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Frequently Asked Questions


ABOUT THE SMART METER  PILOT


ABOUT THE METERS


 ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


ABOUT THE SMART METER PILOT

Why is AMP installing smart meters?

As AMP has followed the evolution of Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) into smart Metering Infrastructure (AMI), more and more utilities are moving forward with installations. AMP has been watching, learning and incorporating those ideas and concepts into our planning, while continuing to study the costs and benefits. Helping to drive the discussion of when to enter the smart meter era has been AMP’s rapidly aging meter infrastructure. We must begin replacing aging electromechanical meters installed throughout our service territory. Replacing the aging meters will not only improve metering accuracy for AMP and its customers, but also prepare the utility for the future. Moreover, the time is coming when meter manufacturers will only make digital meters instead of mechanical ones. Replacing old mechanical meters with updated mechanical meters that will be obsolete within a decade is not prudent financially or operationally. Additionally, smart meters provide ample benefits to AMP and our customers that will help reduce costs and save energy.


Why is AMP doing this pilot right now?

Although AMP is moving toward smart meters to prepare for the future, we are using a phased approach to implementation. In spring 2015, approximately 700 meters were installed at Alameda’s largest businesses (A2 and A3 rate classes) and variety of homes and apartments. This approach is enabling AMP to test the meters before continuing with a broader installation strategy.


How many customers are participating in the pilot?

Approximately 300 smart meters have been installed at AMP’s largest commercial customers. An additional 600 were installed at homes and apartments across Alameda.

AMP is no longer stocking electromechanical meters. Non-functioning meters on home and businesses will receive a smart meter. Additionally, new homes and businesses will also receive smart meters.


How is AMP paying for the pilot?

There is no direct charge for this or other utility system upgrades. Meters, like other equipment upgrades made to the utility system, are already included in AMP’s capital expenses.


Will smart meters be installed on solar/net energy metering systems?

If your business (A2 or A3 rate classes) has a solar/net energy metering system, it will be replaced during the pilot with a smart net meter.


ABOUT THE METERS

What is an smart meter?

Just like the old mechanical meters on most homes and businesses in Alameda, smart meters will record energy consumption for billing purposes. The smart meter looks like the old electromechanical or digital meter located on the side of your building. The difference with smart meters is that they can record consumption in shorter intervals (every 15 minutes) and then communicate that information back to the utility – and the customer – using a low-power, two-way radio.


Will the new meters cost me anything?

No, the new meters will not cost you anything. In fact, we expect the meters to provide efficiency that  will help save you money. Numerous surveys and pilot programs show that people who can see their energy usage in a more immediate manner than a monthly bill become more aware of energy waste. Awareness leads consumers to change their habits to become more energy efficient and spend less on energy. Moreover, smart meters will help AMP save money and maintain electric rates that are significantly lower than neighboring communities.


Are the smart meters similar to the smart meters deployed by PG&E?

AMP has chosen a different manufacturer, Elster, which has manufactured measuring devices for over 170 years and has already provided millions of smart meters to utilities across the country and the world. But more importantly, AMP has been able to benefit from advances in meter technology during the past few years.


Are smart meters accurate?

Because they are digital, smart meters are often more accurate than electromechanical meters, which tend to degrade and slow down as they age. AMP’s smart meters are certified and conform to or exceed American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards for meter accuracy and performance. To ensure the meters are as accurate as possible, they are subjected to strict design standards when they are manufactured, and AMP tests meters on random basis both before and after installation to confirm accurate operation.


Will I be able to read my smart meter?

Yes, smart meters have an easy-to-read digital display instead of analog dials. The meter scrolls through several different displays that will show your kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage, date, time, and other system and diagnostic information. 


Will smart meters lead to higher bills?

smart digital meters are more accurate than analog meters. As analog meters age, the dial may spin a bit slower due to wear. AMP does test all meters, but sometimes a meter will slip through the cracks and miss being tested. There is a remote possibility that you might see a higher bill once your new meter is installed if your analog meter was an older model. Your new meter will measure your usage more accurately so your electricity bill may be slightly higher. However, there are many factors that affect your bill. The biggest factor is how much energy you use. smart meters give you near real-time data on that use, putting more control in your hands.


How big is the smart meter?

An smart meter fits into the existing size and shape of the meter base currently at your location.


Where will AMP place the smart meter at my business?

The smart meter will be placed in the existing meter base on your house or business.


Will I need to replace or upgrade my electric meter panel for the new smart meters

No. The smart meters are the same size as the existing analog meters.


ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Do smart meters generate radio frequency (RF) fields?

Yes, they emit less than a watt, which is considerably less than the RF emissions of cell phones, baby monitors and microwave ovens, and far below exposure levels set by the Federal Communications Commission. Several independent, peer-reviewed scientific studies have found that the low-strength radio frequency emissions from smart meters do not pose a health hazard. The two-way radios in the smart meters transmit and receive at a power of less than a single watt, and thus have a limited range of about one-half mile. Unlike cellular phones, which broadcast full-time when powered up, the radios in smart meters will be transmitting data at brief intervals.

Lots of common devices ranging from a wireless Internet router to cell phones emit low-strength radio frequencies – and they are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other everyday items such as the inexpensive "walkie-talkie" radios children play with, baby monitors, TV remote controls and the electronics in newer vehicles likewise emit low-strength radio frequencies when powered up. The meters AMP will use emit about as much radio frequency as an automatic garage door opener.

For more informaton on radio frequency and smart meters:

Radio Frequency and smart Meters

Health Impacts of Radio Frequency Exposure from Smart Meters

EPRI Comments: A Perspective on Two Smart Meter Memoranda


Will AMP use the meters to monitor customer behavior?

No. smart meters don’t have this capability. They measure how much energy is used, not how it used—just like traditional analog meters. The new meters do not tell AMP who the customer is, what the customer is doing or what appliances are being used.


How will the information from the meters be used?

The smart meters provide AMP with encrypted kilowatt-hour consumption information at regular intervals for billing and reliability purposes. The information is similar to the data already provided by our current meters and meter reading technology.

For more information on Data Privacy:

Data Privacy and smart Meters

California Public Utilities Decision document

Federal Trade Commission - Privacy and Security


Will smart meters interfere with my other wireless devices?

The wireless communications for the smart meters use the 900 MHz frequency range, which is common to many household devices. There are instances noted in other areas where it was suspected that the RF emissions from the electric meter were interfering with customer’s equipment; this was only with equipment that operated in the same frequency range. Home Wi-Fi networks and newer wireless phones are typically in the 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz range, so they should not be affected. Issues such as this are what we are trying to reveal with this pilot program, so that we can address them properly.

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