TPU director joins U.S. senators to promote bipartisan energy legislation

Tacoma Public Utilities Director Bill Gaines joined U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Lisa Murkowski at an event yesterday in support of federal legislation that would make energy systems more secure and more efficient. The senators are the ranking member and chair of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively.

Bipartisan energy legislation led by the two senators overwhelmingly passed the Senate in 2016, but did not advance in the House of Representatives. Gaines, who also serves in leadership roles in national public power trade organizations, is supporting the senators in an effort to pass similar legislation this year.

“I applaud the senators for their bipartisan leadership on this energy bill,” Gaines said. “This type of bipartisan cooperation is needed in Congress these days, and I would love to see more of it.”

The energy policy bill focuses on several key areas that affect Tacoma Public Utilities’ customers. An event held with the senators at McKinstry Co. in Seattle focused particularly on energy efficiency, cybersecurity and workforce development.

“For decades, Pacific Northwest utilities have been national leaders in energy efficiency, and Tacoma’s utility has been a leader in the region,” Gaines said. “Tacoma Power is relying exclusively on its energy conservation programs to serve future electric demand.”

“We welcome additional federal focus and assistance in the area of energy efficiency,” Gaines said.

Reliable service is a key customer expectation from their electric utility.

“Utilities face constant threats from cyber attackers intent on disrupting our service. We have hired new employees with the skills needed for compliance with federal cyber security requirements and to keep our system safe,” Gaines said. “The provisions in the energy bill would provide new tools, government and industry collaboration, and information sharing for fighting cyber threats – and would help develop the cybersecurity workforce of the future.”

Tacoma Public Utilities has partnered with the National Guard and University of Washington-Tacoma to help further understand how to best protect its system from cyber threats.

“When thinking about workforce development, Tacoma Public Utilities is in a similar situation to many other utilities across the nation: our workforce is aging, and many of our long-tenured employees are retiring or will soon retire,” Gaines said. “This bill would establish a workforce advisory board at the Department of Energy, and provide funding for college and apprenticeship programs to build the workforce of our future.”

The bill also would establish a grant program that could enhance local workforce training partnerships like the one Tacoma Public Utilities has with the University of Washington-Tacoma, Centralia College and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“I am honored that our organization has been asked to participate in the development of this legislation and in this event,” Gaines said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the senators to make it happen.”

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