We feel tariff reforms are necessary to empower others to utilize our
microgrid systems without adversely impacting our shareholders.
EL&P: What recent achievement by your
utility makes you most proud?
Grimm: AP&T’s employee-owner culture is made possible by an
employee stock ownership plan (ESOP); a qualified plan under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) that has
allowed our employees to invest in the company and share in its success.
The employees of AP&T currently own about 47 percent of our shares;
this is considered a very high percentage of ESOP ownership.
Bassham: I am very proud of several strategic announcements we
made in 2015 that continue to move us toward a cleaner energy future
in a meaningful way. We introduced our Clean Charge Network, the
nation’s first major electric vehicle network. We are partnering with
our customers to install more than 1,000 electric vehicle charging
stations in our region.
We also announced our most recent integrated resource plan that
begins to phase out our older, less efficient coal units. Moving toward
a more sustainable generation portfolio while still maintaining top-tier reliability takes time, and I’m pleased we made progress with this
EL&P: Who is your role model for leadership and why? How
does that example relate to your own management style?
Grimm: Throughout my life I have been active in sports and was
blessed with excellent coaches. This has had an impact upon my
leadership style. To build a successful team you must develop a
program that recruits and retains talent. Your team is made up of
different positions. Placing talent in the correct position based upon
their skills, attitude, training and experience is essential. Perhaps most
important is ensuring that your team members are in a position to
succeed. The concept of teamwork requires that all team members
fulfill their obligations and responsibilities to the team and have
the attitude to work with and support other members of the team to
succeed, as no one person can do it all themselves (although some
try). The role of the coach (CEO) is to provide a framework, resources
and direction to the team and enable the team to execute. When this
all comes together, your company is successful.
Bassham: I have always been impressed with the Sam Walton
description of “servant leadership.” My job is to make everyone else’s
job easier, not the other way around. We talk about “people first” at
KCP&L. For that to be true you must have and appreciate diversity
of people and thought. To truly appreciate and use that diversity of
thought you have to listen—lots and lots of listening. It is so important
that you give people the ability and structure to make good decisions.
And, if the decisions don’t turn out so good, learn from them, don’t
make them fear making another decision. In the end, it is not about
making that one right decision, it’s about creating an environment
that allows for making smart decisions that allow us all to grow and
EL&P: Only a few years ago much of the electricity
generated in AP&T’s service areas came from diesel
generators. Now you’re highly invested in renewables.
What were the biggest roadblocks in making that shift?
Grimm: Our initial focus was to develop hydropower, which many
do not recognize as a renewable energy resource. Our first challenge
was identifying cost-effective sites that do not have unreasonably
adverse impacts, that can provide our customers with short terms and
long term cost advantage, and that can also support an appropriate
return for our shareholders. The most economical projects were high
head projects, whereby we siphon water out of perched alpine lakes.
The low environmental impacts of these types of projects have allowed
most of our hydropower projects to gain “low impact certification.”
The next barrier is federal-level permitting and licensing. This is a long
and costly process that requires many studies to establish base line and
other data, even for small projects. After you have selected a low impact
site and procured the necessary permits, licenses and authorization you
need capital. Raising the necessary debt and equity to finance a multi-generational hydropower project is and remains our biggest challenge.
The pioneers came through and picked up the “easy gold” years ago,
developing the most cost-effective hydropower projects early on.
Bassham and other community leaders participate in a ribbon cutting
unveiling a new, state-of-the-art substation in KCP&L’s urban core.
“To build a successful team you must develop a program that recruits and retains talent.” —Robert Grimm