Smart meters are just one piece of the Smart Grid that will ultimately help our customers control their power usage, quickly notify EPB when there is an outage and much more. Here are answers to some common questions about smart meters:
What makes the meter “smart”?
Part of our Smart Grid system, digital smart meters have the ability to communicate with the power system. Much like a traditional electric meter with a dial, a smart meter measures your electric consumption, but the difference is that a smart meter remotely tells us your consumption every 15 minutes vs. traditional meters that are usually read manually and only once per month.
Consumption is displayed digitally on the meter, and, by fall of 2012, will be available for you to view online or on a channel or application that’s available with Fi TV service.
Smart meters also help us keep an eye on things as they happen. So, by fall of 2012, if there is a power outage at your home or business, we’ll know within 15 minutes and can get to work fixing the problem immediately! And if we notice an unusual or substantial increase in your power consumption, we can notify you so you can investigate.
What does a smart meter look like?
A smart meter looks a lot like the electric meters we’ve used for years, but numbers on the smart meter are displayed digitally rather than on a dial. See photo above.
Is there going to be a charge for me for this new meter?
No. There is no extra cost or charge associated with the smart meters.
What kind of information is my smart meter going to give you?
The smart meters will tell us how much power you're using, much like traditional meters do, except smart meters will remotely report your usage every 15 minutes instead of once per month.
On top of being able to identify if there is a power outage, or alerting you if there is an unusual spike in your power usage, these 15-minute meter readings will allow us to offer you new electric rate structures. Here's how it will work:
Today, residential customers and most business customers pay the same rate per kWh, no matter what time of day or season. But the actual cost to generate electric power is much higher during "high peak" periods (such as hot summer afternoons) than it is during low peak periods (such as during the mild months of fall and spring).
In the future, customers will have the option to be on a different rate structure that reflects the true cost of generating power at different times of day and year. In order for customers to take advantage of lower rates when power is cheaper to generate, we'll need to know not only how much electricity a customer is using over the course of a month, but how much they are using at specific times of day.
Because the smart meters will send us usage data every 15 minutes, we'll have the information we need to accurately bill customers who choose to be on this kind of rate structure. More importantly, customers will have the information they need to adjust their power consumption, if they choose, to take advantage of these "time-of-use" rates.
Keep in mind that these new rate options are just that: options. Customers who choose to remain on traditional flat rate structures will have that option.
Will the smart meter give me the ability to see my power consumption in real time?
Yes! Actually, today you can go outside and read your meter – smart or not – any time. By fall of 2012, you will be able to observe your electricity consumption in 15-minute intervals on the meter, online or on Fi TV.
Can I opt out of getting a smart meter?
Installing smart meters is part of an upgrade to our electric system, so we are not offering old meters as an option anymore. The smart meters are being implemented at every home and business in our service area. However, no action is required by you. You may continue to use electric power as you always have, or you may choose to take advantage of some of the tools that the smart meter will make available to you, like time-of-use power rates or online monitoring of your consumption, which will be available by fall of 2012.
What if I don’t want you to have more information about my power consumption?
Rest assured that you are in control of your power consumption. The information we will be able to access with the smart meters is no different than the information that we are able to access currently. The only change is that it will be remotely reported to us every 15 minutes.
Will the smart meter be able to tell what appliances I am using in my home?
Only if you want it to. If you choose to install smart appliances or devices that monitor how much electricity is used to run specific appliances, you will be able to see how much power is being used by which appliances. However, we will not have access to that information unless you want to share it with us.
Will there be any restrictions on how much power I can use?
The amount of electricity you consume is up to you.
Do the radio waves that transmit the smart meter data pose a health risk?
No, they do not. The radio frequency (RF) power density from smart meters is minimal – about one one-thousandth as much as a typical cell phone. [Source: Richard Tell Associates, Inc. ]
In fact, smart meters operate well below the Federal Communications Commission’s adopted Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) limits for radio transmitters of all types, smart meters included. Plus, the smart meters are on the outside of your home. And each smart meter is only “on” for a minimal portion of the day – a maximum of 100 seconds total - to regularly communicate your energy consumption data.