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Utility Leaders ‘Plug In’ to WPPI’s Annual Meeting

GM Jim Stawicki on a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV)

Sturgeon Bay Utilities power supplier, Wisconsin Public Power Inc., held its 26th annual meeting on Thurs., Sept. 14 at the Madison Marriott West hotel, with officials from the joint action agency’s 44 member communities in attendance.

Utility Commissioner Steve Mann and General Manager Jim Stawicki of SBU represented Sturgeon Bay at the event.

Following the “State of WPPI” address on Thursday, in which WPPI CEO Roy Thilly challenged WPPI, its member utilities and their customers to become more efficient users of electricity, attendees took part in a demonstration and display of two types of vehicles to help conserve energy. On exhibit were the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), an all-electric car manufactured by Columbia ParCar of Reedsburg, and a Toyota Prius converted to a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

NEVs are compact, one- to four-passenger vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries and electric motors. The vehicles are designed to travel short distances on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Information Center on Energy Efficiency and Renewable, the NEV is a cost-effective solution for pollution concerns because it is a zero-emission vehicle producing no tailpipe or evaporative emissions.

According to the Reedsburg, Wis., Utility Commission, which uses an NEV as its principal transportation for meter reading, the cost to recharge the vehicle is about $0.51, or $0.02 per mile. In comparison, at $3.00 per gallon of gas, fuel costs for the traditional gasoline-engine pickup truck previously used for meter reading were $0.20 per mile. The Reedsburg Utility Commission NEV travels an average of 24 miles per day.

A number of Wisconsin communities, including WPPI member Reedsburg, have passed ordinances allowing NEVs on local roads.

PHEVs combine today’s gas-electric hybrid technology with larger batteries that provide an all-electric operating range of 25 to 35 miles or more. The vehicles are recharged by plugging into a standard wall socket. The result: a vehicle that can get up to 100 miles per gallon. There currently are no commercially produced PHEVs on the market; however, prototypes and after-market modifications to existing hybrid vehicles, such as the Prius that was displayed Thursday, already have proven their practicality.

Sturgeon Bay Utilities, WPPI, and 39 other WPPI member utilities have joined the Plug-In Partners national campaign to convince automakers that a market exists for PHEVs. The campaign has gained significant ground in recent months; Toyota Motor North America recently announced plans to pursue PHEV technology.

Attendees on Thursday had the opportunity to test-drive NEVs and the PHEV and to ask questions of vendors of both of these energy-saving transportation technologies.

For more information on the Plug-In Partners national campaign, please visit

Wisconsin Public Power Inc. is a regional power company serving 44 municipalities that operate electric utilities. These community-owned utilities purchase all of their electric requirements from WPPI and supply power to more than 165,000 customers in Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. Sturgeon Bay Utilities is a member of WPPI.

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