Rate payers in Banning are still a couple of years away from seeing consistency in their utility billing, but the Banning Electric Utility moved a step closer after the city approved $450,000 for network infrastructure equipment and cloud services to be provided by Liberty Lake, Wash.-based Itron Professional Services.
The electric utility has already installed additions to the city’s electric meters that digitally collects users’ electricity usage data; but the city wants to synchronize meter readings to even out the number of days in the billing cycle.
Electricity meters and water meters provide information at different speeds, and the city’s water utility is a little behind.
It makes utility billing a little challenging, because the city has to send out human meter readers to collect data from each household, and digitally relay that information back to its hub; but water meters do not have that capability yet, and require meter readers to physically check each meter to conduct readings.
Since meter readers do not usually work on weekends and holidays, there can be an interruption and lack of consistency as to when — and as to how many days are in a billing cycle — residents receive a bill.
That inability to consistently calculate how much each household must budget in a given month has regularly drawn criticism and questions by exasperated residents who plea to the city council to do something about the situation.
The city has already spent more than $2 million modifying electric meters.
Now the city needs to upgrade the city’s residential and commercial water meters, to align their data collection to be read by the same software that the Banning Electric Utility uses for its billing purposes.
That equipment and software has yet to be tested; once the city starts rolling out the new meter reading equipment in the form of digital arrays around the city, the electric utility will be able to offer simultaneous water and electric utility billing in portions of neighborhoods as they come online and become available.
And, by January 2019, there will be more relief consistency, assuming city council approves a resolution to discontinue the inclining block tiered rate, in which consumers who use a certain amount of electricity during a billing cycle pay a higher rate if they use more energy.
The city approved at its Oct. 23 council meeting a single flat rate for all kilowatt hours used, in theory making it fair to all consumers regardless of how much power they consume.
As of May 2018, 54 percent of Banning’s power comes from renewable sources, according to electric utility Director Tom Miller.
The city’s renewable content includes 32 percent from geothermal production, 15 percent attained from solar power, and 6 percent comes from bio-gas sources.
That exceeds a state mandate to assure that 33 percent of California’s overall power content comes from renewable content by 2020.