BrightRidge to accelerate broadband deployment, invest in Smart Grid while maintaining electricity rates

Local

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The BrightRidge Board of Directors approved a budget for fiscal year 2022 that contains no increase in retail electric rates.

While the budget does not include a rate increase, it does contain millions of dollars in funding for improving electric system reliability. BrightRidge will issue $28 million in bonds to pay for the design and installation of 72 IntelliRupter smart switches which automatically reroute electricity during an outage in order to restore power as quickly as possible.

“What it does is say if there is a storm or an outage that rolls through that IntelliRupter will send a pulse down the line, and it will find where that outage is and then it will swap from one substation to another to bring as much power back up as fast as possible,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said.

BrightRidge also announced that it has been approved to accelerate broadband deployment, which will reduce its 8-year build-out plan to seven years. That means broadband will be available to 5,449 customers instead of 2,970 customers as planned over the next year.

“We expanded that by 2,500, so we’re almost double,” Chief Broadband Officer Stacy Evans said. “Restructuring what we build and how we build those areas allowed us to condense that into seven-years time period.”

“One of the things that we saw through the course of the pandemic was the opportunities and desires of folks to get broadband sooner,” Dykes said. “We wish we could do it even quicker because this is one of the most exciting things I think that has happened for BrightRidge in a number of years.”

The utility will also spend $9.2 million on upgrading its West, Northeast, and Gray substations, which are approaching the end of their useful life cycle. Another $3 million will be spent on electric system improvements in connection to the Walnut Street project in downtown Johnson City.

“We’re going to continue the rollout of broadband. We’re gong to continue with the Smart system,” Dykes said. “But we also want to look at how we can become a smart city and smart community. What are those things that we can offer our customers behind the meter?”

The utility said this will be the third year in a row that electricity rates have remained unchanged.

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