Naperville City Council Hires PR Consultant for Smart Grid Initiative Program

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After a debate that took place on Tuesday, the Naperville City Council decided to hire a Chicago PR consultant to educate residents about the city’s Smart Grid Initiative Program. The council also approved a $135,000 budget for the consultant to complete the first phase of the Smart Grid’s education program. The initial budget discussed was of $135,000, but as the council gave up on a logo design task valued at 15,000, the overall budget decreased.

The Smart Grid Initiative is a $22 million utility improvement plan expected to be completed in Naperville by 2012. The project is funded by Grants from the U.S. Energy Department (50 percent of the total amount needed) and by 20-year municipal bonds. The first stage of the project, which begins in October and be finalized in June 2011, includes the start-up and pilot program.

“In the spring, we will be installing 57,323 new (electrical) meters in the place of old meters,” said Councilman Robert Fieseler, who supported appointing the Chicago consultant and the original budget. “There needs to be an effort to tell residents …”

The total budget approved for the three-phase public education aspect of the initiative amounts to $390,000, according to council documents, about $70,000 less than the budget originally proposed. Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the project will be later considered individually by the council.

Smart Grid aims to provide increased reliability and technology to Naperville residents, allowing them to track their utility use online at any time and cut down when necessary. The improvements may also generate savings on consumers’ electric bills, city documents state.

“Over the next 15 years, there is a potential to save Naperville electric customers more than $30 million in today’s dollars,” council documents state. “This initiative serves as a model for upgrading and automating the city’s electric distribution system to meet consumer needs, achieve dramatic improvements in reliability and lower operations and maintenance costs.”

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