Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stakeholders vs. Shareholders

Is it just me, or are some of you also aware of the increasing number of street lights that are NOT lit at night. With the winter solstice now past us and a long, cloudy winter ahead, do we need to be driving around town with fewer streetlights to guide our way?

I was out the other night, driving along the older section of New Circle Rd. and realized that just about every other light pole was dark. I can now see why pedestrians take their lives in their hands in trying to cross this road at night. But worse than this is the outages in some of the older neighborhoods where, sometimes, two or three lights in a row are out. Or obscured by tree limbs, both summer and winter.

You do know that we the citizen taxpayers DO pay for these streetlights, whether they are on or not. Streetlights are a service that we are taxed for and KU is paid to provide, yet they are fairly lax in monitoring just what they provide.

Kentucky Utilities does have a page on their website that allows you to report a service outage. They take your name and address, your phone number AND your E-mail address(all are required) , then they want as detailed a description or address as possible of the outage. Yeah, right. I got all that while driving along at 45 MPH and dodging the other drivers on the road. I guess I shouldn't be doing this on an Iphone without pulling over. I wonder if they will call or e-mail me when they get the light repaired.

I see where KU can check to see if your air conditioning unit is overworking and will help you cycle it of during periods of maximum power generation, yet they cannot see the usage drop on their separate streetlight circuits. Maybe streetlight repair is one of those tasks which draws needed manpower from ice storm and other tree trimming tasks along the distribution routes. The utility companies have not fared well lately when it comes to any kind of storm damage repair.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission recently released a report on the responses of the states utilities to two natural disasters, Ike in late 2008 and the ice storm of 2009. To some extent, the utilities were exonerated due to the severity of the ice storm but it is pointed out that much more could be done to clear tree limbs from power lines during the summer months. Our latest December snowstorm in southeastern Kentucky has led the Judge Excutive of Letcher County to take the local utility to the Grand Jury over their handling of clearing the power lines and the restoration of electricity. And how will all of this play into the call for underground placement of utilities and power lines?

So how might all of this fit into the idea of a "smart grid" for the state of Kentucky? Will a "smart grid" replace the current grid, which we can't seem to make work well enough to please our existing customers? I was told, several years ago, that a major impediment to economic development is an insufficient power grid to go along with our transportation services. Will a "smart grid" be able to handle a complete switch to electric autos?(will our economy be able to do the same?)

The utility companies keep asking us to conserve(and from the people that I have talked to, many of us are) yet the bills keep going up. Services seem to be getting less and response times are taking longer. The last time I had to call for an power outage, the crew arrived from a community 30 miles distant and had no knowledge of the local layout or even where they were. When I called about a questionable water meter reading, I was told to request a "self administered" leak detection kit. If I am doing the work, what are the charging a service call fee for?

It is not the service person, I am sure that it is for the shareholder.

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