Contract for LM switches may be OK’d

Published 9:24 pm Friday, October 8, 2010

Contributing Editor

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, may award a contract for the installation of load-management switches on some electric appliances owned by Washington Electric Utilities residential customers.
The request for such action is included in the tentative agenda for the council’s meeting.
Bids for installing the load-management switches are scheduled to be opened at 2 p.m. Monday.
The city’s budget for this fiscal year includes $300,000 to pay for buying and installing load-management devices on WEU customers’ electric water heaters, heat pumps/central air conditioners and heat strips.
During budget talks in May, WEU Director Keith Hardt said having all qualified WEU customers participating in the load-management program would save the city — and its qualified power customers — about $1.3 million a year.
Last month, the council reviewed an energy management implementation plan that’s expected to reduce its electric bill and those of Washington Electric Utilities customers.
The plan, also known as the load-management plan, calls for installing 1,500 additional load-management switches during the next year.
“This will save residential customers $65,000 on their electric bills and all retail customers $150,000 in net wholesale purchases,” reads a list of “talking points” provided to council members and the mayor during the council’s Sept. 27 meeting. “Last year, 2,441 residential customers saved over $150,000 by participating in the City’s Load Management program. This is equal to a 3.5% or $4.50 per month average savings on their electric bill.”
City officials have said that load management is an effective way to reduce WEU customers’ electric bills and what the city pays for electricity at the wholesale level.
The council wants WEU customers take advantage of WEU’s load-management program, in which devices are installed on some electric appliances such as electric water heaters, heat pumps/central air conditioners and auxiliary heat sources such as heat strips. Those devices, which are radio-controlled, allow the city to turn off those appliances during times when peak demands are expected. That saves the city and its power customers money. WEU customers in the load-management program receive credits each month on their electric bills.
The appliances are controlled for no more than four hours a day for a few days each month.
According to documents in the council’s agenda packet, the 1,500 switches will cost $97,500. Testing and programming equipment is expected to cost $1,300. Line-crew labor and related fringes are estimated to cost $96,715, with the cost of a load-management technician (a licensed electrician) estimated at $48,750. The estimated cost for vehicle repair and maintenance is estimated at $4,000. Contract labor for installing switches is estimated to cost $51, 735.
The document indicates it will take 31 weeks to install all 1,500 switches (assuming there’s an adequate backlog of requests for installation at all times).
Last month, Hardt told the council there are about 100 people on the waiting list to have load-management switches installed.
The city is required to have a licensed electrician oversee installation of the switches. Currently, the city does not have a licensed electrician.