Mountain Parks Electric prepares for multimillion-dollar meter project
Beginning this month Mountain Parks Electric (MPE) will be installing new advanced meters throughout its service region.
The new meters will transmit electricity usage data via a radio frequency to MPE headquarters. MPE officials hope to complete the full project by December 2016.
A factsheet provided by MPE points out that currently approximately 50 percent of U.S. households have advanced meter systems for their electricity usage. Most of MPE’s existing meters, 83 percent, are already remotely read. The data from those meters is transmitted via a grounded neutral wire in the existing power-line infrastructure. The data is sent to substations throughout the MPE service region and is then relayed to MPE headquarters.
The remaining 17 percent of MPE’s existing meters are read by a subcontractor, mostly in the Fraser/Winter Park area. They will be the first meters replaced when the advanced meter system installation begins this month.
The existing system sends usage information about every 27 hours, according to the factsheet. The new advanced meters will send data much more frequently, “usually hourly.”
According to the factsheet the new meters will allow MPE to pinpoint the exact location of outages more quickly, allowing for faster response times. It will save money by eliminating labor and transportation costs associated with manual meter readings.
Officials expect the new meters to improve billing accuracy by eliminating inaccurate readings and misreads. It is also believed the advanced meters will provide more detailed information for consumers regarding their power consumption patterns. The meter switchover will not impact current employment at MPE.
“We are not interested in finding out what people are doing on their side of the meter,” said Joe Pandy, MPE general manager. “We don’t know and we don’t care to know. The meter does not have the ability to look inside of homes. We have no ability to check your lifestyle. What we want is accurate billing.”
Pandy also addressed concerns regarding the possible health effects of the advanced radio transmission meters.
“We certainly aren’t going to put something out there that is dangerous to people’s health,” said Pandy. “We will put these in our own homes.”
Data provided by MPE says that the meters will produce small radio frequency energy but that the concentrations from the meters are significantly less than a cellphone or a microwave oven.
The total cost of the project is expected to be about $4 million. That figure will cover the purchase and installation of nearly about 20,000 meters. Each meter costs around $200. There is no additional cost to MPE customers for the meter transition beyond their standard electricity payments.
Pandy said MPE’s cost-benefit analysis on the project indicates a payback period of 11 years; meaning after 11 years the cost savings associated with the meters should cover the full cost of the project.
“If people don’t want this meter they can opt out,” said Pandy. “It is their choice. But we will have to continue to roll a truck out to read their meter once a month, which is $54 per trip.”
While Pandy was sensitive to both the health and privacy concerns of consumers within the MPE service region, he put the advanced metering switchover in context of larger national trends.
“This is part of the wireless age we live in. You can get so many different services wirelessly now. It should not be a surprise to people that we can read their meters wirelessly.”
Pandy explained that MPE plans to have customer accounts accessible on their website for the individual consumers.
“We hope to deploy on our website the ability for consumers to log into your own account and see how much (electricity) you are using on a daily, hourly or monthly basis,” said Pandy. “It will be more consumer-centric.”
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