Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Clark said she was putting a reconsideration of the purchase on the Nov. 13 agenda, the only city commission meeting scheduled for the month.
Heat from the public is forcing the city to reconsider. Several people spoke during public comment at last month’s meeting, stating smart meters are a health hazard due to electro-magnetic waves. They also said the money could be better spent on other infrastructure crises.
Although continual water- and sewer-line breaks, as well as flooding city streets are visually obvious, the city’s electric transmission equipment is also in crisis, leaking nearly 20 percent, according to the Sierra County Sun’s recent calculations for July losses, using city documents.
It is important to note that transmission is all the city’s electric utility does–the city does not produce, but buys electricity from four sources.
The Sun’s calculation corresponds to the city’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan, which said the electric system was losing 15 percent to 20 percent during transmission.
The city bought 4,749,380.77 kilowatts from Sierra Electric Cooperative, SSA Solar of New Mexico #4, Western Area Power Administration and Tri-State in July for nearly $314,000. It delivered 3,841,448.51 kilowatts to its customers, billing them nearly $571,000. That is a loss of nearly 1-million kilowatts. To be precise, 907,932.26 kilowatts or 19.11percent was wasted last July.
Tri-State transmits the electricity over great distances and charges the city for its transmission losses, since no system is 100 percent perfect. Its transmission loss was only .06 percent last July, according to calculations based on its bill to the city.
The city mark-up on electricity is 45 percent, part of it covering transmission loss. It charges resident’s .1314-cents a kilowatt hour and an $8 monthly “customer charge.”
The national average for a kilowatt hour is .1188 cents and the state average is .1137 cents, according to Electricity Local’s website, electricitylocal.com, which has made a study of electric rates nationwide.
The Sierra County Sun compared electric rates in three similar-sized cities in New Mexico. Raton and Aztec also own their own electric utility and Tucumcari residents buy from Xcelenergy, which rates are overseen by the state’s Public Regulation Commission. Xcelenergy’s rates were by far the lowest among the four cities.
Tax, monthly service charge, seasonal rates and other factors vary from city to city. To compare apples-to-apples, the Sierra County Sun compared November rates for a residential customer using 130 kilowatts over the month.
In Truth or Consequences, the customer would pay $26.50, including the monthly service charge and tax. A Tucumcari the customer would pay $19.63. An Aztec customer would pay $31.60. A Raton customer would pay $29.59.
The city-owned electric utilities’ charges are 26 percent to 38 percent higher than the Xcelenergy’s. The cost may be lower because of a wider customer base, but also because maintenance, inspection and upkeep requirements are proscribed by the Public Regulation Commission, keeping the system running efficiently. If a rate hike is requested, the company would have to put forth a cost analysis for any system upgrade before the PRC would consider it.
The City of Truth or Consequences did no system cost analysis before agreeing to purchase the smart meters from Landis + Gyr. The city responded to Inspection of Public Records Act requests seeking such documents with, “no such documents exist.”