United Smart Meters Provide Accuracy, Reliability
Despite a bevy of negativity about so-called “smart” utility meters blanketing the DFW Metroplex recently, United Cooperative Services and its membership have enjoyed a different experience related to the “new” technology. The nonprofit electric cooperative serving parts of 14 counties adjacent to Fort Worth is well-seasoned when it comes to utilizing smart meter technology, having initially implemented the technology’s first generation more than seven years ago. Since then, United has deployed the second generation, Hunt Technology’s TS2 AMI (automated meter infrastructure), throughout the cooperative’s 75,000-meter service territory. Such an implementation was necessary to comply with the cooperative’s goal of helping its members better manage their energy use.
“The new TS2s were United’s next proactive leap in providing optimum service and reliability to the membership,” said CEO Ray Beavers. “Earlier generations of AMI provided one-way communications between our members’ meters and our data capturing systems, but the TS2s allow for two-way communications and provide us with essential data to help our members identify areas in which they can reduce their energy use,” he said.
An example of how the technology is helping members is its assistance to the cooperative’s extensive free energy audit efforts. Before United’s energy auditors visit a member’s home, they obtain data that shows electricity consumption on an hourly basis. This is beneficial when usage spikes irregularly and enables the energy auditor to narrow the scope of his search for the energy hog within a member’s home.
“Our energy experts have conducted more than 400 free home energy audits in 2010 and more than 3,000 since 2007. The data that we’re able to capture through our smart meter technology has led to the discovery of failing appliances, such as stuck heating elements and well pumps that create extremely high usage,” said Beavers.
One of the recent complaints fielded by other utilities has to do with testing the accuracy of the meters. United’s membership has not had to be concerned about such an issue because the cooperative, as standard operating procedure, tests 3,000-5,000 meters each year. To ensure further accuracy and reliability, United has an objective, third-party meter-testing agency run comprehensive examinations of the meter-testing equipment.
“United is committed to helping its members waste less energy and control their energy costs, so having meters operating inaccurately is contrary to that objective,” said Beavers. “As important, energy prices are going to go up, whether because of adding additional power-generating units or volatile fuel prices. As a result, it’s essential that consumers act sooner to offset those rising costs. The smart meter technology we have in place goes a long way toward meeting that objective. Plus, our existing AMI infrastructure is the foundation for even greater opportunities for our members to manage energy use, opportunities that will allow them in the coming years to monitor their usage through a Web site, PDA, or other technology,” he added.
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