AEP-PSO prepares to install smart meters on wide scale

AEP-PSO prepares to install smart meters on wide scale

Hope you had a merry Christmas and are ready for a smart meter New Year.

Thats not exactly the seasonal greeting given by electricity provider AEP-PSO, but it may not be too far off. In 2015. the utility will shift into hyperdrive on its installation of advanced metering systems statewide, including close to 300,000 in its Tulsa district.

Customers are already paying an average $3.11 more per month for this $130 million project, which started earlier this year and wraps up systemwide by late 2016. So the question begs to be answered: What exactly is a smart meter and is really a good deal for you?

AEP-PSO, of course, contends its worthwhile on both fronts. Through a web portal, customers will have first-hand, immediate access to information about their billing and energy usage.

For the first time, we have the ability to offer our customers something other than a bill, said Stephanie Johnson, supervisor of customer engagement for American Electric Power-Public Service Co. of Oklahoma. They can look at their data, including time-of-day and peak rates, and determine when and how best to use the power for cost savings.

AEP-PSOs benefit, it says, is to reduce expenses and its own carbon footprint.

It all fits together, spokesman Stan Whiteford said. For example, were going to take a ton of truck miles off the road. Technically theres going to be an emissions reduction because of that. Customers will save more energy to use it when they need it.

So exactly what is a smart meter or advanced metering system? Actually the meter itself is not unlike the current device found at the edge of most homes, although those have transitioned from dial to digital.

A meter logs, in kilowatt hours, the amount of energy used. Historically, an AEP-PSO employee comes to the home every month, reads the meter and records the power usage.

But the new systems meter is attached to a device that transmits the data wirelessly every 15 minutes or so.

The smart-meter paradigm is powered both by state-of-the-art technology and age-old conflicts.

Were going to avoid however many millions of backyard entrances, and theres hundreds of thousands of dogs in those backyards, Whiteford said. Were going to avoid all those potential interactions.

Some opponents of the new meters dont mind the old system. Senior advocacy group AARP has argued against the billing increases that will pay for a system it says is not proven to save customers money.

Others worry about having too many wireless devices sending radioactive signals through the air. Smart meters emit low radio frequency emissions, but proponents say they are in such small doses that health is not affected.

However, the fears about health impacts have gone nationwide in recent years. An Oklahoma City TV station reporting on complaints about OG&Es smart meters said that many installations were temporarily halted across the U.S. in response to those fears.

OG&E, the states largest utility, completed its smart grid installation program in 2012. The utility has more than 700,000 customers statewide, including in Glenpool, Muskogee and other parts of northeastern Oklahoma.

The last, but not least, of the critics concerns are about data breaches and computer hacking. This months hacking of Sony Corp. is still fresh in many minds, but AEP-PSOs Johnson said there is little to fear.

These meters have encrypted keys within the meter, as well as the relays, she said. It would take a lot for someone to get through that system.

The advance meters communications system only details energy use and transmits no personal data on the customer, Johnson added.

AEP-PSO launched its smart meter initiatives gradually, observing how corporate cousins did it in other states. Several years ago it begun small-scale pilot programs in Owasso, the University of Tulsa, Sand Springs and Okmulgee.

The massive rollout began in southeastern Oklahoma earlier this year and is funded by the billing increase. The utilitiys Tulsa district, which includes about 285,000 meters in most of northeastern Oklahoma, begins early next year.

Consumers will not be able to opt out of the new meter program. The bill increases have already taken effect, although there is a slim chance that could change.

AEP-PSO has come to a settlement with Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff and industrial customers, but the final approval is still in the hands of the states three corporation commissioners. The utility went ahead and added the billing increase because no decision had been made in a 180-day window since it first filed with the state regulators.

Opponents of smart meters are adamant about the ill effects of rate hikes, potential radiation or simply effectiveness that the new system will not save anyone money in any meaningful way. AEP-PSOs Whiteford disagreed strongly, contending that the rollout is environmentally important.

This will be the cumulative effect of saving enough energy to avoid building a power plant, he said.

Source: Tulsa World

Smart Grid Bulletin April 2018

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