Boulder City’s Failing Electrical Grid Results in Rate Hike for Consumers

Boulder City, Nevada: The City Council’s recent decision to raise utility rates has been met by anger from residents. Mayor Rod Woodbury quickly came to its defense in an op-ed released in the Boulder City Review.

Woodbury explained that the city’s power grid is greatly overdue for an upgrade and that power outages were imminent. He went on to say that each day that the rates are not raised brings the city closer to a major electrical failure.

Scott Hansen, Director of Boulder City Public Works agreed with the mayor’s assessment, stating that an electrical failure was guaranteed. “At this point it is not if something breaks, but when,” he said.

The average age of the city’s six power grids is 45 years old, according to a study conducted by the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Two of the six grids are more than 50 years old. The concerning thing is that only 5 percent of power grids continue to work by the time they are 60 years old, putting the city at risk of a major failure any day now.

According to the SAIC, the average life of a substation is 40 years old with a maximum reliable life of around 50 years. Circuit breakers in at least one of the substations are so old that parts for it are no longer manufactured.

Electrical utility revenue for the city currently only breaks even with its operational costs, and funding for an upgrade is only possible through a rate hike. Woodbury estimated a price tag of $45 million to replace the city’s electric grid.

Hansen’s first task since the announcement is to replace as many meters as possible so that energy use can accurately be gaged in each household. He admitted that many of the old meters were probably reporting lower than actual usage.

This means overtime for electricians and substation repairers working for the local utility, and may mean an opportunity for area electrical contractors to bid major jobs as the city looks to outsource much of the work in an effort to get the job done quickly so as to avoid bigger problems and more costly repairs down the road.

The first rate increase of 16 percent is slated to begin in October 2016 with additional increases of 5 percent in 2018 and 2020.