At the April Board of Water, Electric and Communications Trustee’s meeting, Muscatine Power and Water (MPW) leadership presented 2022 first quarter Strategic Plan updates. The 2021- 2024 Strategic Plan serves as a guide for the Utility during uncertain times and changing customer needs while ensuring sustained reliability and future growth.
The Strategic Plan focuses on 5 areas:
- Developing great employees and leaders
- Giving customers reasons to love MPW
- Investing responsibly in reliability
- Powering the future
- Growing services
Key customer-impacting initiatives, including the Utility’s customer information system (CIS) upgrade project is well underway, with a completion anticipated in December 2022. The current customer information system has been in use for 30 years and approaching end-of-life.
MPW customers will be able to manage their account at their fingertips via a convenient utility app, enhancing the customer experience by offering more ways to easily conduct business with MPW and keep updated on important messages from MPW.
“We are excited about the features the new system will offer customers,” shared Erika Cox, Director of Customer and Technology Experience. “For example, customers will be able to pay bills, see account history and communicate with customer service staff via the app.”
The expansion of communications services continues to make progress for the Utility’s outlying neighbors. Engineering and permitting activities are underway in advance of extending fiber service to residents living along North Tipton Rd, specifically north of Hwy 61 to Canterbury Road. This work precedes construction activities slotted to start this summer.
Additionally, engineering and design work will be conducted this summer for much larger expansions made possible by two state grants: Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program Notice of Funding Availability #006 and #007 (NOFA 6 and NOFA 7). The Utility was awarded up to $100,000 from Muscatine County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in additional assistance to support MPW’s NOFA 7 expansion. Construction activities are slated to begin in 2023.
The Trustees learned MPW’s 2021 electric system reliability metrics rank near the top in all outage categories.
“I am proud of our entire team,” shared Ryan Streck, Director of Utility Service Delivery. “Everyone from the line crews to engineers works in concert to ensure power is flowing around the clock to support everything from industrial processes to late-night study sessions.”
Supporting the growth of electric vehicles (EV), the location of a third MPW EV charging station has been determined and will be installed on the north side of town at the Muscatine Mall. The charging station is expected to be available for use by the end of July. Other MPW charging stations are at the Musser Public Library, the Merrill Hotel and MPW’s office building. EV owners can find MPW and other charging stations via EV Connect or Plugshare apps or their favorite mapping apps.
The Utility’s 2021 audited financials were shared at Tuesday’s meeting. MPW received an “unmodified opinion” from Baker Tilly accounting firm, signifying the auditors were satisfied with the Utility’s financial reporting.
“We are pleased with the audit results,” shared General Manager Gage Huston. “The results confirm MPW’s procedures are in line with industry best-practices and support our commitment of transparency.”
The Trustees were updated on the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) capacity auction results for the 2022-2023 planning year (June 2022 through May 2023). The results were significantly different from last year due to inadequate capacity in the North-Central MISO region where Muscatine is located.
“The auction results are consequential,” shared Huston, “and signal that MPW’s existing fleet of baseload, dispatchable generating resources are vital in the reinforcement of the bulk electric system. The auction results oblige Units 7 and 8 to remain operational through May 31, 2023.”
Mark Roberts, Director of Finance and Accounting, reported that MPW’s net loss for March was
$497,000. That loss compares to a budgeted net loss of $632,000 and net income of $218,000 in March 2021. Roberts noted that “while the loss was anticipated, the month could have been better if not for continued efforts to conserve coal during a time of high electricity prices in MISO.” He went on to state “the cost of electricity purchased by MPW from MISO increased 64.5% from March 2021, jumping from 2.3¢/kWh to 3.8¢/kWh largely due to effect of higher natural gas prices on the wholesale electricity market.” The operation of MPW’s owned generation helps offset this cost increase.
In other action, the Board:
- Ratified and approved March expenditures and transactions totaling $8,647,945.19.