The Magazine of American Municipal Power, Inc. and its Member Communities

Of Member Concern

The Changing Electric Grid

Jolene Thompson

The Changing Electric Grid

4 min read



June 2023

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that “change is the only constant in life.” This is just as true today as it was when he first said it more than 2,000 years ago.

Our world and our industry are constantly changing, and public power must adapt and change as well to remain competitive. American Municipal Power, Inc. (AMP) has programs designed to help Members accomplish their goals and stay on top of industry changes.

Electric utilities, including public power systems, are faced with an evolving electric grid. Advances in technology, changing customer expectations and new actors in the sector are presenting utilities with both opportunities and challenges. A few examples include:

  • Customer interest in rooftop solar and home energy storage;
  • Transportation electrification;
  • Increased digitalization of the electric sector; and
  • Cyber and physical security threats.

It’s important that public power leaders be engaged and prepared to address these challenges by promoting, protecting and leveraging the attributes of municipally owned utilities.

Many of the issues facing municipal electric systems have been studied by the AMP Focus Forward Advisory Council (FFAC). The FFAC is a group of about 29 officials from AMP member systems who meet five times a year to identify and examine industry trends. AMP staff receive extremely valuable insights from the FFAC. Through our collective efforts, a number of guidance documents on important, grid-altering technologies have been developed, including information on how to safely and efficiently integrate new technologies into distribution systems.

“The Focus Forward Advisory Council (FFAC) is an invaluable asset to AMP members,” said Dawn Fitzcharles, village administrator for the Village of Edgerton and vice chair of the Focus Forward Committee. “Through the group’s research, they are able to provide actionable steps that can be taken by AMP members in order to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technological advancements or to have the resources necessary to get up to speed if a community finds themselves late to the game. All this information allows us as members to make informed decisions about which technologies we should invest in now so we can remain competitive in the future. The value provided by FFAC cannot be overstated; it’s a powerful resource for staying up with industry trends.”

Guided by the FFAC, AMP recently released the Focus Forward Behind-the-Retail-Meter Distributed Energy Resource Interconnection Technical Requirements Guidance document, which covers areas of major concern for public power utilities regarding customer-owned solar+storage and distributed energy resource (DER) installations. Further items on DER interconnection, electric vehicle (EV) planning and more are available to AMP members on the Focus Forward page of the Member Extranet (login required).

Regarding digitalization, AMP’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Program — purpose-built for municipal utility systems — has seen additional members subscribe to the program to digitally enable their distribution grid. To learn more about the AMP AMI Program, click here.

“I do believe that the shift to AMI prepares the Borough of Zelionople to better address changing needs in the electric industry in the future,” said Andrew Spencer, borough manager of Zelionople. “These changes, I’m sure we can’t sit here and identify them all at the moment. But there’s going to be changes that come, and I do believe that the technology that we put in place it does better enable us to deal with more technology changes that are going to come in the future.”

“The biggest benefit (to AMI) to me as the superintendent here for the electric, is I’m looking at the health of my entire system,” said Kirk Behrman, superintendent of Deshler Municipal Utilities. “And it’s powerful; it’s just not a meter reading. It’s the voltage. It’s the current. If there’s any blinks, what the voltage is on that meter. So the data that comes in is more of a 24/7 look at your system to see how healthy your system is on each individual customer. … We can monitor the system, see that there’s an issue and prevent an outage ahead of time.”

Additionally, AMP is currently assessing and testing program considerations to assist member utility systems with physical and cyber security planning and implementation programs.

We recently published the AMP Services Guide, which provides details about all of our programs and services available to members. We encourage members who would like to learn more about any program or service to reach out to me or to our AMP staff subject matter experts; please see below for contact information related to some of the key items mentioned above.

Many of our programs and services are available as part of AMP membership, while some are subscription based. We also have a number of programs that require minimal member effort but provide significant public relations benefits — for instance, our Scholarships Program that awards funding for graduating high school seniors in member communities toward their college tuition and our Annual Awards Program that recognizes AMP members for their system achievements.

Grove City Area High School senior Collin “Mac” Messer was one of five students to receive the one-time, $3,000 Lyle B. Wright Scholarship, and the benefits of that scholarship extend beyond the financial reward to the student, said Vance Oakes, borough manager of Grove City.

“The (scholarship) award is not only beneficial to Mac, but also allows the Borough to highlight the positive benefits of public power in our community and our partnership with AMP,” Oakes said. “Our public power system exists to serve our community, not to make a profit for stockholders. It is truly rewarding to be partnered with an organization that values giving back to our community as much as AMP does.”

Our goal at AMP is to serve as a solutions provider by identifying resources and tools to help members meet their power supply and customer needs. As we continue to chart a strategic course, we encourage AMP members to view us as an extension of their staff and take advantage of our value-added programs to help support your mission of providing reliable, affordable and sustainable public power to your customers.

Focus Forward Advisory Council

Erin Miller

AMP assistant vice president of energy policy and sustainability

Email: [email protected]

AMI and cybersecurity programs

Jared Price

AMP vice president of information technology and chief information officer

Email: [email protected]

Physical security planning and implementation

Michelle Palmer

AMP vice president of technical services and compliance

Email: [email protected]

AMP Scholarships Program

Amanda Smithey, member events and program manager

Email: [email protected]

AMP Awards Program

Holly Karg, assistant vice president of communications and public relations

Email: [email protected]