Naperville settles with would-be electric monitoring provider

 
 
Updated 10/23/2014 1:30 PM

Naperville will receive a $675,000 settlement from a lawsuit it filed against a company that failed to deliver an online energy monitoring system as part of the city's switch to smart electric meters.

The payment will come from Calico Energy Inc. of Bellevue, Washington, and represents 85 percent of the roughly $800,000 the city paid the company since 2010.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

City Manager Doug Krieger said Naperville is "very pleased with the outcome" of the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this year after several months of delays in implementing the energy monitoring system often referred to as an "ePortal." The system is intended to connect with the smart electric meters installed for roughly 57,400 Naperville electric customers in 2012.

According to the lawsuit, Naperville gave Calico a deadline of Aug. 15, 2013, to produce a working version of ePortal software. The parties then agreed to extend the deadline until Aug. 19 of that year and to require only a reduced-functionality version of the system. But Calico missed that deadline and on Jan. 27 notified the city it no longer had the personnel to complete the work.

The lawsuit was filed in February, and the city council approved the $675,000 settlement Tuesday.

"The settlement, I think, is very favorable to the city, in its amount anyway, because it's the better part of 85 percent of the claim we had against them for the work they did, which did not result in the user interface," said city council member Robert Fieseler, who is a member of an informal group of smart grid ambassadors.

The city's legal department handled the lawsuit internally, so Naperville doesn't owe any outside legal fees, Krieger said.

Legal proceedings over Calico's lack of performance concluded as the city is testing another energy monitoring system developed by a Canadian company called Lowfoot.

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The trial of the Lowfoot ePortal began late this summer and is expected to run another month. Participants include residents and commercial customers chosen in a lottery, city council members, city staff members and members of the smart grid ambassadors group and the public utilities advisory board.

Fieseler, who is participating in the trial, said the Lowfoot ePortal sends emails that allow users to view facts about their power use, including how many kilowatt hours of electricity they use, when their use occurs and when it peaks. He said he's asked for the system also to include monetary data, showing customers how much it costs to receive the energy the use and how they could save if they change their habits.

Citywide, Fieseler said he envisions a time when neighborhoods could compete to lower electricity use or when the city could encourage customers to delay unnecessary power use on hot summer days to avoid costly peaks in demand.

Krieger said he considers the test of the Lowfoot system a success, although the city is seeking proposals from other companies that could begin to offer the service on a permanent basis. He said Naperville aims to choose a vendor to provide online energy monitoring citywide before the end of the year.

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