Energy Workforce Solutions from MFP-Connect
Provide Utility Management Expertise on Interim Basis
For nearly 10 years, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) in California has been engaged in an epic battle with Pacific Gas & Electric to enter the retail power business and reduce costs for its customers. In the summer of 2016, after PG&E rejected a fair market purchase offer and following favorable court rulings, the SSJID Board of Directors voted to pursue eminent domain legal proceedings to obtain the electric service distribution system from PG&E. In preparation for that decision, the Board asked staff to create a detailed business plan that includes the engineering operations requirements of the new electric system, as well as the transition process. To support the development of the business plan, the SSJID staff brought in two retired power executives via short-term contracts arranged by MFP-Connect™, a joint venture by Mycoff, Fry & Prouse and Hometown Connections.
SSJID will serve about 40,000 electric accounts and a population of nearly 100,000 located between the cities of Stockton and Modesto, Calif. A provider of water for agricultural and domestic use, SSJID forecasts a savings of at least 15 percent on power costs for its communities by acquiring and operating the electric distribution system according to public power principles.
“My background is in accounting and finance primarily,” said Bere LIndley, SSJID’s assistant general manager. “I needed help with the operations and engineering portions of the business plan, including how the utility would deploy and use advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to the benefit of our customers. I attend APPA meetings regularly and heard about the strategic planning and organization check up services offered by Hometown Connections, APPA’s utility services subsidiary. Through discussions with Hometown CEO Tim Blodgett, we determined our situation was too premature to pursue Hometown’s utility management consulting services. Tim referred me to Carl Mycoff and the MFP-Connect workforce service to find retirees with the expertise to help write the detailed business plan, and who could perform the work very quickly and cost effectively.”
From April through June of 2016, Bere Lindley worked with Steve Klein, a former executive for Tacoma Power and the Snohomish Public Utility District, as well as Larry Dillon, a retired vice president of power resources from Texas & New Mexico Power. Lindley wrote an outline for a fifteen-chapter plan, with the writing responsibilities split among the three of them.
“Steve focused on the AMI section, while Larry wrote the sections on substations, the distribution system, and operations,” Lindley explained. “Both Larry and Steve are strong writers, able to mirror my writing style and help produce a cohesive plan. Additionally, they both reviewed the entire document and made important contributions to other sections of the plan as well. Most importantly, they came to us without any preconceived notions about our organization or potential, enabling them to provide independent, expert advice and support. We enjoyed working with them and are very pleased with the final result.”
The SSJID Board voted unanimously to accept the 162-page business plan and proceed with the electric distribution system acquisition. SSJID will begin work in December with Hometown Connections to create a long-term strategic plan for the organization.
In the fall of 2015, California’s Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) noticed a significant billing problem. A fair number of customers were receiving unusually high invoices. While the problem seemed to resolve itself after three to four weeks and customer accounts were adjusted, AMP decided to research the incident. “We wanted to determine the cause of this billing error, to have a record of a thorough investigation and to make sure it could not happen again,” said Glenn Steiger, retired in September 2016 as AMP’s general manager. “Troubleshooting of the meters and the billing software did not identify the problem. So, I decided to bring in an outside expert with experience in public power auditing.”
Through Carl Mycoff and MFP-Connect, Steiger engaged John Meismer, a retired CFO/CPA, formerly with the Texas Municipal Power Agency and the Lower Colorado River Authority. “John’s week with us proved very fruitful,” Steiger said. “While he did not specifically identify the anomaly that caused the temporary billing spike, John recommended that AMP improve the procedures for linking the customer service and billing areas.”