Community Voices - Steve Dupee

dupeeSteve Dupee (amppartners.org photo)Q: What words or images would you use to describe Oberlin?

An image that comes to mind immediately is right here on my business card with wind turbines in the background, illustrating the community’s commitment to environmentally responsible power supply resources to meet our community’s electric needs with a focus on sustainability and carbon emission reduction.

Q: How did you come to work in Oberlin at OMLPS?

After I graduated from college I worked in the private sector for a little while, however, they were jobs that I didn’t really have a passion about. A position became available at OMLPS for an Administrative Assistant to the Electric Director, and so I applied and got it, and have worked my way up through the organization over the past 22 years.

OMLPS is a public power system, meaning it’s owned by the citizens and businesses of this community and it’s here solely to serve the community’s interests and create economic vitality, while striving to improve and enhance people’s lives. My father was the utility director for a small community just south of Oberlin, in Wellington, and he did that for 30 years, and so I grew up around public power, and gained an understanding of how locally owned and controlled municipal electric systems created value for their communities and citizens. Over the years, I have developed a real passion for public power.     

Q: What does the word sustainability mean to you?

Using our resources most efficiently and wisely to preserve and maintain the health and welfare of our environment for future generations.

Q: What are the actions your organization is pursuing that relate directly to sustainability?

So over the past 6 years, OMLPS, with the support and direction of Oberlin City Council, has taken a very aggressive approach to transitioning the City’s power portfolio away from fossil fuels in favor of renewable and carbon neutral sources of power.  The catalytic moment for developing and implementing this power supply strategy was during a community debate on whether or not the City should participate in a coal-fired generation project under development by the City’s wholesale power provider. The opportunity for debate and discussion allowed the community to speak in one loud voice, and say that they wanted their local municipal electric system to begin transitioning away from fossil fuels in its power portfolio to help address issues surrounding climate change.

The transition to renewable and carbon neutral sources of power has been challenging, but we have really made significant strides towards that effort.  In fact, by 2017, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our power portfolio will be reduced by 85%, and that is a significant transition in a really short time— a five year period between 2012 and 2017. We will also have about 85% renewable/carbon neutral power supply resources in our power portfolio by then.

I think this conversation about energy and climate really helped us understand that in addition to reliable electric service and competitively priced power, the community believed environmental stewardship should be equally as important. That guidance has helped us make better decisions about our power portfolio and other services the community desires.

For example, OMLPS has implemented a more robust and aggressive energy efficiency program for the residents and businesses in the community, and we have been able to partner with other organizations, such as the Oberlin Project and the local non-profit POWER (Providing Oberlin with Efficiency Responsibly) to help us achieve the city’s overall climate goals.

Q: Are there any specific parts of the Climate Action Plan that OMLPS has been working on?

Of course that plan is a living document and will continue on— in fact the plan requires an update every five years to ensure that progress is being made towards greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

The plan lays out specific greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for by 2015, 2030, and 2050 but also includes interim goals that focus on continuous efforts, strategies and measures to help the community reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Transition of the City’s power portfolio has been the most significant focus since the electricity sector accounts for 55% of all the community-wide greenhouse gas emissions in the city, so that sector garnered the most attention initially.  

Other efforts have included support for local development and construction of renewable generation including a partnership with Oberlin College to interconnect their 2-megawatt solar project to the City’s distribution system.  Our first effort on the transportation front was the procurement and installation of the first city-owned electric vehicle charging station downtown behind old City Hall.

Now that the City has nearly completed its power supply transition, it will begin to focus on the next two largest green house gas emission sectors - natural gas usage for heating and transportation sources. That’s going to be a more challenging effort, but I think one that the city is up for.

Q: Does OMLPS see a big responsibility in relaying the importance of energy efficiency in people’s everyday lives, and how ultimate energy reduction is a big part of energy efficiency?

Yes. It is our duty and responsibility to help customers save energy costs and reduce wasteful or inefficient energy use. OMLPS is committed to delivering the best service and providing value for every energy dollar our customers spend.  

Some people will ask me, “Steve, don’t you want to sell more power?” No, we do not want to sell more power. Developing, constructing and operating large centralized power generation resources to serve electric customers, is very complex and challenging with many risks.  Energy efficiency is much easier to implement and deliver with less environmental impact and greater cost savings to the customer.

Truly, the easiest kilowatt hour to generate and deliver is the one we never have to due to energy efficiency and conservation. For OMLPS and our customers, energy efficiency must be the number one priority.

Q: What is your vision for Oberlin once the goals of the city’s Climate Action Plan are met, or begin to be increasingly met?

To me I hope our plan can be replicated across the country. Oberlin cannot solve the problems of climate change on our own, of course, so I hope what we do here can be replicated in other communities and lessons learned in Oberlin and can be applied elsewhere.

The shift in attitudes regarding climate change is happening.  We have a president of the US who supports action to address climate change, and in fact, a number of actions by the USEPA are taking place now to move us in that direction. A more environmentally responsible way of living is going to be necessary if we’re really going to be able to protect what we enjoy today.

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Chloe Vassot is a first-year student at Oberlin College. Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, her major is undecided but she is interested in Environmental Studies, English, and journalism, though her list grows every day. She loves reading, coffee, and the grey Oberlin weather

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Guest March 15, 2017

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Chloe Vassot
Chloe Vassot is a first-year student at Oberlin College. Originally from Lancast
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