NV Energy said Friday that it will eliminate nearly 100 positions by next spring.
The company sent layoff notices on Monday to 95 workers in its local meter-reading and field-support departments. It plans to cut the jobs as it continues to install digital meters through its NVEnergize program. The notices said the electric company, which has 1,750 local employees, is eliminating the positions "due to lack of work." Layoffs start Oct. 24 and go through May 1.
NV Energy is replacing 1.3 million electric meters statewide with digital upgrades. The $301 million program, which received $138 million in federal economic stimulus funds, has already installed 500,000 new meters, and expects to finish by December 2012.
Digital meters communicate directly with the utility, eliminating the need for human readers in the field.
"While it is never easy to tell employees that positions will be eliminated, the company has been up front with meter service employees about eventual layoffs since early 2009," NV Energy stated. "Every effort is being made to communicate opportunities for redeployment within the company, so it is difficult to provide a total number of employees who may actually be laid off."
The company has been offering job and career workshops for meter readers for more than a year, as well as computer training for customer-service jobs. The company will place laid-off workers on recall for a year in case positions open.
In August, NV Energy offered meter readers and field-service workers $2,500 to resign and go to work for a contractor installing digital meters. None took the offer, a company representative said. The company also kept customer-service jobs open in anticipation of the layoffs so affected workers could apply.
The layoff notice lists multiple positions for customer-service representatives in NV Energy's call center, and directs employees to seek other open positions listed through its intranet. It also advises meter readers, who belong to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 396, that their collective bargaining agreement allows them to bump less-senior NV Energy employees in other jobs. It provides a form on which meter readers can list names of workers they want to displace, or positions they want to take.
Workers who don't find other jobs with the company will receive a severance package of as much as 18 weeks' pay, depending on length of service.
As the utility noted in its statement, the layoffs have been a long time coming.
The company told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in March 2010, when it unveiled NVEnergize, that the program could affect the 72 meter readers but also would create 200 new installation and service jobs.
The digital-meter initiative will save ratepayers $35 million a year in operating costs, the company said in a summer 2010 filing with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, which has signed off on NVEnergize. The company is developing programs that would alert ratepayers to their real-time power use, providing cues about cutting consumption. Lower power demand would save ratepayers on development costs for new generating stations, the company said.
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