Thursday, November 29, 2007
Northcentral proud of service record
By SUE WATSON
Kevin Doddridge, general manager of Northcentral Electric Power Association, was guest speaker at last week’s chamber of commerce luncheon in Byhalia. He said the association has a good record on safety and reliability of uninterrupted service.
The 58-year-old company moved its headquarters from Senatobia to Byhalia and has helped grow the economy of north Mississippi, he said. Northcentral is one of 25 consumer-owned electric power cooperatives in Mississippi, all total delivering power to 52 percent of the state’s residences and serving 82 percent of the land mass in the state, he said.
Northcentral’s biggest customer base - 80 percent - is DeSoto County due to heavy growth in that area, he said. Parts of Marshall, Tate and Lafayette counties are in Northcentral’s service area.
Last year posed no huge weather-related problems for the distributor and as a result operating and maintenance costs were down nine percent, he said.
“Extreme weather drives costs and expense up,” he said.
Northcentral is still growing, funding $8 million in projects in fiscal year 2007.
New technology designed to save trips to the field is coming onboard, Doddridge said. The company began installing the new Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI) in October and could be fully deployed in two years, rather than the three years put on the planning board.
AMI enables the distributor to read the meter from the central office, connect or disconnect power there, and to monitor electricity use in real time helping a customer to pinpoint problems with unexpectedly high usages.
Doddridge said the technology will help the company combat direct power theft and meter tampering and theft.
Northcentral has $100 million in assets with a market value of probably twice that, he said.
The robust financial health of the company allows Northcentral to focus its time and manpower on liability concerns rather than the bottom line, he said.
He said customers are creatures of habit and don’t fuss too much about the cost of electricity as they do if power is interrupted or service is not up to par.
“People are most annoyed by lack of service,” he said.
Northcentral combats unplanned outages with a vigorous tree-trimming program, spending a half-million dollars on trimming. The company changed out 200 poles this year also.
A new 24-hour call center is now available to take consumer calls during unplanned outages, thereby improving communications during times of crisis.
Employees are dedicated, on call 24/7 with supervisors available to coordinate remedies during catastrophic events.
Doddridge explained that during a natural disaster such as a storm that affects a large area, the company repairs the backbone of the system before bringing service back up to smaller areas first.
Northcentral keeps faith with consumers by limiting power outages and by providing quick and effective responses, he said.
The cost of power is affected by many factors, he said, including regulatory guidelines, availability of fuels, and natural supply of water.
Doddridge said in the future there will be “straight talk about costs and climate change,” he said. “Blackouts and high bills are not going to be solutions to power supply,” he said. “In the future, the most important kilowatt may be the one you save, not the one we sell.”
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