Council keeps delaying a needed utility move

Randy Hughes, Independence

To the editor:

If you’re angry about high electric bills in Independence, don’t blame the staff at Independence Power and Light. Blame the City Council. IPL staff is powerless to authorize project funds. Staff can make recommendations, but only the council can approve spending.

Time and time again, the City Council has ignored staff recommendations and authorized projects that either cost more than staff’s recommended solution or high cost projects that were opposed by IPL staff.

Two recent examples are the project to demolish the Missouri City power plant and the Phase-2 solar farm. IPL staff opposed the demolition project because there was absolutely no need for the $10 million project. On top of that, the council selected the high-cost option for completing the project.

Staff opposed the solar farm because the energy was not needed and it replaced lower-cost sources of energy with high-cost energy. To make matters worse, IPL staff obtained a firm bid for an identical amount of solar energy that cost 20 percent less than the solar project the council literally forced IPL staff to accept.

Readers may have the opportunity to witness similar council decision-making in action during next Monday’s meeting. That’s when the council plans to once again consider advanced metering infrastructure. This project has been in front of the council numerous times over the last four years.

Over this time, potential AMI providers have been asked multiple times to provide new cost proposals including their best and final price proposals. Each time, the lowest cost solution with the greatest long-term savings has been the vendor IPL staff originally recommended. If your goal is to lower electric rates, your choice is clear. That is to say it’s clear to everyone except the City Council.

In a move that defies understanding, the council recently directed IPL staff to enter contract negotiations with the higher-cost provider. That doesn’t mean the council will authorize use of this provider, but it makes one wonder what this council is thinking.

If the final decision is to move forward with this historically high-cost vendor, it’ll be interesting to hear the council’s justification. It will also be interesting to see who votes to approve this solution – and to see if those same council members get re-elected.

Randy Hughes, an engineer with more than 38 years of electric industry experience, recently retired from IPL.

 

 

 

Will smart meters really save utilities much money?

Wayne Wagner, Independence

To the editor:The article in the March 8 Examiner (“Action near on utility smart meters?”) was sorely lacking in how the savings could be justified. Certainly the elimination of 14 or 15 meter readers would not, plus one technician to supervise the installation would be paid at least as much as two meter readers.

Also, what about replacement costs, i.e., how long can the meters last? If by any means they are very, very, very long-lived, there should be very little cost from the provider to guarantee this and backed up by a bond or similar guarantee.

I am quite used to seeing such things go wrong such as the Kansas drivers license fiasco or too little thought to Independence agreeing to purchase too much wind power and being sued when not able to use the amount.

 

It’s time for city to act on utility improvement

J. Lowell Krofft, Independence

To the editor:

Advance metering infrastructure for our city-owned utilities has been discussed and debated for almost four years. The city has paid out over $440,000 in consultant fees to do a feasability study and develop a project plan that supports implementation of AMI.

A request for proposal for purchasing and installing AMI was published in April 2017 and resulted in proposals from seven vendors. These were thoroughly analyzed by an evaluation committee comprised of city utility staff, and their report was published Aug. 15, 2017.

Having studied the AMI proposals and the evaluation report, I was very pleased with the extensive RFP review process. I believe that city staff’s final recommendation of the Core and Main point-to-multipoint system was not only the correct one but us also supported by their review process determining it to be a the clear top choice.

The city’s Public Utility Advisory Board also supported this choice even though pressure has been brought to bear by the mayor and some council members for them to change their recommendation. But at a PUAB meeting on March 7, an incomplete revised contract for the alternative Honeywell mesh system was again presented that still showed it to be at least $3 million more expensive and requiring almost five times as much network equipment, making it more costly to maintain. After that presentation, the PUAB once again unanimously approved a motion to stand by its original recommendation of the point-to-multipoint system.

I am deeply bothered by the council’s continued delay in moving ahead with the recommendation that has been presented to them. How many more hundreds of thousands of dollars and time will need to be spent to arrive at the same conclusion?

It is time to move forward with the implementation of AMI and I encourage all of the citizens of our city to encourage the council to move forward with the AMI recommendation supported by the PUAB and the RFP evaluation committee.