By Ted AYALA
Less than a dozen people were on hand to hear representatives from Glendale Water & Power (GWP) discuss a proposed electric rate increase at the Sparr Heights Community Center on June 6. The meeting was part of a series of community outreach meetings being held by GWP to inform the public about a five-year, five-part rate increase set to begin next fiscal year. The next meeting is Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Glendale Youth Center at 211 W. Chestnut St., Suite 302 in Glendale. An informal discussion with GWP representatives is being held on Saturday at Wilson Avenue Mini Park at 1101 E. Wilson Ave. in Glendale. Coffee with GWP is from noon to 2 p.m.
GWP officials were on hand at Sparr Heights after the meeting to field questions since there was no public feedback allowed during the presentation itself. Questions taken during the “breakout” period were posted up later on the GWP’s website.
The rate increases proposed will begin with an 8% increase in fiscal 2014, followed in successive years by increases of 7%, 5%, 2%, and 2% ending in 2018.
According to a letter sent to utility customers last month, GWP General Manager Steve Zurn said the increases were needed for the utility to remain “forward thinking.”
“The decision to raise rates did not come easily,” he stated in the letter, “but to best serve you we keep a long-term perspective and strategy.”
Steve Lins, one of the utility’s assistant general managers, said that the rate hikes were part of the GWP’s commitment to ensuring consistent quality service. He pointed to the GWP’s record of reliability during disasters and inclement weather. Lins also highlighted that various mandates enacted in recent years on the state level have forced the DWP’s hand into raising rates.
“We’ve been hit over the last few years with several mandates, including ones for renewable energy, a cap and trade regimen for carbon, and federal liability requirements that resulted from major blackouts on the East Coast,” he said.
One of the big challenges facing the GWP was increasing the share of renewable energy that makes up the utility’s energy resources. The utility will be required to increase renewable resources from the current 20% to 33% by 2020.
“It’s a considerable challenge,” Lins said.
“We have been investing heavily in our infrastructure,” said Ramon Abueg of the GWP. “What we’re trying to achieve on the average is that you have one [power] outage a year at the most.”
“Generally we need to spend $20 to $30 million dollars a year to maintain the utility and keep up reliability,” added Lins.
Eric Campbell, the GWP’s finance administrator, said that failing to implement the plan would cause the utility to go insolvent in four years.
“That’s just not a sustainable practice,” he said.
The few residents that were on hand at the Sparr Heights Community Room were not pleased by the news of the rate hikes nor by the decision by meeting moderators to hold back public input until after their presentation.
“The city should have been accumulating every year over $250 million for the purchase of assets, but they didn’t,” said Herbert Molano. “Their income statements show that they have taken the depreciation for cash … and transferred it to the [city’s] general fund. Instead of putting the money aside, they used it for transfers.”
For more information on the proposed rate increases and future community outreach meetings, visit www.glendalewaterandpower.com.