After several years of exploring Automated Meter
Reading, Cleveland Utilities has started the
process of implementation of this system for our
customer. Automated meter reading, or AMR,
is the technology of remote collection of
consumption and other data by the central office
location for billing, troubleshooting, and
further analysis. The initial phase will
begin in the fall of 2010 by installing a
500-meter system for proof testing. After
system acceptance 8500 meters will be purchased
and installed. It's expected to take three
years to complete the upgrade for all electric
meters to this new technology.
Once the electric phase is complete, Cleveland
Utilities will eventually change water meters
over to AMR, but no pre-determined dates have
been set for completion. The Elster Group
was chosen as the AMR vendor. They are
among the leaders in meter installations with
more than 200 million meters installed in the
last ten years operating in over 38 countries.
Customers will be notified before the meter
change process begins, but at this time, there
is no schedule set as to which areas will be
affected first. Listed below are a few of
the questions most commonly associated with
automated meter reading.
Frequent Q & A
1. What is AMI? New technology, called Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) enables CU to remotely read meters resulting in operational efficiency, enhanced customer service, billing and power restoration, environmental benefits, as well as energy use. All existing customer meters will be exchanged for new digital meters starting in the fall of 2010.
AMI is the acronym for this technology which was first introduced in the 1970's/ Previously known as "AMR" for Automated Meter Reading, the AMI system used operations similar to that of a cellular telephone. The communication device embedded in each meter (generally located outside the building) will communicate with data collection equipment mounted on the utility poles at various points in a community. Communication between the AMI meter and data collection points will be transferred over the 900 Mhz spectrum with an anticipated power output of .25 watts of power. The transfer of data gathered at various collection points will then be transmitted to CU via a communication infrastructure. AMI technology is sometime referred to as smart meters.
2. Why is CU Installing AMI meters? This new technology enables CU to remotely read meters resulting in operational efficiency, enhanced customer service, billing and power restoration as well as enviromental benefits.
Other beneifts of the advanced meter include:
--The meter is digital, secure and easier to read.
--Energy usage data collected remotely eliminates misreads and therefore reduces the number of estimated
--Power outages may be restored faster with greater meter communication capabilities.
--In the near future, meter readers will not need access to your electric meter every month.
--Enables CU to offer time of use electric rates.
3. Who will receive AMI meters? All CU electric customers - residential and commercial - will receive AMI meters. As with any new technology the old meters will soon be obsolete as there will be mo more meter readers to read the traditional electric meters.
4. What does the meter look like? The new AMI meter's exterior appearance looks similar to existing meters. The primary difference is customers who currently have mechanical meters with dials will notice no dials, but a new digital display instead. The AMI meter is secure and easier to read.
5. Will the communications system interfere with home equipment? All communications equipment meets criteria set by the Federal Communications Commission and should not interfere with any equipment inside a home or business.
6. Will there be a separate charge for this new meter or the installation? No. You will not be charged for the new meter or its installation.
7. What type of information is being transmitted? Only meter numbers, energy usage readings and diagnostic information will be transmitted through encrypted signals. Personal data will not be transmitted so your information will remain private and secure.
8. When will you be installing these new meters? CU started this new program in November of 2010 and will continue over the coming years to install the new meters. Before the meter is installed, a CU representative will knock on your door in an attempt to notify you of the change out.
9. How many visits will it take to install the new meters? Under normal circumstances it should only take one visit.
10. Will there be any interruption during the installation? Electric service interruptions should normally take only a few minutes. If there is an issue, you will be notified if it will be an extended period of time.
11. Will I see a charge in my service after the new meter is installed? The electric service you receive will not be impacted by the new meters. Once the AMI meter is installed and operating, meter readers will no longer visit your poperty for electrical reading. However, service personnel may visit the meter periodically to perform safety inspections, routine maintenace, or meter testing.
12. Are there any potential health concerns with the radio frequency (RF) signals? Several studies have been made on low-power RF transmissions that AMI uses, but no negative health impacts have been found. The AMI system we are deploying meets all applicable FCC requirements.
13. Will I still be able to read the meter(s) on my property? Yes, you still will be able to read the meter.
14. What day of the month will the meter be read? At CU, meters can be read at a variety of times in a 24 hour period to obtain a history of usage information. For billing purposes, the customer monthly billing cycle will remain the same as was previously. The only change will be a more consistent 30 or 31 day interval between meter readings except for the month of February.
15. Do CU customers need to be at home for the change out? If the electric meter was installed inside the home or a building, the customer must be home or other arrangements made in advance. Customers do not need to be at home if the meter is on the oustide of the home or building.
16. If no one has to read the meter, does it still need to be assessible? Yes, CU requires that reasonable access to equipment still must be maintained.
17. I understand the AMI meters use radio frequency communication. Is this safe? AMI meters use the same FCC-approved frequencies that have been used for many years in devices such as baby monitors, portable phones, remote controlled toys and medical monitors.
RF fields from AMI meters have been studied and found to emit very low fields and then only intermittently. Any exposure to humans would be exteremly small. There are no known adverse biological effects from these small fields. To provide some persepective, under typical operating conditions, an individual meter on average would transmit 1.6 seconds every four hours.
18. Who will be changing out the meters? At this time, CU plans on doing all the electric meter change outs using CU employees. Each CU personnel will have a photo ID that can be seen upon request.
19. Will the AMI meter control appliances inside my home? The homeowner will have the same control over their inside their home as they presently do. The installed AMI meter will not have any control over a customer usage.
20. Will electric rates increase due to the installation of the AMI meter? No. Some of the installation expense will be offset by meter reading cost.
Misinformation regarding AMI meter program
Misinformation is being distributed by unknown persons making false claims about the AMI meter program being impemented by Cleveland Utilities.
To recap the purpose of our AMI program, it is specifically intended to:
1. Reduce monthly meter reading costs by reading meters remotely.
2. Allow Cleveland Utilities the ability to bill based on time of day electric rates when implemented.
3. Provide an almost instantaneous outage reporting system for our customers.
The automated meters used by Cleveland Utilities are not surveillance devices. The technology we employ allows the meter to transmit any usage data via radio in order for us to correctly bill the customer and ensure that there is a consistent supply of power to the home. The technology does not allow other data to be transmitted or recorded. The communications system for data transmission is similar to cell phone technology and only transmits for an average of 1.5 seconds once every 4 hours. Data transmission incorporates frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) and DES encryption along with other vendor security measures to ensure the secure transmittal of electric usage data. The meters that we are installing do not have the capability to identify or control appliances within the home or business nor are they capable of recoding or monitoring household activity other than daily kilowatt hour usage. The meters also do not have the ability to restrict the usage of electricity by the customer.
The following links show the type of information that is being presented as facts to our customers:
The links listed below are articles that have appeared in the Cleveland Daily Banner over the past several months that address Cleveland Utilities' AMI project and the intended purposes of the project: