At the first 2023 Board of Water, Electric, and Communications Trustees meeting, Muscatine Power and Water (MPW) leadership provided information about the upcoming customer information and billing system transition, and the impact to customers.
The new system will provide a similar bill design with new detailed usage information to help customers better understand their utility usage. The account number will be shortened to six digits, and the SmartHub online portal and mobile app will be available for customers to check billing information and pay their bill. These and other improvements are being made to improve the customer experience.
With the system change, customers enrolled in autopay with MPW’s current billing partner, Invoice Cloud, will need to register their payment information in the new SmartHub system. The Utility will send communications to those autopay customers whose payments are due after the transition, alerting them of any actions needed to be taken to ensure timely payment processing.
Staff noted the customer lobby will be closed Monday, February 13 for the transition. However, customers may still access customer service via the drive-up window and by telephone, email and direct messaging.
Customers are encouraged to call MPW Customer Services with questions at 263-2631 or visit MPW’s SmartHub page for more information.
MPW leadership shared recent changes in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) capacity auction process.
To address future risks and fortify generation resources, MISO has implemented a “seasonal construct,” which means MISO will evaluate grid needs by season of the year rather than just one analysis for the entire 12 months. MISO will place a higher priority on generation unit availability in relation to the demand that electricity users place on the grid. The intent of the changes is to have a better forecast of energy demand by season and to favor generating units that can be called upon with short notice to increase power production during peak times.
“MISO’s change in the capacity auction not only validates the Trustees’ decision to defer Plant 1’s retirement and keep it in-service as a “peaking unit” but also MPW’s Powering the Future plan,” shared Gage Huston, MPW’s General Manager. “Our balanced approach helps shield customers from the volatility of the wholesale electricity markets by ensuring reliability and affordability.”
The energy industry is experiencing a consequential shift in its generation portfolio. Grid operators across the nation are reevaluating plans to ensure adequate power is available to meet customer demand. As intermittent resources – renewables – are coming online, the obligation of MISO and utilities to provide power when needed remains unchanged.
Demand (the power required to serve electricity load) is uncertain. Unplanned outages of generation units and transmission lines, along with non-dispatchable wind and solar output have strained the power grid, resulting in electricity-usage warnings and increasing the risk of blackouts nationwide. “MPW remains committed to ensuring Muscatine has the right mix of resources to ensure reliable and affordable electric supply as our system – and the grid –continue the transition to a more sustainable supply,” Huston added.
The Trustees approved the sale of a 3.6-acre parcel of land owned by MPW at Tuesday’s meeting. The land will be purchased by Linde North America, Inc. to expand operations at the adjacent site. The Utility has no plans for the parcel. The parcel will be sold at the appraised value of $100,000 plus costs incurred by MPW to effect the transition.
Leadership presented a 2022 year-end recap the Utility’s progress in executing the objectives of the 2021-2024 strategic plan. The strategic plan serves as a guide for the Utility during uncertain times and changing customer needs while ensuring sustained reliability and future growth.
Huston summarized the recap by stating, “The quality and volume of work accomplished is impressive. We’re seeing continued progress on major infrastructure investments throughout the community, advancements in technology and processes that are providing a better customer experience, broader access to high-speed fiber internet services, and progress on our Powering the Future initiative, which will significantly reduce Muscatine’s carbon footprint. I am excited to be a part of this Utility during such a challenging and exciting time and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this team. Thank you to the Board for your continued support of our many strategic initiatives.”
Plans for the Utility’s annual Power Breakfast, scheduled for February, were shared at the meeting. The event is an opportunity for MPW’s senior leadership team to provide updates about significant projects and initiatives impacting nearly every resident, business and industry. The Power Breakfast presentation will be recorded and made available via Public Access Channel 9 in the Local On-Demand folders on MPW TV and MPW’s website.
Mark Roberts, director of finance and administrative services, discussed the December 2022 and calendar year 2022 financial results. Roberts reminded the Board of Trustees that “despite difficulties experienced by many US utilities to hold costs and rates down in 2022, MPW kept rates as planned and had a successful financial year.” High natural gas prices had a big impact on also making wholesale electricity prices high. With its generation fleet and adequate coal supply, much higher net revenues for MPW’s generation capacity, higher interest on investments and additional strong performance by Communication and Water utilities in the face of sharp inflation, MPW’s net change in financial position for the year was $7.7 million. That result compares to a budgeted loss of $2.6 million and a gain of $3.8 million in 2021.
In other business, the Board:
- Approved the revised Project Summary Forms for the Cedar Street and Isett Avenue Substation Replacement Breaker Projects, with total costs of $549,900
- Approved the 2024-2025 Transformer Procurement expenditure of $2,389,530
- Approved Electric, Water and Communications Utilities Reimbursement Resolutions
- Approved motion to reschedule the December 2023 Board Meeting to Thursday, December 21, 2023