Long-talked-about changes to Lubbock Power & Light bills aimed to clarify who is responsible for those rates and fees customers pay every month are inching forward.
Billing clarity, along with downtown utility work and capital improvement projects, were all discussed at this week’s Electric Utility Board Meeting.
Here are takeaways from the Tuesday session.
The EUB discussed new logos to put on bills to clarify difference between city and LP&L fees: LP&L does not set the rates or provide the services for things like water, stormwater or trash collection. But the municipal utility does collect the payments for the city through its billing system. LP&L spokesman Matt Rose said this confuses some residents, with a likely contributing factor coming in the fact that LP&L’s logo is displayed all over the bill they send out.
On Tuesday, Rose presented the EUB and a few members of the City Council who were present with a new logo on the bill that simply says “Lubbock Utilities.” The fees for City of Lubbock services would still be displayed on the bill, as well as LP&L’s electricity, but Rose said this would be more accurate and remove the confusion on bills that include all aspects of city services. It’s a topic that’s come up from time to time at LP&L meetings - especially at times when public questions arise over rate and fee hikes.
There was no final decision made over this at Tuesday’s meeting, and Rose said he’ll meet the members of the city council individually to discuss this — and other possible solutions.
LP&L lifts pause on some downtown development work: LP&L is still holding off on the necessary electric work involved in converting the overhead power lines downtown to underground, but the board on Tuesday voted to go ahead with a few projects. The board voted to complete four projects: placing electric lines into the already dug-up duct system that goes along Avenue J from Mac Davis Lane to 19th Street, as well as the needed work to connect Citizen’s Tower, the new Reagor Dykes Auto Group downtown headquarters and an office building at 1115 13th St.
Rose said LP&L currently has $1.3 million available for capital improvement projects related to downtown, which are funds they’ll use for this work. So the authorized projects will no require any more funds.
The EUB voted last September to stop putting electric lines in the underground duct system until further notice. Leaders did this to allow for time to address questions about who will pay for the extra electric work to connect the older buildings to the underground electric lines. The EUB hired SGS Engineering to analyze the cost and put together a connection plan, and their report said it will cost about $4.5 million to hook up buildings with the underground system. The cost is broken down into four categories that included implementing feeders (or backbones), sub-feeders, alley or block conversions and removal of overhead facilities.
EUB approves budget amendments to push back capital improvement projects: LP&L’s current Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget calls for about $77 million in bonds for various projects, but on Tuesday the board voted to amend the budget and lower that amount by $40 million. Andy Burcham, LP&L’s chief financial officer, said these bond-funded projects still need to be completed, but they’re pushing back the dates. Because of that, he said LP&L staff would prefer not to issue the bonds this fiscal year.
The amendment affects 30 bond-funded capital projects, mostly related to transmission infrastructure upgrades currently in the design and engineering phases, according to Burcham.
LP&L authorized for access to confidential information related to ERCOT for integration studies: LP&L is in the midst of completing a cost-benefit study as it relates to joining ERCOT by 2021. ERCOT is also completing one of these studies, as is the Southwest Power Pool, which LP&L is proposing Lubbock leaves. On Tuesday the board approved a confidentiality agreement between LP&L and ERCOT that gives LP&L’s counsel access to ERCOT information they currently don’t have access to because Lubbock is not a member.