Stabilizing power costs

By on October 10, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Beginning with the first billing cycle in the new year, Ephrata Borough Electric customers will notice a new line item on their monthly bills.

But that won’t necessarily mean that electric rates will increase.

In fact, in the short term it will be of little to no consequence on power bills. But over the long haul, it can help to keep prices more stable.

At Monday night’s Ephrata Borough Council meeting, members voted to approve the frequently discussed and delayed power cost adjustment or PCA. This is a measure long suggested by the borough’s power generation partner, AMP Ohio.

The power cost adjustment is simply a means of adjusting the rate for electric to reflect fluctuations in the borough’s cost for electric such as might be caused if one of the power sources for which the borough has an ownership stake, would suffer a catastrophic loss and go off-line. The cost to make electricity is also affected by the price of coal and fuel. The PCA will be reflected on those bills going out in the first billing cycle in January to reflect either a credit or surcharge depending on the price per kilowatt hour.

"The date this goes into effect just determines which bill we begin to show the PCA," explained borough manager Bob Thompson. "This amount is based upon the prior six months of power supply cost. Bills will reflect the power cost adjustment but the value of the PCA will be close to zero."

Thompson added that PCA ensures investors that the municipality has something in place to account for any significant catastrophic events.

"We are trying to minimize the impact day-to-day," said Thompson. "In a worst case scenario if one of the power plants we are part owners of would fail PCA levels out the impact of the catastrophic event over time.

Councilman Tom Reinhold stressed the importance of making sure Ephrata remains an important player in the Pennsylvania power market into the future.

"It is so important that we remain a big PA player in the organization," noted Reinhold. "If we can get into a future power project closer to Ephrata it would be less expensive than getting the power from further away."

Borough Director of Operations, Tom Natarian, was on hand at Monday night’s meeting where he presented this month’s "Municipal Moment," where he updated council on the many efforts that go on behind the scenes to keep the borough running smoothly — from providing clean drinking water, to keeping roadways clear and maintained, to making sure there are no interruptions in power.

During Natarian’s presentation, he also shared some impressive news with council. First, he said it was a "remarkable achievement" that the borough had been awarded a number of very important honors over the past several years because of the fine performance of the borough’s electrical business. In 2006 and 2007, the borough was awarded the APPA Safety Award. In 2009, it was awarded the AMP System Improvement Award. Since 2009, the borough has been awarded AMP’s Hardhat Safety Award.

But most impressive is that in 2011 and 2012, Ephrata was the only municipality in Pennsylvania awarded the APPA RP3 Platinum Award.

APPA is the American Public Power Association. According to its website, "The purpose of the RP3 Program is to encourage public power utilities to operate an efficient and reliable distribution system by demonstrating proficiency in four important disciplines: reliability, safety, work force development, and system improvement. The RP3 Program shines a light on your utility for the excellent service it provides to your customers. Utilities submit an application to the RP3 program for a peer-evaluation review."

Nationwide, Ephrata is only one of 94 utilities recognized for such honors from among over 2,000 such organizations. RP3 stands for Reliable Public Power Provider. Indeed, with a record of providing uninterrupted power over 99 percent of the time, Ephrata has earned its honor.

"The award is presented by APPA. It is a two-year award, so our award is for 2011 and 2012," explained Natarian. "We recently completed our application that will be evaluated for the 2013/2014 cycle.

Natarian went on to explain the importance of such an award.

"What an RP3 Platinum level award means to Ephrata Borough residents is that they have a reliable, sustainable system that is maintained by skilled people who go about their work safely and efficiently," said Natarian. "In short, the lights stay on and will continue to stay on well into the future. The Platinum award is important because it provides recognition to the individuals who maintain the system, sets the standard of excellence that is expected, and provides an independent measurement by which we can benchmark our system versus others."

The criteria by which the borough earned this award included system reliability, safety, manpower training and power planning.

"The award shows a commitment to our customers," added Natarian. "It shows that we have a system that is not just reliable but one in which we invest time, training, and manpower. We have a system that will endure the test of time providing power today and for the future. Our electrical system is an asset that should be a source of pride for the whole community."

Council also approved the much-talked-about resolution making borough parks and playgrounds tobacco free zones. According to Reinhold, the borough resolution was altered from what was offered by the county-wide tobacco free park initiative to read that use of tobacco is discouraged and that the borough would promote voluntary compliance with the posted zones.

For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit the ephrataboro.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More POWER, page A7

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