Public power utilities concerned about ratepayers

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About 42 percent of North American utilities say that ratepayer concerns are their No. 1 concern to be addressed in the new year. This is according to an annual survey by Tantalus of more than 40 utilities that do business in North America.

The municipal and cooperative utilities surveyed cited consumer/ratepayer concerns (42 percent) as the number one issue they need to address in 2013. These findings demonstrate the public power industry's focus on adopting new technologies that both keep rates low and minimally impact customers. Additional survey questions reflect this trend as well:

Voltage reduction (46 percent) and direct load control (35 percent) — both of which are advanced applications that decrease loads and rates — are the top two smart grid applications surveyed utilities will implement in 2013.

Customer education was the third most popular choice for utilities selecting their top investment priority of 2013, above security enhancements and billing solutions.

The results illustrate a key factor that drives decisions in the public power market — munis and co-ops answer to their local governments and communities, unlike investor-owned-utilities (IOUs), which cater to regulators and investors that seek quick return on investments.

Consequently, munis and co-ops are dedicated to working closely with their constituents while adopting applications that promote cost-effective and efficient service with minimal impact on customers.

Other key survey findings include:

·      The majority of respondents (44 percent) say completing their existing smart grid deployments is their number one investment in 2013. The second largest group of respondents (34 percent) named add-on applications as the focus of their investment.

·      Only 8 percent of respondents believe future strain (e.g. electric vehicles and solar) on the grid will be a top concern for utilities in 2013.

·      Of the utilities that indicated they are planning to hire in 2013, the majority are seeking to fill positions in meter support in order to sustain deployment completions.

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