Between the lines: Your questions, answered
By Gwen Kautz, Dawson PPD General Manager
gkautz (at) dawsonpower.com
This month instead of writing about things I feel our customers need to know, I’m going to use my column to answer questions recently posed by our customers.
1. Why do you give away so much money in rebates if it hurts your bottom line (less energy sales)?
GREAT QUESTION – and one I’ve struggled with myself.
It wasn’t until 1973 when a large, nationwide energy shortage struck that America realized how precious of a commodity energy was and how strong its impacts were on the American economy. In the late 1970s or early 80s a new movement called “energy conservation” took root.
Although they go hand-in-hand, energy conservation is not the same as energy efficiency. With energy efficiency, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to save energy. Energy conservation involves a change in behavior to save energy (turning off the lights, powering down computers and electronic equipment at night, lowering the thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer). Energy efficiency means physical upgrades like replacing worn out weather stripping, repairing leaking ductwork, adding insulation, replacing inefficient lighting and appliances, etc.
So, what store promotes a product and then asks you not to buy it (unnecessarily)? If all stores did that, they would go out of business. The question is WHY do we help our customers buy less. The answer is two-fold. (1) Electricity has gone from a luxury to a necessity. It needs to remain affordable so you can enjoy it. If we raise our rates, your ability to reduce your usage can counter that increase which becomes a win-win situation. This alone justifies our rebate program. However, what most people don’t know is that most of the dollars we use come from our wholesale provider. Don’t get me wrong, they build it into their wholesale rate for us, so it is not exactly cash out of our pocket. (2) Asking customers to conserve energy helps us avoid building expensive power plants and passing the cost to you. A kilowatt saved is one that doesn’t have to be generated. Using them efficiently ensures you are getting the maximum benefit for every dollar you spend.
2. Why do you help other power districts during a storm when we have people out here, too?
After a storm, the first priority is to restore power to residential customers and businesses. After that, attention shifts to stock wells and irrigation services. If these services are not currently in use, the pace of the work returns to normal.
Following the late April storm, Dawson PPD sent some crews to help Twin Valleys PPD after we had restored power to Dawson PPD’s residential customers. We never send all our linemen and equipment to help other districts. Dawson PPD is one of the larger rural power districts with more than 50 linemen on staff. They make up three different construction crews and a full staff of maintenance personnel, stationed throughout the District from Ravenna to North Platte.
I can assure you that if there were significant outages, we’ll take care of us first. Dawson PPD signs an agreement with our statewide association in which mutual aid becomes one of public power’s strengths – helping each other in a time of need. In 2006-07 ice storms, when Dawson PPD lost thousands of poles, we had over 370 linemen from all over Nebraska and South Dakota help us restore service. They stayed with us until our system was repaired well enough to get service back on to everyone.
In times of need, it is more cost effective for the closest power districts to help. In my last column, I talked about how all of our systems are tied together. What affects one can affect us, too. We aren’t working in other territories for free, either; the system that needs us, covers our labor and equipment cost so our customers are not impacted.
I hope I was able to shed some light on these two issues. If customers have other questions they would like answered, please email me. If you’re wondering, I’ll bet others are, too.