Monday, March 11, 2013

MLGW Smart Grid Update

The Smart Grid Demo was a Success! 
MLGW receives 100% of its daily meter readings by 7:00am, proving that the technology is a beneficial way to collect accurate information without having employees drive more than 500,000 miles annually to obtain meter readings. (More benefits will emerge as we finalize testing and verification of outage alerts and other features.) On the customer side, access to more information about electricity use greatly increased participant awareness and energy savings. Here are the highlights:
  • 95% are more aware of when their home uses energy
  • 77% made at least one change to save energy
  • 86% have a better understanding of their home's electricity use
  • 79% viewed their smart meter data online in My Account
  • 95% would recommend the smart meter experience to a friend
  • The average Smart Grid Demo participant reduced electricity use by 2.3%, compared to the "control group" (a sample of 1,000 households without smart meters). Participants in the Time-of-Use pilot reduced use by an average 5.6%, compared to the control group.
  • See the full Board presentation online.
  • Thanks to our Smart Grid Demo volunteers who spoke with The Commercial Appeal reporter about their experience. Read the 2/6/2013 article. 
Next Phase: 60,000-meter project
You may recall from our November update that MLGW budgeted for additional smart meters, including gas and water types, for 2013--and then City Council voted to expand the project size tenfold. MLGW is in the process of obtaining proposals from vendors to identify the products, communication technologies and other specifics for this next phase. Instead of taking volunteers, as we did for the Smart Grid Demo, MLGW will focus on concentrated geographic areas to minimize communications infrastructure costs. If you live in one of the areas, your existing electric smart meter would be replaced with a new smart meter and, if you have gas and/or water service from MLGW, those meters would be replaced also. We will not know final sites until after we select a vendor, so watch for more information in late April. As you recall, it takes several months for meters to be manufactured, so installation won't begin immediately.

Recently, questions have been raised about the safety of smart meters including reports of a small number of fires in some cities (none in Shelby County). While it is easy to search a topic on the Internet and get a list of results, it is essential to research deeply to find the facts. A YouTube video can be compelling visually, but the facts are more powerful. Here are the facts:
  • Electric meters--whether analog, digital or smart--cannot cause fires. This fact is supported by findings from fire officials across the world, including in Florida, Maryland, California, Canada and Australia.
  • Problems with the customer-owned meter socket, which is installed by the builder's electrical contractor during construction, can cause overheating, which very rarely can cause a fire. (The meter connects to the meter socket, completing the electric circuit and allowing electricity to flow into the building.)
  • More than 37 million smart meters have been installed in the United States. Official reports of meter socket overheating are fewer than 250 and fewer than 20 of those overheated sockets have caused fires nationally.
  • Utility companies--including MLGW--follow detailed procedures to inspect the condition of a meter socket when installing a meter. When problems are identified, the customer is informed to call an electrical contractor to make repairs. Very few meter socket issues were discovered (and corrected) during installation of MLGW's 1,200 smart meters, but utilities replacing all their electric meters have uncovered and helped customers resolve many safety issues with meter sockets.
  • There have been no fires caused by smart meters, or any other type of electric meter, in Shelby County.
  • MLGW has retired about a dozen smart meters due to damage from power surges and lightning strikes, but none have resulted in a fire.
  • MLGW presented these facts to a City Council committee on 3/5/2013. See the presentation.
  • Remember to check our Myths & Realities webpage for more facts regarding unsupported claims about smart meters.

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