BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. plans to move forward with an $8 million investment in Smart Grid infrastructure after receiving approval recently from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
The project will proceed even though the company did not receive any of the federal stimulus funding for which it had applied.
“This project directly aligns with our business strategy to provide in-home energy solutions to benefit customers, support energy independence and provide tools for customers to manage their electricity consumption and costs in a more efficient and informed manner,” Bangor Hydro president and chief operating officer Gerry Chasse said in a statement. “Not only will this project benefit our electric customers, but it will result in the addition of two full-time jobs at Bangor Hydro as well.”
Smart Grid delivers electricity with the help of digital technology and better communication between customers and the utility. Bangor Hydro plans to build on the company’s existing AMI, or advanced metering infrastructure, meters, which already are deployed to 97 percent of its customers and used for automated meter reading and outage detection.
In August, Bangor Hydro applied for $4.3 million in stimulus funding through the U.S. Department of Energy. That application was denied, but Bangor Hydro spokeswoman Susan Faloon said the company has not yet received an explanation for the denial.
The project was going to proceed with or without stimulus funding, but it might take longer without the funds, Faloon said. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.
“The cost will be recovered through [raising] customer rates, but that will not take place until the project is finished,” she said. “We expect that the average residential customer should see about a 50-cent increase monthly.”
After the initial investment, however, the improvements could result in savings of as much as $2.5 million each year for Bangor Hydro’s customers by providing them with necessary tools to use electricity more efficiently to lower their electricity bills.
“Certainly, we expect the savings to outweigh the costs over the long term,” Faloon said.
As many as 3,000 customers will see a brief interruption in service while their meters are being replaced this year and possibly next.