Advanced instrumentation allows municipalities to solve aging infrastructure issues and open a potential new revenue source.
by Tammy Fulop
September 13, 2017

Today’s cities and municipalities are focused on providing quality of life for citizens by creating a safe, comfortable environment that drives economic success and community engagement. A key component of that success is the modern infrastructure and technology that promotes community growth while attracting new businesses and residents. But updating existing infrastructure or installing new technology often comes with a hefty price tag many cities can’t afford to take on—not to mention the sometimes overwhelming process of identifying and prioritizing areas of opportunity.

Cities across the country face significant challenges in maintaining and optimizing public works, especially in pump systems. Many of these systems are decades old and were not built to withstand the current demand from constituents. Making significant updates usually means raising rates to pay for the improvements, which is typically poorly received by citizens.

However, there is a solution to today’s public works infrastructure problem that doesn’t require increasing utility rates on residents, and that can hedge against future increases.

Cities can partner with energy service companies to address critical infrastructure priorities in an economically responsible way. Projects under these partnerships use guaranteed utility savings to pay for improvements over longer payback periods. This allows city staff to focus time and resources on other issues and can, in some cases, provide a source of new revenue to support the local community.

Energy Savings

An energy management and automation company recently embarked on infrastructure improvement projects with two cities in Missouri that is expected to drive more than $575,000 in energy and operational savings, as well as maximize revenue streams to further improve city services.

The cities of Maryville and Shelbina are undergoing energy savings performance contract (ESPC) projects that encompass a variety of enhanced metering and energy efficiency upgrades. Here, we’ll detail how these projects will transform public works operations through water and energy efficiency.

new monitoring equipmentImage 1. Two Missouri cities installed new monitoring equipment to increase energy efficiency. (Images courtesy of Schneider Electric)

The City of Maryville’s public works were composed of outdated meters that were ineffective in providing citizens with a clear picture of water use. At the same time, the city experienced significant water loss due to leaks in its water mains. As a college town, Maryville also faced severe operational challenges during the spring and fall months as student-moving patterns strained water services. To solve these issues, the city installed an advanced metering infrastructure system to drive improvements system-wide. This system analyzes water consumption and automatically provides meter readings and billing as residents move out of a location, generating a final bill without having to manually read meters or turn services on or off.

The $3 million project also included the replacement of more than 4,250 water meters throughout the city and the installation of leak detection technology to identify water loss throughout the distribution system while establishing a plan for routine meter replacement. In total, the infrastructure improvements in Maryville are expected to generate nearly $400,000 in new revenue that can be reinvested to further improve city services.

This project will allow Maryville to improve water and sewer service operations while providing citizens with expanded information about their water use that previously was not possible. The data will serve as a key driver to allow citizens to be more efficient in how they use water within their buildings—without increasing rates for the local community.

Updating Aging Controls

In the City of Shelbina, many of the city’s 3,000 utility meters had been in operation for 20 or more years. The city also had an antiquated billing system that required manual meter readings and data entry each month. To address the challenges associated with its aging meter infrastructure and manual processes, the city is replacing or upgrading all of its existing water, electric and natural gas meters and installing a fully integrated automatic meter reading system that will improve data collection and monitoring of individual residential and business energy use.

Shelbina also is updating its aging power controls and electrical systems. As part of the project, the city will replace all internal and street lighting with LED fixtures to reduce energy costs and maintenance needs while improving safety for its residents.

leak detection improvementsImage 2. The new equipment includes leak detection improvements and residents are given more data about their water usage.

In total, these improvements are expected to create more than $64,000 in new revenue for the city.

The project in Shelbina will provide citizens with a better understanding of how and where they spend their energy dollars and create opportunities to identify areas of waste. Ultimately, this will save money for the city and for individual constituents.

This $1.4 million capital improvement project is being implemented at no cost to taxpayers through guaranteed revenues and generated savings.

The project will play a key role in preparing Shelbina for future growth and development, and the city is already realizing results.

According to Shelbina’s City Clerk Tim Lacy, “The savings and accuracy in the meter readings that we’ve noticed over the last couple months that the project has been wrapping up had been a huge, huge surprise.”

Conclusion

These projects between the cities of Maryville and Shelbina and their partnering energy and automation company have proven to be successful projects that will improve the lives of citizens for years to come.

The cities serve as examples of how cities can upgrade aging infrastructure, become more energy efficient and use utility savings to bring operations into the 21st century.