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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Fort Thomas City Council Considers Energy Saving Measures

Fort Thomas is exploring options for placing EV stations in public parking areas as well as how to permit homeowners who want to place them in front of their properties. (photo: Creative Commons)

by Robin Gee

With the rising cost of energy and concerns about our climate future, cities are considering options in "going green." While some alternatives require intensive and costly changes (at least in the short term), others are relatively simple and smart fixes that can be done at a low cost and with little disruption.

Fort Thomas City Council’s Buildings and Utilities Committee is exploring two ideas brought before council that address this issue and that would be cost-effective and could help prepare the city for the energy future. 


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Conversion to LED for street lighting

The first is a consideration of switching the city’s street lighting over to LED lights. The committee, which includes council members Lisa Kelly, Ken Bowman and Connie Grubbs, has been researching the details, costs and implementation timing of a conversion to LED.

Kelly, chair of the committee, reported to council at the December meeting that preliminary cost estimates for the project would total about $575,000, according to Duke Energy. The operational costs for providing LED lighting would total approximately $4,000 a month, a 52 percent decrease in what the city currently spends on street lighting. With the energy savings in the future, Duke estimates the initial investment to convert the lighting could be recouped in nine to 10 years.

As far as timing goes, the project to convert all the lights over would take six to nine months after initiating a contract with Duke. The committee recommended that city staff further explore the costs in depth with Duke and provide an analysis for council’s consideration. 

Answering a need for EV charging stations

The second discussion focused on placing electric vehicle (EV) stations in public spaces, as well as consideration of regulations and technical aspects of allowing homeowners to place EV stations in the right of way in front of their own property. 

Council member Adam Blau, who also attended the committee meeting, said he wanted to expand the  discussion from EV in public spaces to include issues surrounding homeowner EV at the suggestion of local residents.

During discussion of this topic at the council meeting, members agreed with all the hybrid and electric vehices already in use, the time to prepare for electric vehicles in the city is now.

According to Bloomberg NEF, a data company focused on energy markets worldwide, the number of electric vehicles sold around the world is up by 83 percent over 2020. In the US, there were just over 11,000 hybrid and fully electric vehicles sold in 2011. In the first half of 2021 plug-in electric vehicle sales was more than 2 million and growing.

The committee discussed potential EV stations in public parking areas starting with the lots at One Highland and 18 North Fort Thomas. Other public parking areas would be considered as well moving forward. Committee members were overall in favor of adding the stations and reviewed preliminary costs, including weighing the issues of leasing or owning equipment, what electric service would be required, solar options and payment applications for users.

Some property owners have approached council to request permission to install EV stations within the right of way in front of their homes. The committee explored what that might entail. Included is the issue of permitting homeowners and what regulations and ordinances might be needed. Some technical issues must be addressed such as grade issues, driveway access, visual impact, safety, utility conflicts and the exclusive use of right of way areas.

"I am thrilled that we are going to be making decisions soon on adding charging stations in several areas for EVs," said Bowman. "I have been pushing this at every opportunity. Tons of logistical questions still exist on this, but at least we are dealing with it. We are also looking into creating a way for property owners that don't have driveways to install 240V outlets at the curb to charge EVs at their own expense. As you can imagine, there are a lot of issues to hash out before this can be made possible, but the writing is on the wall and we need to act accordingly."

The committee recommended city staff continue research into the placement, costs, technical and legal/permitting aspects of EV stations, and to bring this research back to the committee for further review.

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