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RPU launching new thermostat program

Monday, March 20th, 2023

March 20, 2023- ROCHESTER, MN— Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) is launching a Bring Your Own Thermostat (BYOT) program to help reduce energy consumption during periods of high demand.

RPU’s voluntary demand response program is designed to reward customers for reducing their electricity use during periods of high demand, while helping the environment and reliability of the grid.

Program participation requires customers to agree to brief, limited Peak Savings Events, which adjust their thermostats during peak electric demand periods from May 1 through September 30. Peak demand periods for adjustments typically occur on hot or humid days, but Peak Savings Events may also be called under other circumstances to reduce strain on the grid. Peak Savings Events will not occur on weekends or holidays.

Customers who install qualified smart thermostats will receive a one-time $50 enrollment incentive, in the form of a bill credit, and those that stay enrolled throughout the summer season will receive a year-end $25 bill credit.

“Our new BYOT program is part of RPU’s continuing efforts to take advantage of newer technologies. Smart thermostats are part of a growing number of energy efficiency tools developed in recent years, that can be monitored and controlled remotely by users,” explained by Patty Hanson, Manager of Utility Programs and Services at RPU. “The thermostats have been shown to reduce customer energy bills, and in large numbers, they could significantly reduce electric grid load, especially during hot summer months when air conditioning use is high.”

For additional program information, visit

Electronic version of news release can be found here.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 58,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 41,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include photovoltaic offerings, wind energy, energy and water efficient equipment, and electric vehicle charging.


Silver Lake to be drawn down for dam maintenance beginning December 9

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) will be drawing down Silver Lake on December 9th. The drawdown is necessary to replace a hydraulic cylinder on the Silver Lake Dam. 

This drawdown has been coordinated with the Rochester Parks and Recreation Department and Minnesota DNR.

RPU’s drawdown plan is as follows:

  • Friday, December 9th start the drawdown.
  • Monday, December 12th lake level will be held at 969.0 MSL (~5.0 feet below normal summer pool) for 5 days.
  • Saturday, December 17th start to refill the lake level until it reaches normal elevation of 974.0 MSL.

The drawdown plan is subject to change depending on weather conditions.

RPU cautions the public from walking out into the exposed lake bed or ice. There could be unforeseen dangers associated with the freeze/thaw and possible muddy conditions.

About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 56,000 customers.  Water customers number more than 40,000.  RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive.  Current initiatives include photovoltaic offerings, wind energy, energy and water efficient equipment, and electric vehicle charging.


Proposed 2023 Rate Tariff Changes

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Click to view public notice published on October 8, 2022 in the paper of record.

Mask guidance changes for city and county buildings

Friday, March 11th, 2022

Mask guidance has changed for anyone visiting government buildings or facilities in Olmsted County and the City of Rochester. Effective today, masks will no longer be required in them. Olmsted County and the City of Rochester still welcome the use of masks in local government buildings for whoever wishes to wear them and strongly encourage unvaccinated and immunocompromised individuals to continue wearing facial coverings. 

These changes are effective today because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the COVID-19 Community Level for Olmsted County to “Medium.” Olmsted County and the City of Rochester have been following CDC recommendations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to help guide decision-making on COVID-19 matters.

It’s important to note that masks are still required on Rochester Public Transit (RPT) buses and in RPT facilities by order of the Transportation Security Administration and the CDC. Masks will also need to be worn by individuals 2-years-old and up for direct patient care services provided by Olmsted County Public Health Services (that is because the CDC’s new COVID-19 Community Level recommendations do not apply in health care settings). Additionally, private businesses still retain the right to require patrons to wear masks inside stores and facilities.

“At Olmsted County, we have been vigilant about keeping our employees, clients, and visitors as healthy and safe as possible,” said Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch. “We have appreciated the community’s compliance with these CDC guidelines.”

City of Rochester Administrator Alison Zelms shared, “The news of Olmsted County dropping to ‘Medium’ on the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Level tracker ushers us into a new, more optimistic, and welcomed phase of the pandemic where we no longer require masks to be worn inside our facilities. We understand that many in our community will continue masking and they are welcome to do so in all of our buildings.”

To view Olmsted County community levels and prevention steps, visit the CDC website.

Good planning prevented pandemic problems for public water suppliers in Minnesota

Monday, June 7th, 2021

MDH releases annual drinking water report, showing no major issues

Despite the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, public water utilities in Minnesota continued to provide safe drinking water to millions of Minnesotans over the past year, according to new data from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

The statistical results of the steady work and consistent monitoring by thousands of public water supplies are contained in the 2020 annual drinking water compliance report released by MDH this week. But the real story is the work that has gone on behind the scenes to deliver safe drinking water to large and small communities across Minnesota.

The public water systems in Minnesota adjusted their operations and found ways to provide critical services while keeping health and safety as the highest priority.  

Most systems were ready to deal with the pandemic as a result of contingency plans already in place. Cross-training of employees was one way in which utilities prepared, making sure distribution crews and those at the treatment plant were sufficiently versed on one another’s job to be able to step in in case employees became sick. Many followed a plan based on the “40% Drill,” which MDH promoted more than 10 years ago during the H1N1 influenza outbreak. The drill consists of randomly selecting 40% of utility staff to be listed as “out sick” and conducting a drill on how to maintain operations with the remaining 60% of employees.  Although no utilities sustained such a reduction because of illnesses among their staff, public water systems were prepared for such a scenario.

Early in the pandemic, Kyle Hinrichs, superintendent for the water utility in Mankato, used his experience with the 40% Drill to create a work plan and schedule that would allow them to continue with the daily duties of managing a utility while losing as much as two-thirds of the workforce. Fortunately, the utility escaped the virus and did not lose any employees to illness.  However, Hinrichs said, “I felt confident, especially with previous cross-training we had done, that we could have maintained 24-hour operations even if we had people out sick.”

With proactive planning, Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) was able to prevent disruptions in day-to-day water services. Doug Klamerus, manager of maintenance and construction for RPU water, said they staggered start times to reduce contact between employees and relied on past cross-training to ensure work could continue through water challenges they encountered. “We went to one-person jobs as much as possible, reduced group work, and limited contact with customers and one another,” Klamerus said.

Rick Wahlen, manager of utility operations for the city of Eden Prairie, said their past planning for emergency response and resiliency was helpful, but the pandemic was “something unique in nature.” The city began planning as soon as they were aware of the pandemic, dividing employees into three-person work groups to limit exposure. “That way, if anyone got it, only two other people would be affected.” They were able to get through the pandemic without any instances of COVID among operators in the water treatment plant.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said partnerships were key to ensuring the pandemic did not create problems for the state’s drinking water supply.

“Providing safe drinking water to homes and businesses day in and day out doesn’t just happen on its own, but is the result of hard work and extensive partnerships,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “As a result of these partnerships, even in times like COVID-19, we can still go to the kitchen sink and expect to have plenty of safe water.”

Through floods, tornadoes and other disasters that shut down businesses and other operations, public water systems have consistently maintained a safe supply of water for customers. COVID-19 has been a challenge, but the drinking water profession continued to come through.

“Though the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated changes in how we do our work, the drinking water program at MDH has sustained its work to keep drinking water safe for everyone, everywhere in Minnesota, in partnership with 6,724 public water systems across the state,” said Sandeep Burman, manager of MDH’s section of Drinking Water Protection.

In addition to its normal operations, Drinking Water Protection supported public water systems in dealing with the pandemic in many ways, including:

  • Establishing webpages to contain information about COVID-19 and drinking water.
  • Creating and sharing guidance on how to respond to changing needs.
  • Adapting sampling plans to protect the health of staff while ensuring that all public water supplies continue to meet Safe Drinking Water Act requirements for monitoring.
  • Modifying requirements for water operator certification and contracting with a vendor to provide certified operators to help systems who become short-staffed because of illness to employees.
  • Connecting certified water operators to on-line training opportunities.

In 2020, more than 99% of Minnesotans drinking water from a public water system received water that met all federal standards throughout the year. Details of the Minnesota Annual Compliance Report (PDF) for 2020, along with the Annual Report for 2019 (PDF) can be found on the Drinking Water Protection Annual Reports page on the MDH website.

In addition to the report issued by the state, communities across Minnesota are required to issue their Consumer Confidence Reports to their public water supply customers by July 1 each year. Those reports provide details on the results of monitoring for each public water system.