By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News 4.03.22
For Las Cruces to move toward sustainable energy sources, it will take an adjustment for not only residents but for all departments within the City of Las Cruces (City), which will have to work together to reduce emissions for the City's Climate Action Plan. For Las Cruces Utilities (LCU), its newest strategic business plan included planning for a sustainable future.
A City goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent by 2030 was bolstered by LCU projects that retrofitted 18,324 existing gas meters, retrofitted 4,342 existing water meters, and exchanged 28,821 water meters. The project also included the permanent installation of 10,011 leak sensors in the distribution system to record vibrations on the LCU-owned pipes.
“There was 12% emission reduction between the two Johnson Controls, Inc. projects for LCU operations,” said Harry Romine, PE, CEM, Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI). “JCI used the same greenhouse gas emission calculations utilized to develop the City’s Climate Action Plan. While the Phase 2 project is still under construction, the emissions reductions we found are conservative projections.”
In continuing efforts like the JCI project, LCU updates it strategic plan accordingly. The plan involves updates to its internal logistics, like integrating a new Utility Safety Program and Management Information System (MIS) program, moving Locating & Mapping under the Office of the Director, and consolidating programs under Business Services.
“Now more than ever, we’re having all of our deputy directors really dig into their lines of business and determine how upcoming projects can be modified to cut down total emissions, or find new technology that decreases energy use,” said LCU Director Delilah Walsh.
However, even in just shifting titles – such as the Natural Gas Operations and Maintenance line of business becoming Natural Gas and Energy Operations and Maintenance line of business, the LCU administration looks to shift employees' mindsets. Under that line of business are two new programs: Compliance/Regulation and Training, and Energy Management.
“We’re taking steps to aid the goals of the City Council to pursue innovative solutions, not only to reduce energy usage but to clarify that we are working toward a sustainable energy transition while retaining the service and safety that our customers have come to expect,” said Walsh.
City Manager Ifo Pili agreed that it’ll be the job of the entire City. Pili said, "All of the City departments are currently figuring out ways that they can uniquely address the City's Climate Action plan, and LCU is being proactive in a way that can give innovative ideas for solutions that could work in other departments.”
Johana Bencomo, District 4 City Councilor and Commissioner for the LCU Board of the Commissioners, said, “I am very proud of LCU for taking this issue as seriously as they have and for their continued efforts to not only meet the goal but surpass it.”
Bencomo said, “I am excited to continue working with LCU to implement more initiatives in the Climate Action and Energy Transition Plans. The mission of both plans is to create healthier more sustainable communities for generations to come, and the LCU is committed to this mission.”
LCU Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: With projects like the transmitters installed on water meters that can cut down on leaks and reduce the need to have employees drive throughout town for meter reading, LCU can find ways to support the City’s goal for a more sustainable future.