Youngstown Thermal Makes Its Case to City Council

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The CEO of Youngstown Thermal Inc. told City Council’s building and grounds committee that his district energy plan could save the city $2.5 million a year and is much more efficient than a plan presented by a Cleveland-area company in September.

Carl Avers said his company is developing two major projects, one in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy and General Electric, and another that involves the construction of a dedicated boiler to serve a combined heat and power, or CHP, system.

Youngstown Thermal provides steam heat to four municipal buildings downtown and earlier this year the city solicited proposals from other suppliers.

Last year, Youngstown Thermal’s largest customer, Youngstown State University, opted to operate its own boiler and drop its contract with the company. Since July, YSU has been operating on its own system.

YSU represented 60% of the company’s business, which has raised concerns among city officials about the reliability and financial health of the company. As such, the city solicited proposals from other suppliers, added Finance Director David Bozanich.

The council committee heard a proposal Oct. 13 from Brewer-Garrett, which advocates electric-based heating over steam heat. Representatives of that company said that while Youngstown would “invest” $1.89 million should it choose that system, it would not only recoup those costs, but realize a surplus of $1.39 million over 15 years through what would be projected to save.

Brewer-Garrett’s plan is centered on replacing much of the steam heat with electric-based heat.

The McNally administration has recommended the Brewer-Garrett proposal. However, the committee tabled the measure Oct. 13 meeting hearing from Youngstown Thermal.

Avers said the GE project entails a $100 million pilot project in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy that would use a high-tech GE turbine powered by Youngstown Thermal steam. About 70% of that project is government funded.

Another $70 million in private funding would be used to develop the CHP project, Avers said. Both should be under construction by the first quarter of 2018, he said.

“Fundamentally, we are restructuring Youngstown Thermal and getting ourselves ready for the next 100 years,” he said.

However, Bozanich requested that Avers supply the city with documents to support his program, including a financial plan, documentation that shows a legally binding commitment from the Dept. of Energy to fund his pilot project, and how he intends to finance the $70 million CHP project.

Bozanich said the city expects to receive the information in about 10 days.

“Once we get the deliverables, we’ll move forward,” he said. “Then, we’ll reconvene in two weeks.”

The council committee has not set a deadline for acting on Brewer-Garrett’s proposal.

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