Liberty installing smart meters for city water

The city of Liberty is installing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) - sometimes called smart meters - for its city-operated water service and expect to have installation completed this year.

Liberty has approximately 10,500 residential and commercial water meters.

The city of Independence consideration of AMI includes the installation of smart meters for the city’s water customers - a consideration often overlooked as the controversy has tended to focus on Independence Power and Light.

The city of Independence’s AMI consultant, in its 2015 report, noted:

“The water utility industry is now leveraging developments used by peers in the electric utilities for communications, billing, cybersecurity, data privacy, and smart grid, and adapting them for applications such as theft detection and leak detection. Furthermore, data derived by AMI can be integrated into hydraulic models to augment leak detection, enhance the system design, and inform capital investments in the water distribution system.” 

In addition to Liberty, the city of Sugar Creek is also involved in an AMI water meter project this year.

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Smart meters already extensively used in Independence

A version of a “smart meter” is already extensively deployed in Independence by Spire - the natural gas company which serves Independence.

Here’s a description of the meter from their website.

“An Automated Meter Reading (AMR) device, which is installed on most gas meters, reads your meter. Spire automatically receives regular readings of your gas usage from the AMR device. This is the safest, most efficient way to measure the amount of gas used. In some service areas, our technicians manually collect readings each month.”

Here’s a more detailed explanation from Lowell Krofft who lives in Independence and knowledgeable about technology behind the proposed “smart meters” - also known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) which would be utilized if the city proceeds with new electric and separate water meters for the city-owned utilities.

n 2017, Spire purchased the meters - which it had been leasing - for $16.6 million. Spire’s decision to purchase the existing meters saved customers about $1 million annually and also significantly reduced its meter reading costs.

PSC filings indicate Spire will be replacing the existing meters with a new system in 2020 and have the project completed by 2024.

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Kansas utility regulators finds no issues with smart meters

The Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, ruled that the investor-owned Westar and KCPL did not have to provide opt opportunities for customers opposed to "smart meters" or Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI).

This was an issue in the recent Independence debate which was settled when a 5-2 council majority voted not to proceed with AMI. 

The Kansas regulatory ruling noted that only 5 out of 473,976 KCPL customers actually utilizing its opt out provision.

The ruling since it "found no health, safety, or privacy risks or legitimate threats faced from the use of AMI meters, it makes little sense to mandate that Kansas public utilities create a new program for such a small subset of customers."

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Approaches to energy-burdened households

Low-income residents are energy-burden spending large share of their available incomes spent on energy bills.

The high energy bills may be due to lack of weatherization, older inefficient utilities or older houses constructed before improved building codes.

One market-based approach was shared during a recent Indy Energy forum by Philip Fracica with Renew Mo.

This particular program is Pay As You Save® ("PAYS®") which allows utilities to invest in energy efficiency upgrades on the customer side of the meter and assure immediate net savings to the customer.  (See the video).

Energy-saving upgrades are installed in a customer's home or building, but the utility pays the up-front cost of the installed energy-saving measures.  To recover its costs, the utility puts a fixed charge on the customer's electric bill that is significantly less than the estimated energy savings from the upgrades. 

The customer sees immediate net annual savings by incurring less expense for energy while paying a fixed charge that is below the total estimated energy savings.

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Top 100 highest paid city of Independence employees

Top 100 highest paid city of Independence employees

Independence Power & Light employees accounted for 71 of the city's highest 100 paid employees in 2018, based on gross pay.

The figure is based on an annual analysis of the Top 100 city salaries which has been done by IndyEnergy the past three years. The 2018 top salary distribution was similar to that in 2017 and 2016.

The highest paid city employee earned $232,727 - $127,105 in base salary and $105,622 in overtime and worked for IPL. The City Manager was the second highest paid employee earning $218,292.

Here’s a copy of the full list showing city department, job, base salary, overtime and gross. Individual names have been omitted.

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City requests proposals for Green projects

The city has issues a proposals for green energy initiatives and perhaps some additional projects for the community solar farm at the former Rockwood golf courses.

Details of the potential projects are outlined in a city Request for Proposal which was issued Oct. 18th.

The proposals asks for energy conservation measures for various city facilities through updating “outdated and obsolete building & equipment” with the idea to reduce annual utility costs. Potential city buildings listed include fire stations, city hall and other city-owned and operated buildings.

It also requests proposals for solar power at the Courtney Bend Water Treatment Plant and ancillary solar facilities adjacent to the Rockwood community solar farm.

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Report shows IPL five-year finances

The seven-member Public Utility Advisory Board continues to examine cost issues and finances for Independence Power and Light.

It recently received a general five-year overview of the city-owned electric utilities revenues and costs (2014-19).

The report shows IPL has $48.5 million in unrestricted cash reserves.

Utility finances are complicated because revenue varies considerably based on the weather and there are large capital expenditures to fund. 

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Public Hearing on Master Energy Plan Sept. 6 at 6 pm

Public Hearing on Master Energy Plan Sept. 6 at 6 pm

The Independence Public Utilities Advisory Board (PUAB) will hold a public meeting on Master Energy Plan which recommends how Independence Power and Light should generate energy for the next 20 years.

The meeting is Thrs., Sept. 6th at 6 pm at the Independence Utilities Center located at 17221 E. 23rd St., Independence, MO.

The public is invited to attend and to provide public comments on the master plan. Get plan details.

Decisions made on the master energy plan will affect long-term energy costs and ultimately rates.

The focus of the meeting is on the master energy plan and not other IPL-related issues.

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City renews IPL lobbying contract at double the cost

City renews IPL lobbying contract at double the cost

The City Council approved a two-year contract extension with Strategic Capitol Consulting to lobby on behalf of Independence Power and Light at the state capitol in Jefferson City.

The proposed contract increases the contract from the current $66,000 per year to $120,000 per year, or $10,000 a month. The current contract expires Oct. 30th.

The lobbying firm is lead by Steve Tilley, a well-connected lobbyist and former Speaker of the House of Representatives. IPL previously did not have its own lobbyist, but stated it needed assistance on major utility issues.

The firm has provided regular reports to the City Council on its lobbying efforts.

The City Council also approved a separate lobbying contract with John Bardgett & Associates which also will be paid $120,000 - an increase from $90,000 under its current contract which expires Aug. 31.

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Master Energy Plan Nearing Completion

A major report on future options for energy generation and options is nearing completion.

The study will provide technical and economic evaluations for various energy scenarios so the municipal utility can "supply an affordable, reliable, and environmentally friendly supply of capacity and energy for the next 20 years."

The master energy plan will recommend a preferred energy portfolio, project energy demand, explore energy efficiency options and make recommendations on generating capacity and staffing levels.

The City Council received a preliminary report in July.

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IPL withdraws proposal for three more community solar farms

IPL withdraws proposal for three more community solar farms

Independence Power and Light (IPL) is considering adding another three community solar farms in an aggressive expansion to increase renewable energy through solar.

The plans are outlined in a Request for Proposal (RFP) which the city issued in May with a potential City Council decision in mid-July.

The RFP follows a resolution adopted by the City Council in April "to advertise a request for proposals for projects supporting energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources."

The RPF outlines plans for two community solar farms within the city limits and participation in a third "off-system" community solar farm.

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Indy Energy OpEd - Let’s do this: Smart meters are a sound idea

In 1901, Independence city leaders – then a community of roughly 7,000 – decided to take a bold step and create our current municipal electrical power company now known Independence Power and Light.

It was a time of great change and innovation.

Automobiles were a novelty, commercial radio was unimagined and television an unknown idea. Computers, internet and amazing personal technology would come later.

City leaders created the city-owned electrical utility at the turn of the 20th century so the community could benefit from the opportunities (real and many not even imagined) from harnessing the capacity to generate and transmit electricity could have for the community.

“Ownership of the electric utility meant independence for the people of Independence,” commented an official history of the city electric utility which now serves a community of over 116,000 with over 56,000 electric and water customers.

And like the world around us, the electric utilities and the backbone transmission grid over which it wheels electrical power is facing tremendous changes.

The industry is shifting from coal-fired generation to other sources, primarily natural gas, wind and solar. Currently 13.5 percent of IPL’s power is generated from either wind (purchased in Kansas) or solar (currently generated by the community solar farm and scheduled to significantly expand next summer).

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Groups request public meeting on IPL master energy study

Groups request public meeting on IPL master energy study

Indy Energy and three other groups - Renew Missouri, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council - are requesting an opportunity for public comment and review of a major IPL master energy study which is nearing completion.

The major energy study will provide technical and economic evaluations for various energy scenarios so the municipal utility can "supply an affordable, reliable, and environmentally friendly supply of capacity and energy for the next 20 years."

The master energy Study is being conducted by Burns and McDonnell at a cost of $325,000.

The most significant issue the master energy plan is expected to address is the future of the city-owned Blue Valley power plant.

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Independence City Council Candidates Discusss Utilities

The four candidates for Independence City Council specifically discussed utility issues during a segment of a March 20 candidate forum.

The four candidates are: Karen DeLuccie, Mike Huff, Matt Medley and Brice Stewart.

The comments on utilities responded to question about a $30 million proposal for automatic meters and utility rates.

Here's the unedited comments from the forum hosted by the Independence Chamber of Commerce and Metropolitan Community College.

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Report says switching city water plant to IPL is uneconomical

A review of switching the electrical supplier for Independence's Courtney Bend water treatment plant to the city-owned Independence Power and Light shows it would be uneconomical.

The city's water treatment plant is currently served by Kansas City Power and Light because it is located in the investor-owned utility's service area.

The idea to explore switching utilities was undertaken at the request of the City Council who will receive a presentation at their Jan. 22 study session.

Analysis by the IPL staff spelled out the impacts of undertaking the switch.

The staff's estimates to switch utilities providers could cost up to $29.5 million - $17.2 million to KCPL to take over the service and another $12.2 million for new IPL transmission line upgrades to deliver power to Courtney Bend.

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IPL Master Energy Study - What's Involved?

The City Council will receive a long-waited new Master Energy Study which will provide recommendations on the best, most economical way to provide and secure electrical power over the next 20 years.

Acting IPL Director, Andy Boatright provided the City Council an update at its Jan. 8 study session.

The big question is: What is the future of the Blue Valley Power plant on Truman Road?

The city-owned power plant has three steam-generating units which currently use natural gas. The generators date back to 1958 and 1965.

The Blue Valley power plant generated only 1.73% of all IPL energy in 2016. (See Table 2 from Request for Proposal for the master energy study).

Last February, city staff presented a five-year capital improvement plan, surveying all city needs, including those involving IPL. The document called for planned expenditures of $135 million to refurbish the Blue Valley plant and another $135 million for six combustion generators. (Exhibit 4: City Manager's Report on Deferred Maintenance, Feb. 9, 2017)

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City selects firm for master energy plan

The city has selected Burns and McDonnell, a major local engineering firm, to undertake a master energy plan for Independence Power and Light.

The plan would help IPL figure out long-term plans for generating, purchasing or other options to meet future energy needs.

The cost of the initial study is $325,000 with two additional updates over the next six years at a cost of $182,600 each.

The master energy study will address several important questions including the future of the city-owned Blue Valley power plant and whether it makes economic sense to purchase needed power from other sources.

The study should provide economic evaluations and recommendations to meet IPL generating needs over the next 20 years.

The study involves a tight project schedule with the extensive evaluation to be completed by May 2018. The overall approach is outlined in the firm's proposal.

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Community Solar May Expand to Two Locations

The community solar farm will triple in size over the next several months and be located on two separate sites.

The 3.2 MW community solar farm, which went online in March 2017, is 100% subscribed but a major expansion up to 11 MW was approved this summer.

The current operating solar farm is at at 24301 E. Bundschu Rd. opposite Indian Trails Elementary School.

MCPower, which operates the solar farm, is seeking to rezone an adjacent 7-acre tract which would accommodate an additional .7 MW of solar generation, or approximately 4 MW for the rural location.

(MC Power recently provided a public tour of the existing site for Indy Energy and other interested parties. Photo above)

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Two reappointed to the PUAB

Two members of the Public Utilities Advisory Board - Jack Looney and Mark McDonald - have been reappointed to new four-year terms expiring in 2021.

Looney currently serves as chairperson for the seven-member volunteer board.

The PUAB, in recent months, has been more active and engaged particularly during consideration of decommissioning the city-owned Missouri City power plant.

The PUAB is given extensive responsibilities for utilities providing services in the city.

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