PUC Talks Future Plans With Council

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The PUC met with City Council today (May 11th) and brought forward a number of matters requiring Council’s attention. First on the agenda was a request for Council to authorize borrowing of the required capital to cover the cost of the Water Quality Improvement Project and other 2015 capital works. The second item discussed was the planned LED Streetlight Conversion Project. The final item was the 2014 Annual Shareholder Report. This report highlighted PUC’s activity over the past year, and gave an outlook on their planned work in 2015.

PUC presented its 2014 Annual Shareholder Report to Council; the report provided a high-level overview of their corporate activity, as well as underscoring important investments and infrastructure renewal projects made in the community.

One area where system improvements were realized was on the electric side of the utility. The Shareholder Report revealed that the electrical system’s reliability this past year has improved by over 50%. “The number of outages experienced by our customers on average has decreased by 55% as compared to 2013… and those outages were, on average, 52% shorter in duration than in 2013.” says PUC President and CEO Dominic Parrella. “We are pleased to see that our targeted investments made in the electrical distribution system have made a real impact. Our community hasn’t seen this level of power reliability in over 15 years.”

With regards to the water utility, The Public Utilities Commission made an official request to Council for authorization to borrow $8 million from Infrastructure Ontario, as was previously announced (Dec 11th, 2014). A portion of this loan is required to address budget shortfalls that resulted from the severity of 2014’s winter. The winter of 2013/2014 was the second worst winter (with regards to the number of watermain breaks) Sault Ste. Marie has experienced in its recorded history. 2014’s extreme temperatures resulted in a total of 245 frozen water services and 171 watermain breaks, compared to 16 frozen services and 73 watermain breaks in the winter of 2013. The remainder of the loan is needed to cover the cost for the implementation of the Water Quality Improvement Project. This investment in the water system falls within the previously announced rate increases identified in the Public Utilities Commission’s Financial Plan that was submitted to the Province in 2012. As such, this borrowing will not affect current rates.

In addition, PUC and City Council discussed a proposed LED Streetlight Conversion Project. When completed, the project would see the city’s approximate 9,000 aging High Pressure Sodium (HPS) streetlights replaced with new high efficiency Light Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights. The LED Streetlight Conversion Project is slated to begin later in 2015 and projected to have all lights installed by the end of 2016. In accordance with the terms of the Shareholder Agreement PUC was seeking authorization from the Shareholder to borrow up to $9M to finance this project.

“There is a strong business case that supports replacing the dated HPS system,” says, Parrella. “The current system is nearing its end of life cycle. The conversion of the HPS lights to energy efficient LED lights is projected to reduce the overall cost of energy and maintenance related to Streetlights for the City of Sault Ste. Marie by 40%.”

Customers looking for more information on the Annual Shareholder Report, or the Streetlight LED Conversion Project are encouraged to visit the PUC website, www.ssmpuc.com.