One of those things we don’t think much about is the power we use every day. We flip the switch and on come the lights, no big deal.

Providing a reliable power source is a big deal and it takes a well-trained and dedicated workforce to make it happen. The city of Lompoc became one of the founding members of Northern California Power Agency 50 years ago to acquire electrical power.

Lompoc also hired full-time electrical distribution system engineers and technicians to make sure the power stayed on, and build and maintain the city electrical distribution system.

NCPA has provided Lompoc with power resources and related services ever since. Again, forward thinking leaders in 1983 agreed to invest in shares of NCPA’s first carbon-free, renewable, power plant generation plant.

This plant is powered by geothermal wells fed by gray water piped many miles from a community wastewater treatment plant and provides more than 50 percent of Lompoc’s power needs.

In many areas power outages are far more frequent than in Lompoc while the service fees are higher; it is rare the power goes offline, and in most cases it’s because of trouble external to the Lompoc maintained distribution grid. And when it does go out, you can count on our electrical line workers to restore power quickly because they live in the area.

Noozhawk recently reported that on April 5, the Lompoc City Council recognized the city’s Electric Division and Supporting Staff for Earning the Reliable Public Power Provider Diamond Designation.

For the last 15 years, the American Public Power Association has evaluated the performance of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that provide power in 2,000 towns and cities nationwide.

Only 47 utilities nationwide received the coveted Diamond Designation, which is the highest award achievable for scoring a 98 or higher; Lompoc was one of those in this elite category with a score of 99 out of 100.

According to the staff report, the “designation recognizes public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development, and system improvement. Criteria include sound business practices and a utility-wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity.”

These awards aren’t based on application submission skills, they are based on performance. When I see a crew of our electric workers maintaining the above and below ground electrical distribution system, or we get reports that they have been called out on stormy nights to restore power I am confident that they will get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Then there are those pesky Mylar balloons that somehow escape from their owners that short circuit overhead wires. Someone must go up and get them out of the wires so power can be restored.

Even though there are regulations in place to try and keep the balloons down to earth they will do what helium filled balloons do — rise and fly away if you let go of them.

It takes hard working people to safely operate the heavy equipment needed to pull cable and set transformers or distribution vaults in place. It also takes people who are willing to work around high voltage-electrical systems or in cable vaults full of mud and spiders day or night in all kinds of weather.

This isn’t the first time Lompoc Electric received an award; the utility was first recognized in 2014 with a Diamond Designation and then in 2017 with a Platinum Designation (the second highest award). So, it appears that being among the best utilities in the nation is becoming a habit.

Now that Lompoc has set the bar for top notch service, we’ll have to see how this works out in Santa Barbara when they start supplying power.

I’ll bet that since they think power supplied to trendy Santa Barbara is much better than that in Lompoc that their service fees will be significantly higher than our city, and they won’t make it out of the bottom 100 American Public Power Association rated towns.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.