Milford to Look into Smart Meters

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Visual of Smart Meter utility system via Advanced Metering Program.

By Terry Rogers

On Monday, March 28, George Bjelovuk of American Municipal Power, presented Milford City Council with information on transitioning to Smart Meters for electric and water service throughout the town. Electric Superintendent, Rick Carmean, said that he asked Mr. Bjelovuk to make the presentation to council as his research into converting to the advanced meters revealed that it was difficult to find vendors who could perform the entire process, from metering to storage of data to security.

“We discovered that American Municipal Power was working on joint efforts to share the costs of Smart Meters with municipalities throughout the state,” Mr. Carmean explained. “We thought it would be beneficial for council to learn more about the process.”

Mr. Bjelovuk explained that American Municipal Power was formed as a not-for-profit business in Ohio and was governed by 132 members in nine states. Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) is a member and Milford is a member of DEMEC, allowing Milford to be considered for the Smart Meter program.

According to Eric Norenberg, City Manager, Milford would benefit from the smart metering program due to reduced operating costs associated with the current meter reading operation. Currently, meter readers must ride by every meter in the city to read customer usage each month. In addition, when customers move in or out of the city, a meter reader must visit the property to read the meter.

“The Smart Meters will help the city reduce its carbon footprint,” Mr. Carmean said. “It will reduce the cost of operating and maintaining vehicles, such as fuel, tires, oil changes, etc.” According to Mr. Bjelovuk, the city would be able to read meters electronically without employees riding by to measure usage. The handheld equipment currently used by the city is aging and some of the water meters in the city are reaching end of life. Mr. Carmean said that many of the meters in the city were not working properly.

Smart Meters would offer better customer service, Mr. Bjelovuk said. It would allow the city to connect or disconnect service immediately, without sending an employee out. This would mean customers would receive service quicker and would not pay for service they were no longer using because an employee could not get to their meter for a few days. In addition, the meters would allow customers to better manage their own consumption.

“We would install a customer portal that would allow customers to log in via a website so they could monitor their own water and electricity consumption,” Mr. Norenberg said. “This would let them see where they are consuming the most electricity or water and make adjustments to lower their own costs. In addition, employees would regularly monitor reports issued from the system and any unusual usage could be addressed, allowing us to notify customers if we suspect a water leak or something else that could drastically affect their bill.”

Another benefit the city would realize from the installation of Smart Meters is improved Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA).

“The city’s SCADA systems help the city monitor water well sites, sewer pumping stations and electric substations,” Mr. Carmean explained. “Adding smart meters to this electronic network is a first step to a smart grid. A smart meter can communicate with other devices on the SCADA system, enabling more complete system monitoring for load management and automated system configuration.” Mr. Carmean also explained that because the systems can be monitored via computer, it was possible for staff to see an outage before it happens, allowing them to address problems before customers suffered electric or water loss.

Since American Municipal Power works with many different municipalities, the costs for implementation of smart meters would be between $1.7 and $2.1 million with annual operating expenses of $110,000 to $120,000. If the city chooses to implement the meters, it would take between three and six months for the process to be complete.

“We are going to have to do this, so I think this might be the best way to go,” Councilman Garrett Grier said. “I would like to see more data from other systems who have implemented this before we make a final decision.” Mr. Bjelovuk said that he was requesting a letter of intent to begin the process of investigating whether Milford was a candidate for the program, but that the letter was non-binding, allowing the City to withdraw at any point. Council agreed to issue a letter of intent to further investigate the process with the understanding they could withdraw if it was determined the program would not be beneficial to the city or to residents.