Program under scrutiny

Published 7:55 pm Monday, February 2, 2015

At least one member of Washington’s City Council has concerns with the city’s load-management program, which is designed to lower power costs for the city and its power customers.

Councilman Doug Mercer, during the council’s meeting last week, questioned the need for a program that costs more to implement each year than the money it saves each year.

“The $131,000 was what we were saving on the load-management switch program. On the generator program, we’re saving $30,500. On the CDC rate — and I sort of discount the CDC program because those people are operating generators in an effort to reduce our wholesale cost — but if you take just the savings on the load-management switches and the generator program, we’ve saving $161,000. We’re spending, according to this year’s budget, right at $600,000 for that program. That statement I made earlier is we’re looking for every dollar we can find and we’re spending … $600,000 to save $200,000. We’re $400,000 in the hole, gentlemen,” Mercer said. “And we just cannot continue to do that. That means we’ve either got to change the way we are crediting the activities that we’re crediting or we need to get out of that business.”

Stephanie Beauregard, an analyst with Booth & Associates, discussed the load-management program with the council. Beauregard said the purpose of the analysis was to reconcile the electricity billings to the power forecasts and evaluate the savings and costs of each program.

Among the recommendations she made were eliminating credits based on kilowatts-per-hour use, reducing the monthly heating credits to months when savings are actually realized and separate larger commercial customers from residential customers and creating a credit just for them based on the savings they provide the city in terms of power consumption.

City officials have said that load management is an effective way to reduce Washington Electric Utilities customers’ electric bills and what the city pays for electricity at the wholesale level.
Under the WEU load-management program, 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.

Thirteen WEU customers such as manufacturers and other large commercial consumers of power operate generators at times of peak power demands to help reduce the need to buy power from wholesale power providers such as the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, from which the city buys its power at the wholesale level.

The council is expected to use the analysis when it discusses load management during its upcoming budget sessions.





About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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