EPB Budget Will Not Include Electric Rate Increase - Thanks To Fiberoptics; Utility To Begin Solar Sales In July

Friday, May 19, 2017

EPB's upcoming budget will not include an electric rate increase - thanks to the utility's highly successful fiberoptic program.

Greg Eaves, chief financial officer, said the phone, TV and Internet side of the business will transfer about $40 million to the electric side. That will leave electric with more than a $7 million positive gain.

That comes after the fiberoptic debt has been paid down to zero. Mr. Eaves said that was not expected to happen under the original projections until 2024. He said just two years ago it was not envisioned until 2020.

It is expected that fiberoptics will finish the year with about 98,000 customers - far above original projections.

Mr. Eaves said, "We have made $22.2 million on fiberoptics year to date."

Without the fiberoptics cash infusion, electric ratepayers would be facing a seven percent hike this year, it was stated.

David Wade said electric demand is expected to remain flat over the long term, causing distributors and others to look more closely at alternatives, such as solar.

He said EPB will begin selling output from its new solar installation on Holtzclaw Avenue in July. If it sells out quickly, the utility will begin to look at more solar options, he said.

Mr. Wade said EPB is also examining battery storage for power produced at Holtzclaw and at the Airport. He said such installations could be entirely self-sufficient grids - not connected with the main lines. He said the cost for the battery storage was lower than was expected.

Joe Ferguson, board chairman, said many major companies are taking a new look at solar as the cost comes down and improvements are made. He said many firms are going "off the grid" including Tesla's large battery production facility.  

Mr. Wade said solar "remains a very small part of our system, but it is growing."

Also, Mr. Wade said the combination of last year's drought and this year's heavy rain has brought down close to 500 large oak trees. He said the number was just about 50 last year.

The most recent storm cost EPB some $600,000 to clean up.

The EPB board approved a $50 million line of credit from SunTrust Bank - up from the current $25 million.

That is available just in case of unexpected heavy costs - such as the $25 million needed to clean up from the 2012 tornadoes.  

 

 



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