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July 17, 2013

Questions remain that time will answer

(Continued)

Local utility rates are an issue, not just for those of us who have our computers and air-conditioning cranked up this summer, but for industries. Former Indiana University Business Research Center Director Morton Marcus found in his own analysis of local rates that LMU’s two largest industrial electric customers would be saving $50,000 a month if LMU’s industrial rates were simply at the Indiana state average. Savings for those two companies alone over the course of a year would total $1.2 million that could be reinvested in those plants and work forces, or to pay off debt. That figure doesn’t take into account all the money other small businesses and industries would be saving if industrial rates were at the state average or lower.

How long this issue will play out is a question that may be answered over time, but the wholesale power and generating plant issues have been issues for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the annexation of land south of the city to include the site of a new power plant begs other questions. One is “Does this mean the city has raised enough private financing to build a $450 million waste-to-energy plant on the site it has identified?” If the answer to that question is yes, then the next question is how much annexation will cost consumers on their electric bills, and if consumers would rather pay lower rates than annex property owners who have nothing to do with the power plant other than the fact that they live near the proposed site.

Another question is this: “If city officials don’t raise enough financing, will they build a natural gas power plant on the same site?” If the answer is yes, then why invest in the site at all given the fact that LMU owns a plant at Seventh and Race that faces $32 million in costs to shut down, according to LMU? Why not simply retrofit the generating plant with natural gas generation and save much of the costs of shutting down the plant?

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