Meter Replacement FAQs

NOTE: At it’s March 6th 2018 regular meeting, the PUD Board of Commissioners voted to suspend the current meter replacement project, citing the need to focus on hiring both a new GM and CFO. 

  • Why does Jefferson County PUD want to replace its meters?
  • When is Jefferson County PUD replacing its meters?
  • What is an Advanced meter?
  • Advanced Meter, Smart Meter, What’s the Difference?
  • What kinds of meters do we have now?
  • Why did Jefferson County PUD choose advanced meters?
  • How can advanced metering save me money?
  • How will advanced meters benefit the environment?
  • Are there any health and safety concerns with advanced meters?
  • Are there any data security concerns with advanced meters?
  • Who pays for the advanced meters?
  • Will my power bill go up?
  • Can I opt out if I don’t want an advanced meter?
  • Additional Info from ITRON

Why is Jefferson County PUD replacing its meters?

Jefferson County PUD is constantly upgrading and improving its electrical distribution system to provide our customers the best and most reliable service available. When the PUD assumed maintenance of the electrical grid from PSE in 2013, we inherited a hodge podge system of meters in various state of repair and disrepair. We replace about 450 of these failing meters per year. We also inherited a $300K/yr contract for data transmission that accompanied some, but not all, of the more recently repaired meters. In order to improve service, reliability, and reduce contractual expenses, PUD plans to replace our existing meters with single brand of advanced meters made by ITRON, a Washington based company.

When is Jefferson County PUD replacing its meters?

Jefferson County PUD plans is discussing meter replacement plans now. Staff has recommended to the Board of commissioners that existing meters be replaced with AMI meters from ITRON in 2018. The Board is taking comment on the proposal until May 1st 2018, at which time a vote will be held. If approved a series of notifications will inform customers of the installation process. It is anticipated that it will take 3 to 4 years for our crew to replace all meters in the PUD service area. We plan to change out about 125 meters per week with a three or four person crew. For a timeline of our decision-making process click here.

What is an advanced meter?

An advanced meter is a digital device that collects energy-use information, measured in kilowatt hours, and broadcasts that data via Radio Frequency (RF) transmission to the utility. An advanced meter can also receive broadcasts back from the PUD. The information to and from the advanced meter is encrypted and sent through a secure wireless network. There are approximately 64.7 million advanced meters installed in the US alone.

Advanced Meter, Smart Meter, What’s the Difference?

This has been the subject of some debate, Unfortunately, there is no standard definition of smart meter or advanced meter. Read more.

What kinds of meters do we have now?

There has been some confusion about what kind of meters the PUD currently uses to collect power usage data from our almost 19,000 customers. And for good reason, it’s confusing. Which is part of why we want to do the replacement. Currently the PUD puts its meters in two categories: those read by us, and those read remotely by a contracting service: Landis & Gyr. Our crew performs drive-by readings on approximately 2,500 newer digital “one-way” transmitting meters. The other approximately 16,000 meters consist of both digital “one-way” meters and analog/mechanical (the spinning wheel kind) meters that have been retrofitted with a radio transmitter (owned by Landis & Gyr) to become “one-way” meters. All of these meters send data via RF signal. All of the meters read by the contracting service were installed and retrofitted by PSE prior to Jefferson PUD’s purchase of the power grid. We currently have no non-RF transmitting analog meters in operations.

Why did Jefferson County PUD choose advanced meters?

  • Advanced meters help us deliver electric services more efficiently and put our customers in greater control of their energy use.
  • Advanced meters provide faster outage detection and restoration without having to wait for you to call, and more accurately pinpoint the problem area for our crew.
  • Reduce environmental impact by not having to send out employees to read meters saving thousands of miles of travel and carbon emissions.
  • Allow customers sign up for energy alerts to let them know when energy use is greater than what they budgeted. This can help you detect if there is an issue with an appliance or equipment such as a hot water heater or a heat pump.
  • Improve billing accuracy, eliminating misreads or inaccurate readings.

More info on how advanced meters and smart grids help keep the lights on.

How can advanced metering save me money?

You’ll be able to see your daily energy-use information, which helps you make more informed energy-related decisions. Knowing when you use the most electricity, and finding ways to reduce consumption, can help you to reduce costs.

The new meters also provide efficiencies for the PUD, creating cost savings that can help stabilize rates. In the future, advanced metering will be able to tell us how much electricity is being used and where it’s going. This will help us better understand the power grid and more efficiently manage the distribution system.

How will advanced meters benefit the environment?

The advanced metering system will also allow Jefferson County to manage the electric grid more efficiently, reducing waste. Advanced meters will also help reduce our carbon footprint.

Today, the meter readers drive thousands of miles a year around Jefferson County to collect customer data. All that driving represents a lot of carbon dioxide emissions that will be drastically reduced by the use of advanced meters.

Are there any health and safety concerns with advanced meters?

With approximately 64 million advanced meters currently operating safely in the United States, and nearly double that amount in Europe, the PUD is confident advanced meters are safe for Jefferson County. However, some of our citizens have brought up concerns about exposure to RF emissions from advanced meters as well as stories of meters catching on fire.

Advanced Meters do use low energy radio frequency (RF) to transmit data. Radio frequency is a form of electromagnetic energy used by a number of household devices like cell phones, baby monitors, and WiFi routers to transmit information. Unlike those household devices, our meters are placed outside of the house, in grounded metal meter boxes, typically with an insulated wall separating the meter from the living space. Additionally, our advanced meters can be programmed to transmit signals as infrequently as once every four hours, meaning total transmission time is far less than one minute per day. For more information on RF emissions from household devices and advanced meters click here.

Jefferson County PUD has seen no credible evidence of advanced meters causing fires. Fires involving meters are typically caused by meter boxes in disrepair, not the meters themselves. In Jefferson county, the customer owns the meter box and is responsible for its upkeep. Before installing a new advanced meter, Jefferson County PUD crew members will inspect existing meter boxes for safety and perform or advise on repairs or maintenance needed.

Illinois Commerce Commission Report on Meter Related Fires

Are there any data security concerns with advanced meters?

The advanced metering network the PUD plans to use will have multiple layers of protection, similar to security used with online banking and ATM machines. Personal identifying information (such as name, address, or account number) is not stored in the meter, nor is it sent through the wireless network. Only the meter’s serial number and the usage data will be collected and transmitted.  All transmitted information will be secure and protected through encryption within the network.

Additional FAQ on Meter Safety and Security Provided By ITRON.

Who pays for the advanced meters?

There is no additional cost to the customer for the replacement meter. The project costs have been built into the PUD’s budget. The entire project is estimated to cost the PUD $2.5 Million, which is less than originally budgeted. The PUD expects to recoup the costs of the project within 5 to 7 years through more accurate meter reads, less PUD staff requirements, less third-party meter reading costs, lower cost meters (replacement), better customer communications, better outage management, and better system controls.

Will my power bill go up?

While some customers will see little to no change in their individual usage and billing, customers whose residences currently have faulty or underperforming meters may see changes to their bill when a new advanced meter is installed and reading and reporting usage data accurately.

Can I opt out if I don’t want an advanced meter?

Jefferson County PUD Board and Staff are developing an opt-out plan now. More details coming soon.


Additional Resources

Itron responses to Questions from Commissioner Randall

2014 BPA Report On SmartGrid Benefits vs Costs

IEI_Smart Meter Report 2017

Washington Association of PUDs 2017-November-Survey on Smart Meters

Texas Investigation into Smart Meter Accuracy

Bathgate Evaluation of Itron Open Way Meter

Itron Rebuttal of Bathgate Claims

Bill Kaune Review of Bathgate Claims


More Questions? Contact PUD Communications Manager Will O’Donnell. Or call (360) 385-8369