Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Smart Talk: New technology has many customer benefits

MLGW is committed to doing what is in the best interest of all its customers as a whole. Providing service improvements when they are available and affordable is an important part of that commitment.

Full-scale implementation of smart meters is a prime example of how MLGW can offer enhanced service and payment options that are affordable and readily available in the marketplace. Additionally, smart meters provide an opportunity to lower the cost of utilities for everyone. Optimizing MLGW’s distribution system by using real-time information from smart meters will reduce costs. At the customer level, using personal consumption data to lower usage will save energy and money. For customers that select time-of-use rates, there’s an opportunity to actually lower rates as they manage electricity and appliances. Simply using household appliances at off-peak times can trim a TOU participant’s energy budget without any significant impact on their lifestyle.

Smart meters will also allow MLGW to offer PrePay or pay-as-you go to any residential customer. PrePay eliminates the need for deposits, late charges and reconnect fees. PrePay customers in other cities typically use 12 percent less energy than customers not enrolled in the service. Industry leaders surmise prepay customers gain an increased awareness of their energy use, leading enrollees to curtail consumption. For Phoenix’s Salt River Project PrePay participants, a 12 percent decrease in consumption shaved as much as 20 percent off of electric costs. Such dramatic savings would be significant for impoverished Shelby County customers who may live in less-than energy-efficient housing.

In addition to lowering costs and encouraging energy conservation, smart meters will reduce outage times by alerting MLGW's System Control Center that the power is out at a premise, allowing for quicker problem diagnosis, resulting in faster restoration. Other cities, like Chattanooga, are reducing outage durations by about an hour. Customers no longer have to call to report outages and troubleshooting begins as soon as problems arise.

Another benefit is the virtual elimination of estimated meter readings. Nobody wants an estimated bill. Eliminating estimated bills is a substantial service improvement for our customers. Remote disconnection and reconnection is another. Offering to automate connections can save customers time and avoid scheduling hassles.

Security is a big concern for customers. Smart meters would give customers peace of mind. With remote reading capability, homeowners would no longer need to leave their gates unlocked or lock up their dogs on meter reading day.

There are benefits to employees, too. Smart meters will have a significant impact on employee safety, reducing exposure to dog bites, attacks and theft. Reducing driving time is yet another benefit, as it reduces the risk of vehicle accidents.

Utilities in other cities are taking advantage of the improvements automated meters offer their operations and customers. It’s time for “Big Shelby” to adopt smart meters and provide the options and choices that are in the best interest of all MLGW customers.

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