TVPPA Develops New Supply Chain Toolkit to Support Its Member Utilities

July 13, 2022

by Vanessa Nikolic
APPA News
July 13, 2022

The Tennessee Valley Public Power Association (TVPPA) developed a new supply chain toolkit to provide support to its member utilities across the Tennessee Valley. The toolkit includes talking points, social media posts, and sample letters that can be used by key accounts and communications teams.

The electric utility industry continues to experience a materials shortage. In an effort to seek a deeper understanding of challenges that Tennessee Valley utilities encounter, TVPPA took steps to develop a communications-focused supply chain toolkit for its members.

Last fall, TVPPA attended a regional meeting of utility executives where one of the roundtable discussions among its members focused on supply chain concerns. The idea of developing a toolkit emerged from a subsequent internal discussion about how TVPPA could proactively provide tools and services to address its members’ needs.

In November 2021, the need for supply chain messaging continued to grow and TVPPA started gathering information and pooling resources in order to make a toolkit available before the holidays.

TVPPA says its Communications Advisory Group (CAG) was a beneficial component during the toolkit development phase since the group helps the association keep up with the resources that its members need most. The group, which is reflective of TVPPA’s membership, is comprised of communicators and customer service representatives from member utilities of all sizes. TVPPA’s team works closely with CAG members to create and refine content.

Launched in December, TVPPA’s Supply Chain Communications Toolkit enables it members to effectively discuss supply chain disruptions with their key audiences, particularly as they relate to transformers and other materials critical to servicing the needs of consumers and communities. The toolkit can be customized according to each utility’s unique circumstances and includes messaging that can be used by key accounts and communications teams in written and verbal communications, ideas for how and where to share the messages, and sample letters to send to developers and partners.

The toolkit also includes materials that were shared by TVPPA members that had already begun addressing supply chain challenges in their communities.

TVPPA Vice President, Communications and Marketing Nathalie Strickland was involved in the development of the toolkit and has received positive feedback from members.

“It has been well received by our members from both large and small systems,” Strickland said. “They’ve appreciated the ability to see what other power companies are using to communicate effectively with their customers and business and community leaders. The easy-to-use format enables them to focus more of their energy on managing customer expectations and creatively solving materials shortage challenges.”

TVPPA says its team is open to expanding the kit to accommodate the growing needs of utilities who may request additional resources in the future. The toolkit is free of charge and is one of the many benefits that utilities can access on the members section of TVPPA’s website.

“We have incredibly talented power company leaders in the Tennessee Valley who offer great thought leadership, and we know that when we harness their collective wisdom and maximize the capabilities of our staff to address their pain points, we support their businesses success regardless of what our ever-changing industry brings,” Strickland said. “That’s the approach we took with the Supply Chain Communications Toolkit, and we think that’s why it has been valuable to so many power companies in our region and now to others across the country.”

TVPPA will host its annual Valley Rally in Washington, D.C. on July 18-20 and will continue to raise awareness of supply chain issues during the event with members of the Valley Congressional delegation and discuss potential solutions that could provide short-term relief with an eye towards mitigating long-term consequences.

In addition to the supply chain toolkit, TVPPA plans to release three new toolkits this year focused on the value of locally-owned power, the power restoration process, and crisis communications.

APPA Supply Chain Efforts

The American Public Power Association (APPA) is taking a number of actions to address ongoing supply chain challenges.

Joy Ditto, President and CEO of APPA, recently noted that APPA has been working with the federal government “to partner with us on getting the manufacturers in a room to really suss out what this could look like and how we could get to a point where we reduce these lead times and, secondarily, really address the pricing issue.”

She made her comments during a virtual press briefing held by the U.S. Energy Association (USEA) related to supply chain issues and the electric utility industry.

A tiger team has been formed under the auspices of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, led by the various electricity trades and select CEOs from the industry, including several from public power.

The objective is to enable the Department of Energy (DOE) “to talk to us and to hopefully bring the manufacturers in to address the issue for the medium term.” In the short term, the industry has been speaking across sectors about equipment sharing.

APPA recently rolled out an additional feature to its eReliability Tracker that is available to all public power utilities and allows for voluntary equipment sharing by matching systems with the same distribution voltages.

In a speech in June at APPA’s National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., Ditto urged member utilities to share their supply chain challenges with APPA so that the trade group can relay details on these challenges to federal partners and discuss how critical burdens on the sector can be alleviated.

In May, APPA convened a supply chain summit that included participation from public power utility officials who discussed their supply chain challenges and mitigation strategies.

APPA also recently finalized a new supply chain issue brief. APPA members can download the issue brief here.