Automated Meters (AMI)

Escambia River Electric Cooperative, Inc. researches the best technologies to provide you with dependable electric service at competitive rates.  With that goal in mind, we are investing in new, automated meters to improve the efficiency and reliability of our electric system.  With these new meters, we will be able to provide:

  • Improved efficiency.  Automated meters read kWh usage remotely, reconnect remotely and locate outages more quickly and precisely.  Remote meter reading and improved outage management can save the co-op money, a savings that will benefit members.
  • Improved reliability.  Automated meters help EREC identify the location of outages and respond more rapidly to restore power and give members more information.
  • Improved power quality.  With more information coming from the meters and other new applications, EREC can monitor the delivery system better and improve power quality by reducing the number of spikes, blinks and surges.
  • No more estimated bills or self-reads.  New meters improve the accuracy of meter reading.  Automated meters eliminate the need for estimated reads or “self-reads,” which may be prone to human error.
  • Access to data about power use.  In Touchstone Energy’s 2010 Cooperative Difference survey, more than 60 percent of the respondents said they would definitely or probably use a web portal with information about their energy use. Consumers also like being able to choose whether to see hourly, daily or monthly data.  EREC will be able to provide members with this feature.
  • Improved customer service.  The additional data from the automated meters can help EREC work with members to diagnose why a member may have a high bill.  Automated meter data can help the member analyze what is happening in their home or business – and to help them find solutions.

By upgrading our equipment and installing new meters with two-way communication we can improve reliability, keep costs down and serve you better.  You can look forward to new services in the future.

CONSUMER CONCERNS ABOUT AUTOMATED METERS

ON PRIVACY

The data from new digital meters helps us serve our members better. Our goals in installing new meters are to deliver better service, control rising operating expenses, improve system reliability through improved outage management and preventive maintenance, and provide our members with information they can use to make informed decisions about energy use.

Escambia River Electric Cooperative, Inc. does not sell its members’ data to any third party.  EREC abides by stringent policies protecting the privacy and security of your electric usage data.  These policies are in compliance with the FACT Act legislation and red flag rules.

EREC is committed to protecting the privacy and security of our members’ personal information.

ON RF WAVES – Wireless meters

Research conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Electric Power Research Institute, the Utilities Telecom Council and others has found no negative health impacts from digital meters that send information via a wireless communications network. The radio frequencies (RF) emitted by digital meters fall well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines.

People are continuously exposed to very low levels of natural and man-made radio frequency fields, or RF. Even the earth’s surface and the human body are constant sources of RF fields. Digital meters send information about home electricity use to EREC by RF signals. Escambia River Electric Cooperative, Inc.’s meters emit RF similar to that of many common household devices such as baby monitors, cordless phones, and remote-controlled toys and medical monitors.

The exposure from new meters is much lower than other common sources for two reasons: 1) infrequent signal transmission, and 2) distance. On a daily basis, the cooperative’s meters emit power for less than five minutes per day. In addition, these meters are typically placed outdoors, with a wall separating the meter from the living space.  This combination of placement and infrequent operation means that you would need to be within one foot of 7,000 digital meters all communicating at the same time to reach the FCC exposure limit.  You can rest assured our new metering equipment is safe for you and your family. The metering products we selected underwent testing by an accredited lab to verify that they met all FCC requirements.

Your cooperative is a not‐for‐profit private business that is solely owned and operated by the members who receive electric service from our company. When our board of directors approves a policy or procedure for the use of new equipment and technologies, they do so knowing that it will also apply to their own homes. In using this metering system, we have not only deemed it to be a wise and safe choice for all co‐op members and their families but our own families as well.

ON CYBER SECURITY

It’s extremely unlikely that someone could access information from the cooperative’s metering system.  Meter manufacturers are incorporating security features and encryption technology into their meters, as recommended by national security experts.  New meters allow us to determine if someone tampers with your meter.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT AUTOMATED METERS

When will my meter be installed?
EREC has a plan to start installing automated meters in the third quarter of 2013.

Will I lose electrical service during the installation?
Yes, for a few minutes.  You will need to reset electronic clocks and other devices.

How does my new automated meter work?
With these new meters, EREC can read the meter remotely from our central office.  Information from the meter is transmitted back to the co-op in daily increments.  Transmitting this information electronically means that a meter reader no longer comes to your house in person.

Why are we changing to the automated meters?
The meter upgrade provides EREC members with numerous benefits.  The new meters will help us

  • Save money by eliminating the labor and transportation costs of in-person meter reading– a savings we pass on to our members.
  • Improve billing accuracy, eliminating misreads or inaccurate readings.
  • Pinpoint the exact location of outages more quickly, meaning a faster response time.
  • Help our consumer-member troubleshoot high-bill problems by providing information about power consumption patterns, outage and blink count history and voltage information, reducing usage questions.
  • Improve electric service reliability and power quality – fewer outages, blinks and surges.
  • Help secure the overall safety of the cooperative employee team.

How much is this going to cost?
There will be no additional costs to the member to install the new system. There is no rate increase anticipated in association with this project. Following the installation, members will receive a bill with two readings:  one for the old meter and one for the new meter.

What other additional installation parts will I need?
No additional parts are anticipated or required. However, if something is identified as faulty or hazardous with member’s equipment, the co-op will replace it.

Who will be changing out the meters?
EREC employees will install the meters.

Do members have a choice in getting a new meter?
No. New meters will be installed on all accounts. The cooperative is embarking on a system-wide program that will change 100 percent of existing residential and commercial meters in order to acquire more accurate information, without the need to enter a member’s property.

At this time, if members have a question about their energy usage, the cooperative must send operation personnel to the member/owner’s property to re-read the meter. With the new system, customer service representatives can access the meter information and obtain the reading almost instantaneously.
The new system will give the cooperative daily meter readings, instead of monthly readings. Other features of the new system will provide new data that will enable us to monitor the system better and correct inefficiencies.

What’s the difference between the new meters and the old meters?
The new meters are digital electronic devices while the old meters were an electro-mechanical device. The new meters will continue to display the meter reading, but it will be in a digital LED format. The biggest difference is that the new meters will have an electronic circuit board module installed. The module receives and stores the kilo-watt-hour (kWh) and demand consumption recorded by the electronics in the meter, and is able to transmit securely this and other system data back to the cooperative’s computers.

Will I keep the same rate after the conversion?
Yes, members will continue to stay on the same rate class as they have in the past.  There will be no increased cost to the member.

What if my bill reports more kWh usage than normal or I think my meter is not working correctly?
Contact your nearest co-op office right away to discuss your billing concerns. Electronic meters are more accurate than analog or mechanical meters. The new meters installed have been tested and meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations.

The new meters allow for accurate readings and a consistent billing period.

Will meter readers ever need to come to read the meter manually again once the new meter is in place?
Probably not.  Meter readers will no longer regularly need to spend valuable time traveling to every meter for a monthly read.  All meter reads will be digitally transmitted back to the co-op headquarters.

What information does the new meter record?
The new meter records an electronic kWh reading, the overall peak demand of the electric account, if the meter has rotated backwards, and the number of times the meter has experienced a loss of power for any reason. In fact, the meter will record the date and time of light blinks and the length of the power outage.

What day of the month will the meters be read?
All of the co-op’s new meters can be read at a variety of times to obtain a history of account information. However, for billing purposes member bills will be read on their current monthly schedules.

Once co-op employees no longer need to read the meter, can obstacles be constructed that may make the meter inaccessible?
No. Reasonable access to equipment still must be maintained. This allows for cooperative personnel to either read or maintain the meter if necessary at reasonable times.

How will the co-op read the meters?
The cooperative’s computer will communicate with the substation-installed equipment, which sends a request for one or more meter readings. The meter reading is sent back to the co-op via a secure network.

Will someone other than the co-op be able to read the new meter?
It’s very unlikely that some very sophisticated “bad actor” could access information from the cooperative’s automated metering system.  Meter manufacturers are incorporating security features and encryption technology into their meters, as recommended by national security experts.  Our goal is to upgrade our electric distribution system to make it safer, more secure, and more reliable. Your new digital meter is part of this effort. Once your new digital meter is installed, your cooperative will be able to tell if someone “tampers” with your meter because the meter will report any tampering attempts to the cooperative.

Will the co-op continue to do service inspections?
Routine inspections of all meters and services will continue in order to look for safety hazards, theft or other problems.

How secure will the new meters be?
The meter display is visible for members to be able to check their consumption.  All other information and data stored in the meter is secure and the meter is sealed.

Can the cooperative disconnect electric service using the new meters?
Yes, meters can have remote disconnect capabilities.

Will the new meter notify the co-op when the power goes out?
The meters will be able to record outages allowing the cooperative to verify whether the outage is either on the member’s side of the meter or the co-op’s.

Are there any potential health impacts from a meter that can receive and send data? 

No.  Research conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute, the Utilities Telecom Council and others has revealed no health impacts from digital meters. The radio frequencies emitted by digital meters falls well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines. Contrary to some misconceptions, the new meters emit radio frequencies (RF) only when responding to a request for data from the co-op office.  Compare this activity to a laptop with a wireless connection, which is constantly sending and retrieving data.  A digital meter equipped to send and receive data has an RF density hundreds of times less than the RF density of a cell phones – and the meters are installed on the outside of your house not next to your ear!

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact us at (850) 675-4521 or toll free 1-800-235-3848.