Municipal Light Plant
The Municipal Light Board
The Town's decision in 1898 to own and operate their electric utility has proven to be a wise one over the years. Service here is personal and direct and our rates are significantly lower than those in neighboring towns. This is because our focus is simple - we are here to provide you, our owners, with reliable, customer-driven service at a fair rate.
2006 was an eventful year for Concord Light. We continued to install an Automatic Meter Reading system, finished the overhead to underground conversion along Virginia Road, pursued power supply options for when our current contract expires in 2009, and had a telephone survey to help us assess both how efficient and effective we are and to help make sure you believe we are on the right path looking towards the future. The results were very encouraging. For example, as in previous surveys, Concord Light ranks first in our customers' minds when compared to other area organizations. 98% of our customers gave us a positive rating (excluding "don't know" respondents). With regards to our two core business attributes, reliability and customer service, customers who have had contact with us gave us "satisfied" marks of 97% and 94%, respectively. These high marks are the direct result of the work being done by all our employees.
In addition to the $340,000 given to the Town in-lieu-of taxes, Concord Light is involved in a number of community projects. For example:
In early 2006, the decision was made to upgrade the Town's phone system. The upgrade, completed in July, required that many of the older and troublesome control electronics be replaced with new voice-over-ip (voip) technology. The Town will continue to gradually upgrade to voip telephone instruments as the older instruments need to be replaced.
Initial contact was made with National Grid Wireless in 2004 on their proposal to install a distributed antenna system (das) for cellular phone service in Concord. A das system would call for the placement of small unobtrusive antennas on utility poles for mobile phone companies rather than large cell phone towers. An agreement was reached with National Grid Wireless in February. If the venture proceeds, Concord Light will receive a lease payment for the facilities used in this venture and the use of additional fiber optic cable in areas where the das system is installed.
Our investigation into broadband technologies continued. Various wireless broadband technologies such as Town-wide wifi, wifi mesh and wimax were reviewed for technical and financial viability. All were ruled out as options because of the heavy vegetation that exists in the majority of the Town's neighborhoods. Heavy vegetation could be overcome by adding many additional wireless base stations during deployment. However, the additional equipment greatly increases the cost of the network installation and makes it an unattractive option financially. In addition, the promising wimax technology has not been finalized as an industry standard and is subject to extra costs if the standard were to change in its final version.
Broadband over power line (bpl) technology offers the most promise to the Town and to Concord Light. This technology offers a variety of applications that will improve the efficiency and operation of the electric distribution system as well as provide broadband internet and telephone service to subscribers.
An rfp for bpl Services was issued and in June we selected PowerGrid Communications who proposed to serve as a "business partner." They have completed an initial design for a bpl installation in Concord and will be delivering a business plan and contract for our review and for Town Manager approval. If these documents are successfully negotiated, deployment of the network could begin in the first half of 2007.
Virginia Road Project
One of our largest electric circuits was energized this fall after being converted from overhead to underground. This includes transferring the overhead primary distribution circuits to the new underground system. The project took several years to complete and significant coordination with some of our residential and large commercial customers. The new circuit is more reliable and has room for growth.
Automated Meter Reading
Installation of a new Automatic Meter Reading system began in the fall of 2005. Preliminary testing of the new system has been very favorable. This new technology will allow us to read electric and water meters from a vehicle while driving down the street. The new system will increase meter reading accuracy, eliminate the need for meter readers to enter upon private property, avoid special meter reading appointments for meters located inside, improve the operating efficiency of the Light Plant and reduce our cost. Installation will continue through 2007.