Chattanooga's EPB Smart Grid project nears completion

Chattanooga's EPB Smart Grid project nears completion

June 16th, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

EPB lineman David Everett works to install fiber optic cable along Amnicola Highway in this file photo.

Photo by Patrick Smith /Times Free Press.


Capital expenditures and the federal portion:

2013*: $60.5 million -- $18.6 million

2012: $97.4 million -- $31 million

2011: $119.7 million -- $41 million

  • projected

Source: EPB

Chattanooga's $220 million Stimulus-supported Smart Grid project is finally drawing to a close.

Officials for the city-owned EPB say they plan to throttle back on expenditures as the last of the Smart Grid money from the U.S. Department of Energy goes into the bank.

"We've had the pleasure of spending like a drunken sailor, but now it's time to sober up," said Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB. "We think it's important to reduce electric system costs to pre-fiber levels."

The utility will complete the installation of 1,134 intelliruptors, devices which instantly reroute power during an outage, and finish placing 135,000 smart meters on local homes, according to the budget that was approved Friday.

Capital expenditures will fall to $60.5 million in 2013 from $97.4 million in 2012, according to spokeswoman Deborah Dwyer. Those numbers include a decreasing federal contribution, which will fall to $18.6 million in 2013, the final year of the program, from $31 million this year, she said.

The number of employees in the electric system will decline in 2013 to 438 from 446 currently, as workers move from installing new equipment to operating and maintaining that equipment.

"It's really difficult to tighten back up," DePriest said. "It's time to develop economies, and it's time to manage the work force better."

Some employees, like meter readers, are no longer be needed because the new smart meters read themselves. Others, like those who worked on installing the costly equipment that makes the Smart Grid work, will be let go or transferred to other areas.

"We spent three years building the fiber and building the Smart Grid, and now it's time to build the products that use those so that people will benefit," DePriest said.