50 per MMBtu; an increase of more than 60%
- Demand continues to grow as well
- In October KMGA purchased 60% more gas supply than in October 2017
- To date, November 2018 gas supply purchases are 74% more than a year ago
Production continues to grow, up about 8.3 Bcf in November from year ago levels. Much of that added production has been absorbed by the high demand due to the cold snap that continues across much of the country.
NOAA has modified their 2018-2019 winter forecast to be 4-5 degrees below the average temperature. The NYMEX futures contract prices for Dec-Feb have reacted to this updated forecast and are currently averaging $4.54 per MMBtu. On November 1st, the winter strip average was $3.23 per MMBtu.
We wanted to provide this information to you as you should expect to see a significant increase in both usage volume and dollars on your KMGA invoice for November gas supply!
The City of Troy, a full service City including electric, water and wastewater utilities and street maintenance, is accepting applications for the position of Working Supervisor
Management and supervisor skills required. This is a hand’s on position. Applicant must have a valid CDL Kansas driver’s license, physical, drug test, other requirements as to job will be given at interview by personnel committee. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are required. Full benefits package available, pay based on experience. Make application or send resume to Troy City Hall, (Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. except holidays) 137 S. Walnut, P. O. Box 506, Troy, KS 66087. EOE
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- Open House in Baldwin CityDecember 3, 2018 - 2:33 pm
- Public Power Is a Great CauseNovember 30, 2018 - 11:28 am
- City of Baldwin City, Power Plant OperatorNovember 27, 2018 - 8:11 am
- Baldwin City adds solar to energy portfolio, signs agreement with Westar EnergyNovember 26, 2018 - 7:39 am
- Natural Gas UpdateNovember 20, 2018 - 2:46 pm
December 11, 2018EMP1 MeetingKMEA Office 6300 W 95th Street Overland Park, KS 66212
December 19, 2018KMEA Executive Committee MeetingKMU Training Center McPherson KS