Advanced electronic meters coming

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 17, 2016

In about four months, Oxford Electric Company customers will be able to manage their electricity usage and their monthly bills more efficiently once new meters are installed.

Last week, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved entering into a contract with Landis and Gyr to provide a RF Automated Metering Infrastructure Network, or AMI, electric meters.

“This will necessitate the replacement of all of the city’s existing electric meters with the advanced meters, which immediately offer many advantages to the utility and our customers,” said OED Superintendent Rob Neely.

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A mesh network will be created once the meters are installed and will be used to perform the collection of meter reads and communication with the devices in the field that help the utility operate more efficiently.

“OED has investigated advanced metering for approximately five years and feels that the time is right for the purchase and installation of an AMI network,” Neely said.

Other Mississippi utilities in the Tennessee Valley Region that have advanced metering or are in the process of installation/investigation are Holly Springs, Tupelo, Columbus, Aberdeen, Starkville and numerous electric cooperatives including North East Mississippi Electric Power Association.

The advanced meters will notify the office when they have lost power, thereby reducing outage times and nested outages during a storm event. Customer service issues associated with electric usage will be reduced because hourly usage data will be available for the customer and utility to view, instead of one reading per month.

“During our busiest time OED, late July and early August, performs up to 500 service orders per day,” Neely said. “The advanced metering network will allow OED to perform meter reads and disconnects/reconnects for customers wishing to add, remove or relocate service more efficiently.”

The utility will be able to review loading on transformers throughout the system to determine if they’re being over or under loaded and will automatically notify the utility if they have been tampered with or removed, thus reducing theft and damage of utility assets.

While the new meters will make things run more efficiently for OED, they will also help homeowners to gauge their electric usage so they can manage their bills better.

The meters will allow customers to view their daily energy use online and will eventually allow customers to prepay their electric bill which will reduce the need for high security deposits and allow customers flexibility to manage how and when they put money on their account.

“Down the road, customers will be able to enroll in peak saving programs with the ability to conserve energy usage during peak events and receive pricing incentives for doing so,” Neely said.

Installation soon

The installation is expected to cost $900,000 and was included in OED’s capital budget three years ago.

Neely said the meters are being installed in February.

“We hope to be fully deployed in approximately three months,” Neely said.

When the meters are switched over, customers should not experience any change or interruption during the switch. Customers will be given notice when the switch is complete.

No assessments or rate increases are planned based on the migration to advanced metering.

Neely said some people have expressed concerns over the new meters needing less people and taking jobs away from OED employees, but says there is no reason for people to worry.

“As far as what happens to our meter reading staff, we’ll still need a staff of meter readers to perform water meter reads,” he said. “Also, we’ll need folks to perform daily analysis of the AMI system to make sure all meters are communicating properly.”