by: Tammy Schmoll, Executive, HR & Administration Coordinator.
I am proud to announce that on April 4, 2016 OPU received national recognition from the American Public Power Association (APPA) for being a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3). The RP3 designation recognizes public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key areas: reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. Criteria within each category are based on sound business practices and represent a utility-wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity.
The RP3 designation lasts for three years. OPU is one of 29 utilities that earned a designation this year and 1 of 8 who received the top designation with a score of 99.5% out of 100%.
What does this mean for you as an owner/customer? It means your utility provider is among the elite in the country in the areas of reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. It means that OPU is dedicated to providing safe, reliable electricity. It shows we are committed to keeping costs as low as possible while at the same time keeping not only you, our customers, but also our employees as safe as possible. It demonstrates OPU’s commitment to constantly improving best practices and raising the bar for other service providers. It shows we are efficient in our processes and are providing the best value for your dollar. It means we hire the best people who are dedicated to doing an exceptional job for OPU and our community.
OPU is proud of our reliability. In 2015, the average OPU customer experience 7.2 minutes without power, while the average electric customer in our region experienced 70.5 minutes without power. OPU conducts annual reviews of our system to identify areas that need potential improvement and contracts with a tree trimming service to ensure trees do not grow into power lines causing issues during storms.
OPU takes safety very seriously. Over the three-year period included in this designation, several safety precautionary items were put in place. Included are mandatory requirements for employees to wear hardhats and safety glasses at all times; and job site briefing forms were developed that are discussed in morning meetings as well as on-site to ensure all safety hazards are recognized and addressed before beginning work. Any new person coming onto a job site is required to be briefed on the safety requirements of that job and to sign the form. All incidents and near misses are cause mapped to try to determine steps to prevent an incident of similar type in the future.
We conduct yearly tornado and fire drills; as well as we developed and practice a disaster drill in the event of a major catastrophe. Cyber security is also taken very seriously with assessments being done constantly. Employees are updated of potential security threats on a regular basis.
Budget planning is conducted on an annual basis and presented to our Commission for approval. Monthly, management staff reviews the budget to ensure things are on track and to address any issues that may arise.
I had the pleasure of working with several different areas within OPU to pull together all the information needed for applying for this designation. Without our exceptional employees, OPU could not have received this award. Our employees are committed to doing an excellent job. To ensure employees are always up to date on best industry standards and practices and to encourage networking with others in our industry, OPU encourages employees to attend seminars, conferences, job related trainings, etc. Employee performance is reviewed on an annual basis which includes individual development plans for all employees.
We are proud to serve the Owatonna community. We will continue to strive to set the bar high in all areas and will continue to be the utility that is used as an example of excellence nationwide.