By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Paul Twite and Joe Johnson are getting into the swing of things as the newest people involved in Delano Municipal Utilities (DMU).
Twite became the manager of operations and conservation in October.
Since then, he’s been busy developing ways for DMU customers to save energy, as well as bring new growth and energy opportunities to Delano.
Part of Twite’s duties include working with the state-mandated conservation improvement program at DMU, which is a direct result of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007.
“All the electric utilities in the state of Minnesota are required to conserve, or reduce, their energy use,” Twite said.
The goal of the program is to reduce energy output by at least 1.5 percent each year. Utility plants file a report documenting the amount of energy saved, as well as the amount of money spent on conservation efforts.
“Any kind of conservation costs money,” Twite said. “You have to make that investment.”
An example of money spent on energy reduction at DMU would be a person who purchases an energy-efficient appliance, Twite said.
“We, as a utility, will give you a rebate to help pay for that new appliance,” he said.
In March, 15 DMU customers took advantage of the energy rebate. Because DMU is a smaller utility, with about 2,000 customers, this number is substantial, according to Twite.
“Normally, we only have two or three a month,” he said.
This year, Twite said he plans to work with local businesses to show them how DMU can help them in their conservation efforts.
“We take a look at every project on a case-by-case basis,” Twite said. “I try to focus on what will give us the best value for our dollars.”
Twite hopes to be able to space the rebates out throughout the calendar year, in order to best meet the 1.5 percent energy-saving goal.
“That will allow me to budget year to year,” he said.
The most common energy-efficient upgrade businesses and schools make is retrofit lighting, Twite said. Light output can double, while reducing energy output at the same time, he explained.
The state’s conservation mandate is a “politically-charged” issue, Twite said. He acknowledged that there are flaws in the bill, but said that he is working to make the best decisions possible on behalf of DMU customers.
“Every electric utility in the state of Minnesota has a conservation program,” he said.
The program is an unfunded mandate, which means that a small portion of people’s utility bills goes to fund the effort.
“The people fund the program,” Twite said.
Encouraging energy conservation does have its benefits, however, Twite added.
“If we don’t do this now, our children and grandchildren won’t have resources,” he said. “The ‘greenest’ energy is the energy we don’t use.”
For the last 20 years, Twite has served as construction coordinator and project manager for several nationwide commercial construction firms and developers.
He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor of science degree in geology, and is currently pursuing a post graduate degree in geography and geo-spatial information (GIS) technology from the University of St. Thomas.
Twite has lived in Minnesota since 1987, and his current home is in Minnetonka with his wife, Mary.
As the newest Delano Utility Commission member, resident Joe Johnson is happy to serve the citizens of his community.
“I want to make a difference in the city,” he said.
Johnson was appointed in January, taking the place of Sam Nelson, who passed away in October. He will finish the rest of Nelson’s term, which ends in December. Johnson then hopes to be reappointed for a full three-year term.
As a commissioner, Johnson is excited to help guide DMU in a direction that will benefit citizens long into the future.
“My goal is to help Delano be successful for the next 25 years,” he said.
The next few years will provide new, interesting challenges for utilities in Delano, he added. There are many sustainable energy initiatives from the state and federal government that DMU will need to implement.
“As a smaller utility, we need to be able to adapt to energy-efficiency standards while maintaining a low-cost for our residents,” Johnson said.
The DMU commission meets the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at city hall council chambers.
“We discuss policy and rates,” Johnson said. “The meetings are public, so anyone can attend.”
So far, Johnson said he has learned a lot from the meetings.
“I’m understanding how utilities operate,” he said. “We’re here to consistently provide residents with their water and power needs at a low rate,”
Before joining the utility commission, Johnson said he didn’t have specific utility experience, but he does have a business and legal background.
Johnson works in downtown Minneapolis as a buyer for Target. He is also an attorney, but is not currently practicing.
Originally, when Johnson decided to get involved in public service for the City of Delano, he applied to be on the strategic planning commission.
“After I came to the interview, they decided my skill set was better aligned with utilities,” he said.
Johnson moved to Delano with his wife, Jessica, in 2007. They have a 1-and-a-half-year-old son named Thomas.
Johnson said he hopes community members will come to him if they have questions or concerns about DMU.
“We’d encourage people not to hesitate to reach out to us,” he said. “We’d like them to let us know what they like, and what we can do better, so that we can better understand their needs.”
DMU is located at 11 Bridge Avenue West in Delano, PO Box 65. To learn more about DMU, call (763) 972-0557 or go to www.delanomn.us.