Company protests meter award

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County > Officials contend bid lacked essential elements

By Arin McKenna

The Los Alamos County Council began a quasi-judicial hearing Tuesday regarding GEW Mechanical’s protest of the award for a Smart Meter contract to Landis + Gyr.

County officials in charge of the bid process contend that GEW’s proposal for the Smart Meter contract was heavily weighted toward construction and did not include a Smart Meter of any kind.

“What’s interesting about GEW is that they were totally nonresponsive,” said Assistant County Attorney Dan Gonzalez during his opening statements. “You will see in their proposal that they offer not one single meter: not an electric meter, not a gas meter, not a water meter. Their $12 million dollar solution was for installation of water meters that we would somehow find from some other vendor, installation of gas meters that we would find from some other vendor and the same thing with electric meters.”

The RFP, titled “Request for Proposals for Smart Meters,” was for “Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) enabled electric, water and gas meters, as well as in-home displays” that “communicate with DPU’s NEDO-funded Demand Response Demonstration Project infrastructure, consisting of a two-way, fixed-network communications system utilizing an unlicensed mesh radio frequency technology.”

Although the RFP calls for some auxiliary work such as installing the electric meters and providing training, the majority of the specifications describe the technical requirements for Smart electric, gas and water meters or modules to adapt existing meters.

The pricing worksheet calls for 1,805 electric meters or modules and 100 in home display units. Optional items include 1,568 gas meters or gas modules and 1,500 water meters or water modules. No pricing is requested for installation of the gas or water meters.

GEW’s bid received a “0” score from the review committee because its proposal does not provide pricing for a single meter of any type. GEW provided pricing for 100 in-home display units. GEW’s bid for those is $3,401 per unit, a total of $340,100. The contractor’s price for installing the IHDs is $620 per unit.

In contrast, L + G’s bid is $60 per unit for IHDs with no installation charge. Customers take the unit out of the box, plug it in and turn it on.

GEW’s bid for installation of electrical Smart Meters was $530 per unit for a total of $956,650. The proposal states that the team’s objective is to “Install a complete controls system, including network communications and graphical interface.” Nothing in the RFP suggests that this is something the county requested.
L + G’s price for electrical Smart Meter installation is $28 per unit, or $50,540.

DPU Deputy Utility Manager for Electric Distribution Rafael De La Torre demonstrated during the hearing how the mechanical meter could be switched out with the Smart Meter in less than two minutes.

The process involved tripping a breaker, breaking a seal, removing a ring, removing the unit and then installing the new meter and reversing the other steps.

L + G also provided a price of $170.50 each for 1,775 meters and $280 each for 20 commercial meters and 10 additional home units. GEW gave no pricing on the meters.

The bid worksheet asks for pricing on either gas and water meter or modules. No pricing is requested on installation of those units. De La Torre testified that DPU intends to install those units themselves.

L + G provided pricing for modules to adapt the current meters at a cost of $75 for gas modules and $118 for water modules. De La Torre noted that these units also take very little time to install on the existing meters.

GEW again provided no pricing for the meters, but did provide a cost of $10.5 million for installing the meters, something not even requested on the pricing worksheet.

L + G also provided complete specifications for how each piece of equipment meets the county’s specifications. The company also provided contact information for three references which L + G has completed similar projects for, as well as a lengthy list of related projects. The company’s credentials include more than 20 years experience with Automated Metering Infrastructure and more than 500 successful installations of over 300 million devices deployed worldwide.

GEW’s credentials include 40 years as a contractor. Large construction projects receive most of the emphasis in its list of successfully completed projects and in the credentials of company personnel.

The company makes no mention of Smart Meter projects in its credentials but does say it has been a commercial energy control vendor for TREND building controls and Reliable controls and that it has completed or ongoing projects with Bernalillo County, the City of Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico involving those systems.

The county’s procurement code defines a responsive offer as one that “conforms in all respects to the requirements set forth in the RFP.”

De La Torre explained why GEW’s proposal was considered unresponsive and given a score of “0.”

“The RFP was for Smart Meters, and they didn’t provide any Smart Meters. And that was the whole purpose of the RFP,” De La Torre said.

“In addition to that, they submitted what I think are exorbitant costs for the labor.

“The county did not provide for or ask for the water and gas installation. And even on the electric portion, their cost was $500 for essentially two minutes worth of work. So it was exorbitant.”

Purchasing Manager Annalisa Miranda determined that GEW’s initial appeal was without merit and denied it in its entirety. Miranda wrote,

“We find the score of “0” is not unreasonable given the fact that GEW’s response included no provision of or pricing for meters, which is a core element of the requested services.”

GEW’s main point of protest is that Landis + Gyr is not a licensed construction contractor in New Mexico. As De La Torre demonstrated, the project requires no construction by either state or county definitions.

The county’s partner, New Energy and Industrial Technology and Development Corporation (NEDO), has provided and owns the infrastructure for the project. The county’s obligation is to provide the Smart Meters.

Despite L + G’s substantial credentials and De La Torres’ extensive experience as an electrical engineer, opening statements by GEW’s attorney Wayne Bingham, of Bingham, Hurst & Apodaca, insisted that “Landis + Gyr has apparently sold the county a bill of goods…and the “extended costs are unknown to the county now, they will be excessive and they will ultimately not give the council what Landis + Gyr has proposed.”

Bingham’s cross examination of De La Torre (which will be completed in special session) included questions about why the RFP did not list the companies that manufacture Smart Meters compatible with the AMI infrastructure, (the RFP gave specifications about the requirements and left it to responders to choose which devices to propose) and asking whether it would not require more time to install the electric meters if the breaker switch was in the house rather than at the meter.

Tuesday’s hearing recessed after two and a half hours with only De La Torre called as a witness. Council will conduct a special session to complete the hearing at 7 p.m. May 13 in council chambers.

In other business Tuesday, council adopted a new meetings calendar which includes one Friday meeting every other month.

The dates for the remaining calendar year are May 10, July 26, Sept. 27 and Nov. 22.

Council also approved new minimum standards of reasonable notice which comply with new requirements passed in this year’s legislative session.

The policy now requires agendas for all public meetings to be posted 72 hours in advance, with no provision to amend the agenda with 36 hours notice except in emergency situations.

The New Mexico Attorney General must now be notified within 10 days of an emergency meeting in order to determine if it was warranted.