Tag Archives: Burbank Water & Power

Burbank Water & Power Names Jorge Somoano General Manager

Jorge Somoano has been named General Manager of the award winning community owned utility Burbank Water and Power.

jorge-somoano

Jorge Somoano

Somoano, who joined BWP in 2009, had been serving as the Assistant General Manager for the Electrical Services Division when his predecessor, Ron Davis agreed to become Burbank City Manager in February, 2016. At the time, Davis named Somoano to be BWP’s acting general manager until Tuesday, October 25, when Davis announced the appointment was permanent.

“Over the last eight months Jorge made it clear that the best candidate for the job was already among us,” said Davis. “BWP has built a reputation for innovation resulting in a balance of reliability, affordability and sustainability. I’m confidant Jorge will continue the pursuit of excellence in providing utility services to the community.”

Somaono is a 33-year veteran in the municipal utility field having held significant positions with the City of Vernon Light and Power Department and Riverside Public Utilities prior to working for BWP. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona and later a Masters degree in Business Administration from Woodbury University. Before entering kindergarten, Somoano, came to America as Cuban refugee along with his parents and six siblings.

“Growing up in this country has afforded me many opportunities, which I truly appreciate,” said Somoano. “I am grateful for Ron’s 7 years of mentoring and now providing me his full confidence to lead this great utility. Serving our customers and employees is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I look forward to my new role while still contributing to something for which the community can be proud.”

Somoano and his wife Carol, whom he met in college, raised three children. Now that they’re grown, he spends some of his free time cycling; he recently completed a 150-mile bike ride in support of Multiple Sclerosis. Somoano also serves as an advisor to the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater SF Valley.

Burbank City Council Approves 3 Days per Week Watering

Following a year where watering limits of two days per week were in place, the Burbank City Council voted on June 21 to provide some relief to residents.  Effective immediately, outdoor irrigation is allowed in Burbank three days per week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  All other wise water use requirements remain in effect, including:

  • Irrigate no more than 15 minutes per station on allowed days.
  • Do not water outdoor landscapes between the hours of 9am and 6pm to avoid unnecessary evaporation losses.
  • Eliminate overspray and run-off into streets and other paved surfaces.
  • Repair all leaks promptly.
  • Use a broom, not a hose, to wash paved surfaces (unless required for safety or sanitary hazards)
  • When washing vehicles, use a hand-held bucket or a hand-held hose that has a self-closing shut-off device.

Burbank continues to allow watering by hand during non-sanctioned irrigation days when the sun is down.

Since June 1, 2015, Burbank has allowed outdoor watering for two days per week.  This action was taken in response to the ongoing drought and Governor Brown’s Executive Order B-29-15 which set a statewide mandate for water use reductions totaling 25 percent.  Each city in the state was assigned a specific water reduction target; Burbank’s target was 24 percent.  That percentage equated to almost exactly one billion gallons and Burbank Water and Power (BWP), the City’s community-owned utility, created the Billion Gallon Challenge campaign.

Burbank residents and businesses took the requirements to heart and hit the full reduction target in January 2016, a month early.  The bulk of those savings came from three sources – residents limiting irrigation to two days per week, customers participating in BWP’s award-winning water conservation programs, and large businesses converting to recycled water for irrigation and cooling tower use.  “Burbank’s studios, school district, hospital, and several large office buildings no longer use drinking water to irrigate their landscapes and many of these customers now operate their air conditioning cooling towers with recycled water.  These recycled water conversion efforts from last year alone have saved about 100 million gallons of drinking water annually,” said Jorge Somoano, BWP’s Acting General Manager.

The move to three days per week watering does not mean that Burbank is letting up on prudent water management.  “Through programs and education, BWP will continue to assist our customers achieve resource efficiency as painlessly as possible,” said Joanne Fletcher, BWP’s Assistant General Manager, Customer Service and Marketing.  BWP offers a number of exceptional programs, including the flagship Home Improvement Program.  “This one-of-a-kind and award-winning program has already served 6,800 Burbank households.  We install energy as well as water saving measures, including attic insulation, showerheads, faucet aerators, and light bulbs.  We tune-up central air conditioning systems, replace very inefficient toilets for income-qualified customers, and always check for irrigation overspray.  It’s all provided to our residents free of charge.  It’s a truly outstanding program!” Fletcher added.  For information on BWP’s complement of efficiency programs, visit www.BurbankWaterAndPower.com.

High Monday Temperatures, Natural Gas Shortage Might Mean Outages

Triple digits temperatures in Burbank are forecast for this Sunday and Monday, with Monday highs estimated at a scorching 106 degrees.  This heat wave means extra energy conservation vigilance is needed by residents and businesses.  Across the Southland, local utilities are already challenged with the limited availability of natural gas from the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility located near Porter Ranch needed to fuel 17 natural gas-fired power plants in the region.  Without this important resource, there simply may not be enough natural gas available to produce electricity, particularly during heat waves.  This could lead to regional power outages in a process called controlled rolling blackouts.

In response, Burbank Water and Power (BWP) and other local energy providers have joined together as the Energy Providers of Southern California and have launched the Conserve Energy SoCal initiative.  This initiative seeks to bring Southern California residents together to conserve energy to reduce the risk of natural gas and electricity shortages this year.  An important component of the initiative is the www.ConserveEnergySoCal.com website, which contains helpful consumer resources, such as a handy reference for building an outage supply kit.  BWP urges residents to be prepared for emergencies, including electrical outages.

“Burbank boasts an electric reliability factor of 99.999%, one of the highest in America,” states Jorge Somoano, BWP Acting General Manager.  “We’re exceptionally proud of that and work hard to keep the lights on for our customers.  But, without natural gas from Aliso Canyon to fuel local power plants, our ability to keep the lights on is highly compromised.”

Burbank, along with the entire state, has had ongoing success in dramatically reducing water use in response to California’s drought.  A number of partnerships were fostered to provide shared messages and programs for SoCal residents to best combat the drought.  That same philosophy is in play now with this natural gas predicament.  With the knowledge that 61% of electricity is generated at natural gas-burning power plants, Southern Californians will now be asked to approach energy conservation in the same way they did water conservation.

“The drought has provided us with proof of how incredibly responsive and diligent our community is.  As supplies are constrained, especially as the temperature rises, Burbank’s residents and businesses will be asked to buckle down with energy conservation.  We’re not alone in this; everyone in the Southland will be impacted. It’s going to be a challenging summer, which appears to be starting sooner than expected with this weekend’s heat wave,” said Joanne Fletcher, BWP’s Assistant General Manager of Customer Service and Marketing.

In addition to BWP’s existing slate of energy efficiency and rebate programs, the Conserve Energy SoCal initiative will use interactive and educational programs to encourage everyone in Southern California to come together to reduce natural gas and electricity consumption. Content will include conservation tips, particularly during peak times when natural gas shortages are more likely to impact the electric grid, perhaps even leading to power outages.  Emergency preparedness information will also be included.

A cornerstone of BWP’s efforts is to make sure that Burbank residents get as much advance notice of possible electrical outages as we can provide.  We urge every member of the community to log on to ReadyBurbank.org, the city’s emergency contact system.  A few minutes spent on the site now will keep residents informed in the event of energy disruptions.

Utility Phone Scammers: Word is Out About You in Burbank

The City of Burbank is looking to inform the public about an ongoing utility scam that has claimed numerous victims in the city.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

In a recent two week period, Burbank Water and Power logged more than 40 incidents in which customers reported receiving illicit phone calls from people posing as utility employees.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Burbank police Chief Scott LaChasse says that this new scam is similar to the IRS scam that has happened in the past. “Because of spoofing technoligy, scammers can change the phone number that they are calling from to make the victim believe the call is real.

They call the victims and tell them that they are going to shutoff their utilities immediately, especially during rush hour times”

The scammers attempt to convince their victim that their power is about to be turned off unless they make an immediate payment of sometimes thousands of dollars.

“Victims should call their utility company immediately”, said LaChasse.

In addition to targeting residential customers, scammers frequently target businesses during peak operating hours. The caller will often use “spoofing technology” to make the caller ID appear as if it’s coming from the utility’s phone number.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Alan Arzoian, owner of Burbank’s Handy Market, was approached by a caller who threatened to shut off the utilities at the popular Burbank market, “It seemed suspicious, especially when they asked for about half of what my usual utility bill is in Burbank.

When I did not cooperate they threatened the business, saying they knew the address and threatened to burn the building down.”

Arzoian kept his cool and attempted to keep them on the line and get their real number to contact police with. While the number turned out to be a hoax, it still gave the Burbank business owner something to think about.

Former Burbank Mayor Gary Bric, owner of Gary Bric’s Ramp just outside of Burbank, has been the victim of a Water and Power phone hoax.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“They called on a Friday during rush hour on my restaurant phone that did not have caller ID”, said Bric. “At first I was a little panicked because I was scared that they would cut off my power for an entire weekend hurting my business.

When they started asking me to go to Western Union to make he payment, I knew something was wrong and after calling the power company and finding everything was fine.”

It’s important for utility customers to know that the utility company does not accept payment in this manner and will never call and threaten to immediately shut down power. 

Bric continued, “I tried to call him back and ask him to come by for a meeting to get the money  but they ultimately hung up on me.  I contacted police with the number and information for them to follow-up”.

Service disconnection only occurs after a lengthy process. When an account is delinquent, multiple written notices are sent to the customer before service is discontinued.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

If someone calls and threatens to disconnect the utility service, potential victims are urged to end the call immediately. Do not call the number on the phone’s caller ID. Rather, call Burbank Water & Power or the Burbank Police Department to report the incident.

To confirm that your account is in good standing, contact the utility using the number on your bill or official utility website.

Burbank Hopes Residents Get a Charge From New Program

Burbank residents may have seen EVs, or electric vehicles, charging at curbside charging stations since last month.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

That is because Burbank Water and Power has initiated a curbside charging program, funded mostly by a grant, to determine how much electric vehicle owners will use such charging stations. It makes Burbank the first city with such a program, BWP officials said.

The program comes after 11 charging stations were installed in December 2011, mostly around downtown Burbank, in private areas such as parking lots outside of retail establishments.

Since then, the utility has looked at other possibilities for charging stations, Kapil Kulkarni, of the utility’s marketing department, said.

“Equipment is getting a lot better and smaller, and this was the next step,” Kulkarni said. “Once in use, we will see if it is more convenient to put the chargers on the sidewalk or in private areas like a parking lot.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Kulkarni noted the increase in the use of the first 11 chargers.

“The total energy sold has doubled nearly every year, and we have sold [nearly] as much energy through July 2015 as we did in all of 2014,” Kulkarni said in an email. “We can then use the revenue generated through charging activity and federal and state grants to help pay for new stations.”

Through July 31, 6,704 charging sessions were logged, for a total of 49,5122 kilowatt hours (kWh). In all of 2014, there were 7,725 charging sessions and 51,623 kWh, according to BWP.

Now, eight Level 2 chargers were installed at eight sites throughout the city in late July and early August, that allow for two cars to charge, curbside, at each site.

The curbside chargers are located at Hollywood Way and Victory Boulevard, on Hollywood Way near Porto’s Bakery and next to the Buena Vista Library, among other areas.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Plans for additional chargers at Burbank Bob Hope Airport and at the Empire Center could materialize by the first quarter of     2016, Kulkarni said. Some of these chargers may be Fast Chargers that can charge a car in 30 minutes. The existing Level 2 chargers take between two to four hours, he said.

“This is part of our strategy of transportation electrification,” Kulkarni said,  “where we can clean our transportation and our air, using electricity that is reliable and affordable.”

The cost of the chargers was about $230,000, and the utility received a California Department of Energy grant of about $165,000 to cover the majority of the cost, with the remainder coming from the BWP budget, Kulkarni said.

While Kulkarni was unsure of which other cities were embarking on curbside charging programs, he noted downtown Los Angeles has one curbside charger.

Sven Thesen, a Palo Alto resident who in 2013 installed what is likely the nation’s first residential curbside EV charger and spearheaded Palo Alto’s ground breaking EV infrastructure regulations, said Palo Alto has at least three curbside chargers.

According to a Philadelphia news article, in December, Berkeley, Calif., approved a pilot program to award 25 permits for curbside electrical chargers. Philadelphia itself offers special parking permits for EV owners who want to install curbside chargers.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

For a map of the new curbside EV charging stations, visit:
https://www.burbankwaterandpower.com/electric-vehicles

Double Appliance Rebates Now Available From Burbank Water & Power

For six months beginning September 1, 2014 Burbank Water and Power (BWP) customers can receive double rebate amounts on ENERGY STAR™ appliances and many other home improvements just in time for Labor Day. “Holiday shoppers have the advantage of great deals from retailers plus they can combine the double rebates from BWP,” said Jack Corbett, BWP Program Manager.

Feeling the effects of a long recession shoppers have either not made needed appliance purchases or have been purchasing lower cost, but less efficient models. In either case consumers are paying higher utility bills to run their appliances. The double rebates can help get homeowners off the fence and replace their older inefficient appliances.  The double rebate amounts more than cover the higher cost to step up to an efficient ENERGY STAR™ model.

ENERGY STAR™ is a labeling program designed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to identify and promote energy-efficient products.  For example, ENERGY STAR™ refrigerators use less than half the electricity of refrigerators made before 1993 and new ENERGY STAR™ refrigerators even use less power than a 60 watt light bulb.

Through its Home Rewards Rebate Program, BWP offers rebates for a wide variety of energy-saving appliances and home improvements:

  • Refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers and dishwashers
  • Central and room air conditioners
  • Ceiling fans, whole house fans, and solar attic fans
  • Low-E Glass Windows and Doors
  • Pool pumps and solar water heaters

“Rebates are a great incentive, but the real icing on the cake is the reduced monthly utility cost that consumers pay.  More efficient appliances mean reduced operating costs, and that translates to lower bills every single month,” said Ron Davis, General Manager of Burbank Water and Power.

To inspire residents to shop locally, BWP provides a higher rebate for appliances purchased from Burbank retailers. For instance, BWP’s refrigerator rebate climbs from $100 to $150 or from $50 to $100 for a clothes washer when the Energy Star™ model is purchased from a Burbank retailer.

BWP EcoCampus Receives Certification from National Sustainability Rating System

BWP EcoCampus of Burbank has become one of four pilot projects newly certified by the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) for its sustainable site design, construction and maintenance. They join 11 other projects nationally that have received certification since January 2012.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES™) is the nation’s most comprehensive rating system for the sustainable design, construction and maintenance of built landscapes. These projects, as part of a group of 150 projects participating in an extensive, two-year pilot program, have applied the SITES guidelines and met the requirements for certification.

The other three certified projects include Theater Commons and Donnelly Gardens in Seattle; the Taylor Residence in Kennett Square, Pa.; and the Grand Valley State University Student Recreation Fields in Allendale, Mich.

SITES is a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden. SITES was created in 2005 to fill a critical need for guidelines and recognition of sustainable landscapes based on their planning, design, construction and maintenance. The voluntary, national rating system and set of performance benchmarks applies to sites with or without buildings.

“These projects include a park, a private home, an industrial plant and university playing fields,” said Susan Rieff, executive director of the Wildflower Center. “They demonstrate how SITES guidelines can be used in different settings to produce landscapes that make a positive contribution to the environment.”

Since June 2010, pilot projects have been testing the 2009 rating system created by dozens of the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists and design professionals. The diverse projects represent various types, sizes and locations as well as budgets. Fifteen pilot projects have achieved certification to date.

The SITES 2009 rating system includes 15 prerequisites and 51 additional, flexible credits to choose from that add up to 250 points. The credits address areas such as soil restoration, use of recycled materials and land maintenance approaches. Certification levels include one through four stars, which are awarded to projects that achieve 40, 50, 60 or 80 percent of the 250 points.

“The pilot program has informed and helped us refine the next iteration of the SITES rating system, which will be published in the fall of this year. Many additional projects are continuing to work toward certification while we proceed with our preparations for open enrollment this year,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville.

  • BWP EcoCampus. One Star. Burbank, Calif. Burbank Water and Power transformed an electrical substation into a regenerative green campus, showcasing products and techniques for stormwater treatment within a public right-of-way, including permeable pavers, tree-pod bio-filters, silva cells and planted infiltration planter bump outs.  Other sustainable features include three rooftop gardens, a solar power array that hosts a rainwater catchment system, a canal that  purifies storm water with plants, LED lighting, a solar powered fountain pump and salvaged and repurposed concrete and gravel. The project has also implemented five different water filtration technologies, including infiltration, flow-through, detention, tree root cells and rainwater capture.

“This new group of certified projects represents that applicability of the built landscape being sustainable and adding to ecosystem services,” said Holly Shimizu, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden.

 

Burbank Water and Power Awarded Platinum Level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

BWP General Manager Ron Davis, Councilman Jess Talamantes and President of AHBE Landscape Architects Calvin Abe look over the new eco friendly Centennial Courtyard.  (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

BWP General Manager Ron Davis, Councilman Jess Talamantes and President of AHBE Landscape Architects Calvin Abe look over the new eco friendly Centennial Courtyard. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Water and Power  reports that their Service Center and Warehouse facility, located on BWP’s EcoCampus, has been awarded the Platinum level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council. Platinum is the highest level possible and BWP’s EcoCampus has three buildings either constructed or under construction to Platinum level standards. Of the 50 or so LEED Platinum buildings in California, three will exist on the BWP campus.

“Buildings have life spans that far exceed our careers. BWP is committed to ensuring that the structures we create today are built with environmental respect. The silver lining is that in doing so, we are also building in long-term cost-effectiveness,” says Ron Davis, BWP General Manager.

LEED projects receive credits for actions taken to mitigate the building’s environmental impact. The credit categories seek to encourage environmental building design and efficient performance throughout the life of the structure:

  • Sustainable sites credits encourage strategies that minimize the impact on ecosystems and water resources.
  • Water efficiency credits promote smarter use of water, inside and out, to reduce potable water consumption.
  • Energy & atmosphere credits promote better building energy performance through innovative strategies.
  • Materials & resources credits encourage using sustainable building materials and reducing waste.
  • Indoor environmental quality credits promote better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views.

If enough LEED credits are received, the project is awarded one of four LEED levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. BWP is thrilled to have been able to hit this high standard!

LEED, a voluntary program that provides third-party verification of green buildings, has been successfully established in 135 countries. The goal of the program is to transform the way built environments are designed, constructed, and operated with the entire lifecycle of a building kept firmly in mind.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, participation in LEED “demonstrates leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.”

Workers Move Power Pole From Handicap Ramp

After much discussion at Burbank City Council meetings and town hall forums, complaints of a handicap ramp on Buena Vista just north of Chandler, were listened to by city officials and the pole is now in the process of being moved.

new pole-7919The complaint came about when witnesses say a woman in a wheelchair trying to get through the area was unable to because of the pole, which was located in the center of the handicap ramp, did not give her enough room to get by. Bystanders had to help the woman that day so she would not have to travel around the pole by going into busy Buena Vista Street.

The ramp was installed back in 2004 using a grant of Federal funds.

Burbank Water & Power crews work from all directions to transfer lines to the new pole  (Photo By Craig Sherwood)

Burbank Water & Power crews work from all directions to transfer lines to the new pole (Photo By Craig Sherwood)

Burbank Water & Power crews started the process last Friday and hoped to have the job completed by Wednesday afternoon.  There were numerous wires that had to be moved and refitted to the pole.

There was never any loss of power to any of the surrounding residents during the transfer.

Traffic Accident Sends Water Gushing From Broken Fire Hydrant

Burbank Firefighters work on shutting the flow of water after this hydrant was struck on Vahalla & Screenland Dr. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The Burbank Police along with Burbank Fire Department units responded to a reported traffic accident where a fire hydrant was sheared off.  Thousands of gallons of water flowed into the intersection of Screenland Dr. and Valhalla Dr. as a result.

Burbank Police reported one car was exiting the Fry’s Electronics parking lot and another car going westbound on Screenland Drive collided, sending one car into the hydrant on the southwest corner.

No injuries were reported according to police.   A crew from Burbank Water & Power was called to assist in shutting down the water in the area so the hydrant line could be clamped off.

Water crews had to shut off mains in the area to assist on shutting the sheared hydrant off. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

 

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firefighters attempt to retrieve the fire hydrant, so the car can be removed from the top of it. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)