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New charging rates ahead for Lodi forklifts

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Manufacturers in Lodi are considering installing a second energy use meter at each of their plants to get a discounted rate on charging their forklift batteries, in line with a new program offered by the Lodi Electric Utility.

Rob Lechner, business development manager for the City of Lodi, said he is in talks with at least 20 businesses that could benefit from the move.

Lechner calls it an incentive to lessen the stress on the city’s power grid.

“With this type of power load, people tend to forget about it,” said Lechner. “But once (the batteries) add up, it is very stressful on our system.”

The goal is to persuade companies to charge their batteries during off-peak hours, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“This rate is for the customers in town with large forklift operations. We’re talking Constellation Winery, General Mills, Pacific Coast Producers,” said Lechner.

The program is aimed at food producers who can’t use propane or gas powered forklifts due to health risks for the food, or who use the lifts mostly indoors and don’t want the fumes to build up and harm employees.

Pacific Coast Producers uses dozens of forklifts every day to move products.

Most of the company’s forklift use is in their Lodi distribution center, moving pallets from trucks, to storage, to labeling, then to staging, and back into trucks for shipping.

That’s 65 vehicles charging a 24-volt battery each for six to eight hours every night.

“The city’s new charging program works really well for us,” said Mona Shulman, general counsel for PCP. “I’m sure we’ll engage with the program.”

To qualify for the lower rate, businesses have to install a separate meter, which runs about $600.

They can only charge large equipment that uses a 12-volt battery or higher. Tools like hand drills or power saws would not be not allowed.

To get the $0.10 cent per kilowatt hour charge, the businesses must charge their forklifts during off-peak hours. If they sign up for the program and charge during the day, such as at noon on a regular Tuesday, they will be charged a top-tier rate of $0.33 per kilowatt hour.

“That’s the stick part of the carrot and stick approach,” said Lechner.

The idea came from a contract the city has with Constellation Winery, owner of Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, said Lechner.

Ten years ago, the company moved storage to a building with poor ventilation, and had to switch all their forklifts to electric battery versions. To encourage Constellation’s managers to charge during off-peak hours, the city formed a special rate contract with a separate meter. Now, the same system will be open to similar businesses in town.

The new rates were approved last week, and will go into effect on July 1.

“We are very confident. We have been down this road previously, and it was wildly successful,” Lechner said. “We are willing to work with (businesses) to make this as easy as possible.”

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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