MEUW Weekly :: Oct. 23, 2018

MEUW is celebrating 90 years:  As MEUW members gathered for the District Dinner in Cashton last Wednesday night, there was talk of a similar gathering exactly 90 years earlier.  It was on Oct. 17, 1928 that utility leaders from 10 communities gathered in Kaukauna for the purposes of organizing the Wisconsin Municipal Utilities Association.  The idea for the new organization was borne from an impression that the private utilities were better organized to tell their story to a special legislative committee studying electric utilities.  The small group of leaders worked quickly, drafted bylaws, elected officers and presented a unified front in defending public power in Wisconsin.  MEUW’s history is built on these type of stories and the resiliency and will of a generation of leaders who advocated for community-owned utilities and what local control meant to their customers.

MEUW is using the 90th anniversary of our founding to introduce or re-introduce MEUW to our stakeholders.  Those efforts are now underway.

  • We’ve produced a lengthy edition of Live Lines to chronicle the history of the association (and public power in Wisconsin)
  • We’ve launched a special page on
  • We’re kicking off a series of social media postings that will be shared in the coming weeks – with a link to the 90th anniversary page on the Website
  • We’ve released a new, short video that highlights MEUW’s creation, purpose and plans for the future
  • We’ll be rolling out a new, 10-year strategic plan early in 2019 – with a focus on the future and a bolder vision for MEUW
  • We’re planning a 90th Annual Conference – to be held May 15 to 17, 2019 – that we hope will attract a large turnout befitting a 90-year celebration

You’ll see and hear much more about MEUW’s 90th in the coming weeks and months.  As always, your support of the association is welcomed and appreciated.

PSC to consider eliminating credit card fees for utility bill payers: Wisconsin Power and Light Co. recently filed a request with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to eliminate credit-card service fees charged to customers and instead include the aggregate cost of these fees as rate-recovered operations and maintenance expense.

This request has been filed as Docket 6680-TE-103, and the PSC has already requested comments from all Wisconsin utilities on the issue. MEUW Executive Director Tim Heinrich, who has been collecting member feedback on this request, said a large majority of MEUW utilities support this direction.

In a letter to the PSC, MEUW underscored that many customers now prefer to pay their bills with a credit card. MEUW’s member utilities regularly receive negative feedback from customers who are charged a “convenience fee” when paying with a credit card.  If approved, this change would successfully mitigate those customer complaints.

“The proposal correctly acknowledges that costs associated with all other forms of customer payments are recovered through utility rates, so aggregating the cost of credit-card fees enables customers who prefer to pay with a credit card to do so without incurring additional personal expense,” the letter states.

Regulators in many other states already allow rate-recovery of aggregated credit-card fees.  Utilities in those states experienced a corresponding increase in the number of customers paying by credit card.

We will keep you up-to-date on this proposed regulations as it evolves. To view MEUW’s comments filed with the PSC on this issue, click here.

Utilities plan to Light Up the Navajo Nation: The American Public Power Association is partnering with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to launch “Light Up the Navajo Nation,” a pilot program to connect some Navajo households in the Southwestern United States to the electrical grid for the very first time.  MEUW has participated in some discussions about the project and will help to coordinate member participation, if there is interest from Wisconsin utilities.

In Navajo Nation, approximately 15,000 homes have never had electricity or running water. These Navajo families account for 75 percent of all unelectrified households in the U.S.

Past projects to connect these households to the electrical grid have come to a standstill because Navajo Nation is located in an extremely rural area in the Great Basin Desert and is spread out over 27,000 square miles (by comparison, the entire state of Wisconsin is about 65,500 square miles). While mostly in Arizona, Navajo Nation also sweeps into Utah and New Mexico.

The project will begin with a small pilot program next year. But the longer-range plan is to scale up and complete the electrification for all Navajo homes in the next several years.

Unlike Mutual Aid events, Light Up the Navajo Nation will be completed solely with volunteer crews and equipment; no reimbursement or compensation is available for individual utilities that send crews to help.

In order to successfully connect this community in need, this pilot project will need teams of experienced line workers who can commit to staying in Navajo Nation to work for at least two weeks.

MEUW has taken part in several of the initial Light Up the Navajo Nation planning meetings. We will share more information as it becomes available. If you have any questions or have an interest in volunteering crews to help with this very worthy project, please contact Mike Czuprynko, MEUW’s Manager of Safety Services.

Public Power week wrap-up: Did your utility celebrate Public Power Week with an open house, special event or something else? If so, please contact Karen Whitmer by this Friday, Oct. 26 with the details to be included in a Public Power Week wrap-up in the November issue of Live Lines.

WIDRC and ComRent present IEEE 1547 Tutorial: The Wisconsin Distributed Resources Collaborative and ComRent Load Bank Solutions will present an all-day review of the revised IEEE 1547 Standard on Nov. 9, 2018, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. All MEUW member utility employees are invited to attend.

IEEE 1547 was approved by the IEEE Standards Board in February 2018. The seminar will center on the positive implications for all distributed generation systems, particularly solar PV, energy storage and microgrids. Speakers include Mark Siira, Director of Utility Compliance and Solutions at ComRent International, and Wayne Stec, Principal at Distregen

Registration is $45. For more information or to register, click here.

Drumroll, please! … The Eagle soared to the top of the list of the most popular school mascots among the public and private high schools throughout MEUW’s member communities. In fact, there are six “Eagle” public power communities in Wisconsin: Cashton, Eagle River, Fennimore (which call themselves the Golden Eagles), Jefferson, Prairie du Sac and Sauk City.

In second place, five MEUW communities use a Tiger for their high school mascot. And in third place was the Bulldog, which represents four of our communities’ high schools.

Some of the more unique mascots that appropriately pay homage to specific businesses or industries in their communities include the Clintonville Truckers, the Manitowoc Lincoln Ships, the Sturgeon Bay Clippers and the Shullsburg Miners!

Four readers correctly guessed the Eagle as our most popular high school mascot and will soon be receiving a $25 Amazon gift card in the mail:

  • Laurie Bauldry, Sturgeon Bay
  • Cindy Campbell, River Falls
  • Kay Nooker, Two Rivers
  • Shannon Statz, Jefferson

Congratulations to all of our winners … and thanks to all readers who responded! Watch for our next fun reader challenge later this year.

Register for National Electrical Code Training on or before Oct. 31: MEUW will host a National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) Seminar on Dec. 4-5, 2018, at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in Fennimore.

Topics for this two-day conference include overhead and underground settings, substation clearance requirements, communication facilities clearance requirements, cable markings, and safety signs that conform with the National Electrical Safety Code and Wisconsin PSC 114 Code. Randy Larson, MEUW Electric Utility Safety and Training Coordinator, and Jim Biesterveld, a Wisconsin State Master Electrician with more than 25 years of experience in teaching Electrical Code classes, will be the lead instructors for this seminar.

The registration fee for MEUW member utility employees is $175. Please click here for more information or to register.

Joint Superintendents’ Conference set for January:  Registration will open soon for the 2019 Electric Utility Joint Superintendent’s Conference and Expo, which is set for Jan. 16 to 18 in Wisconsin Dells.  The annual gathering is presented by MEUW and the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association and features a large trade show hosted by the Wisconsin Utility Suppliers Association (WUSA).  Mark your calendar and make plans to join us for this year’s Joint Sups!

Access the latest MEUW Calendar of Events, which now includes the dates for the Spring Customer Service Roundtables.   And don’t forget to register for one of the District Dinners taking place between now and Nov. 15.