New elec­tri­cal me­ters be­ing in­stalled in re­gion

Maryland Independent - - News - By JA­SON BAB­COCK jbab­cock@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Ja­sonEn­tNews

It’s been sev­eral years in the mak­ing, but the South­ern Mary­land Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive is in­stalling thou­sands of au­to­mat­i­cally read me­ters this year.

In April, 1,211 new me­ters were in­stalled in the Golden Beach neigh­bor­hood in north­ern St. Mary’s County af­ter a com­mu­nity meet­ing was held there, said Tom Den­ni­son, pub­lic af­fairs man­ager for SMECO.

By the end of next year, 160,153 me­ters will be up­graded in SMECO’s ser­vice area in St. Mary’s, Charles, most of Calvert and the south­ern sec­tion of Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties.

But this year, the roll­out will be lim­ited to cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods in South­ern Mary­land that will re­place an­other 13,500 me­ters. In May, the old me­ters will be swapped out for the auto- mated ones around SMECO’s Bolton sub­sta­tion area in Wal­dorf.

In June, the work moves to the Ch­e­sa­peake Ranch Es­tates neigh­bor­hood in Calvert County and then fi­nally to the Mar­bury area of Charles County.

The old me­ters re­quire a per­son to man­u­ally come out to read them ev­ery month. Some of these me­ters are 35 to 40 years old. The new me­ters pro­vide for two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tions, mak­ing op­er­a­tions more ef­fi­cient.

“We cur­rently read me­ters now with Scope Ser­vices,” an out­side con­trac­tor, Den­ni­son said, and once the new me­ters are in­stalled, the co­op­er­a­tive will save money spent on that con­tract.

When all of the au­to­mated me­ters are de­ployed, SMECO is pro­ject­ing to save $4.8 mil­lion a year. The in­stalla- tion cost of all of the me­ters is $40 mil­lion.

“This has al­ways been a pri­or­ity, a goal,” Den­ni­son said. “We’re very con­fi­dent in the me­ters that we have and are very ex­cited about the ben­e­fit it will pro­vide to our cus­tomer mem­bers.”

The new me­ters will make it eas­ier for the co­op­er­a­tive to dis­con­nect and re­con­nect cus­tomers who open and close ac- counts, pro­vide bet­ter data to re­solve billing and us­age ques­tions and pro­vide more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion dur­ing out­ages, he said.

In the fu­ture, cus­tomers will be able to track their daily elec­tri­cal us­age on­line, he said. “This will al­low us a lot more cus­tomer-friendly ben­e­fits.”

SMECO be­gan us­ing the smart me­ters in a pi­lot pro­gram in March 2011 in Wal­dorf with 897 me­ters and an­other 1,000 me­ters at Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion.

“The Sen­sus me­ters SMECO in­stalled op­er­ated cor­rectly, com­mu­ni­cated with our base sta­tions, pro­vided me­ter read­ings as ex­pected and sent alerts when nec­es­sary. Sen­sus re­designed its me­ters to make them even more re­li­able and less sus­cep­ti­ble to wa­ter and con­tam­i­na­tion dam­age,” SMECO stated in its April news­let­ter to its mem­bers. “SMECO’s me­ter depart­ment per­son­nel have con­ducted strin­gent tests to de­ter­mine the new model holds up well and it is UL listed and ANSI cer­ti­fied.”

SMECO got ap­proval from the Mary­land Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion in June 2013 to go ahead with the au­to­mated me­ters af­ter demon­strat­ing its case study on the me­ters’ sav­ings and suc­cess.

Bal­ti­more Gas and Elec­tric and Pepco have al­ready rolled out their smart me­ters, Den­ni­son said.

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