By Tom Sobeck, President & CEO
Last January, my article “Taking Stock—With Much Appreciation” reflected on our past accomplishments. This year, I’m looking ahead to a future that is certain to be challenging, exciting and very busy! In 2019, we face a number of momentous strategic business decisions including proceeding with a new headquarters building, a potential fiber-to-the-home project and a possible major technological upgrade to our metering infrastructure (Automated Metering Infrastructure or AMI). In our “spare time,” we must still perform our daily core functions of improving reliability through plant investment and maintenance activities.
Design work and consideration of potential site locations for a new building continues as we look for ways to improve our level of service while creating a safe and efficient work environment for our employees, proper garaging facilities for vehicles and equipment, and adequate warehousing space.
The pre-feasibility portion of the fiber-to-the-home study is nearing conclusion and we’ll review the next steps in the coming months. We’re excited about the potential positive impact on our region. Clearly, our success depends on the success and prosperity of the people living in the communities we serve. We believe that providing high-speed internet access to northeast Michigan can have immeasurable social and economic benefits.
As for Automated Metering Infrastructure, PIE&G is one of the last remaining utilities in the U.S. that does not employ automated metering. We’ve heard from industry experts and also from several members expressing sentiment on the issue. Some are concerned with the possible impacts of “smart meters,” while others are intrigued by the advantages and opportunities AMI presents for energy efficiency and cost savings. We believe it’s time to look at and learn about our options and begin the conversation.
One item of note in the Your Board in Action section, is the approval of the 2019 Utility Plant Budget in the amount of $4,584,200. This investment is designed to maintain and update our electric and natural gas distribution system to improve the reliability of service. Most of this work will be done by our own PIE&G employees. While not as exciting or intriguing to talk about as the other issues we face, our daily work devoted to improving reliability—safely and at a reasonable cost—is our primary focus and no small task either.
As we begin the new year, we have lots of weighty decisions to contemplate. It’s important too that we maintain your trust and confidence. We believe the best way to ensure this is by explaining our decision-making process as we move into the exciting challenges ahead for our cooperative.
Best wishes to all for a very happy and prosperous New Year!