New electrical meters being installed in region
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.