Your new digital meter
UPDATE - 2/17/2012:
OTEC has installed over 13,000 smart meters completing installations in Harney County and parts of Baker and Union Counties.
Baker and Union Counties’ installations will be complete by the end of 2012. Grant County is scheduled to be complete in 2013.
OTEC serves 30,000 meters throughout its service territory.
NOTE: The meters installed by OTEC do not use radio frequency (RF) to send information to OTEC - the information is carried through the power lines.
How does Automated Meter Reading (AMR) Work?
Using a combination of power line carrier and Internet communications, OTEC can bring meter reading information and other electronic data back from the member’s location to the cooperative almost instantly.
Once the smart meter is installed, can OTEC tell which appliances are operating in my home?
No, OTEC cannot tell whether you are watching television, cooking, washing clothes or any other activity you might do in your home. The meter is set up primarily to read your overall consumption in order to determine how much electricity you are using so that your bill will be accurate. Also, if you have a question about how much electricity you are using, an OTEC member services rep can help you determine how much power you use daily. But the meter is not set up to determine what appliances you are using.
Will my electricity usage information be shared with the government or other organizations?
No. OTEC has a responsibility to each of our members to keep information regarding your account confidential. Your consumption data is not shared with any other organization. OTEC did not use any government grants to install or purchase the smart meters.
Does OTEC care what appliances I am using in my home?
No. What happens inside your home is your business, not OTEC's. It is our belief that you, the member, are the best person to determine how and when you use electricity. Members should be able to use as much power as they are able to pay for. OTEC's job is to deliver that power to your home or business.
Why are we changing to the AMR system?
The AMR system provides OTEC members with numerous customer service and cost saving benefits including:
- Saving the cooperative expense in meter reading costs which include travel and transportation costs
- Improving billing accuracy, enhance customer service on billing and service issues and eliminate misreads or inaccurate readings
- Quick notification of outages and ability to pinpoint exact location of outages through technology instead of manually trying to locate outages. This means that outage problems can be solved much more quickly
- Availability for fully automated, daily meter readings on all meters
- Save members time in meter reading, bill calculations and submissions
- Offer improved electric service reliability
- Will help secure the overall safety of the cooperative employee team
- Will give OTEC the ability to provide member/owners with more detailed information such as power consumption patterns, outage and blink count history and voltage information, reducing usage questions
What is the meter installation schedule?
Beginning in January 2011, OTEC kicked off the 3-year project to replace existing meters on members’ homes, businesses and irrigation pumps with smart meters.
Who will be coordinating and changing out the meters?
OTEC employees and a contractor.
Will meter readers ever need to come to read the meter manually again once the new meter is in place?
Probably not. Meter readers will no longer regularly need to spend valuable time traveling to every meter for a monthly read. All meter reads will be sent over power lines, to a substation and then digitally transmitted back to the OTEC office.
Do members have a choice in getting a new meter?
No. New smart meters will be installed on all OTEC accounts. The cooperative is embarking on a system-wide AMR program that will change 100 percent of existing residential and commercial meters to AMR, in order to acquire more accurate information, without the need to enter a member’s property.
At this time, if members have a question about their energy usage, the cooperative must send operation personnel to the member/owner’s property to re-read the meter. With AMR, customer service representatives can access the meter information and obtain the reading almost instantaneously.
AMR will give the cooperative daily meter readings, instead of monthly readings. AMR will allow OTEC to read the meter in most weather conditions (some remote areas are not accessible during winter weather). AMR will allow us to give members much better customer service, incorporating the latest technology, to give OTEC significant benefits in regards to customer service, reliability and cost savings.
How much is this going to cost the member?
There will be no additional costs to the member to install the AMR system. There is no rate increase anticipated in association with this project.
What other additional installation parts will I need?
No additional parts are anticipated or required. However, if something is identified as faulty or hazardous with member’s equipment, OTEC will replace it.
What’s the difference between the new smart meters and an old meter?
The new meters are digital electronic devices while the old meters were an electro-mechanical device. The new meters will continue to display the meter reading, but it will be in a digital LED format. The biggest difference is that the new meters will have an electronic circuit board module installed. The module receives and stores the kilo-watt-hour (kWh) and demand consumption recorded by the electronics in the meter, and is able to transmit this and other data over the power lines to equipment located in its substation. From the substation, the data is communicated digitally back to the cooperative’s computers.
Will I keep the same rate after the conversion?
Yes, members will continue to stay on the same rate class as they have in the past. There will be no increased cost to the member.
What information does the new meter record?
The new meter records an electronic kWh reading, the date and time of energy usage, the overall peak demand of the electric account, if the meter has rotated backwards, and the number of times the meter has experienced a loss of power for any reason. In fact, the meter will record the date and time of light blinks and the length of the power outage.
The new meters, like the old meters, convey the total amount of energy used. It cannot determine how you are using energy - for example, it doesn't know which appliances you are using or know if you are using your dryer. Some consumers mistakenly think that OTEC will use the device to monitor what electric devices they are using in their home - this is not the case.
What day of the month will the meters be read?
All of OTEC’s new meters can be read at a variety of times to obtain a history of account information. However, for billing purposes member bills will be read on monthly schedules.
Once OTEC employees no longer need to read the meter, can obstacles be constructed that may make the meter inaccessible?
No. Reasonable access to equipment still must be maintained. This allows for cooperative personnel to either read or maintain the meter if necessary at reasonable times.
How will OTEC read the meters?
The cooperative’s computer will communicate with the substation installed equipment via an Internet connection and signal this equipment to request one or more meter readings. A reading request signal is sent over the power lines, and the AMR meter responds back with the meter reading(s). The meters do not convey meter readings wirelessly.
Will someone other than OTEC be able to read the new meter?
No. The AMR computer software is especially written for the OTEC system. The substation communications equipment must be set-up by meter model and serial number and each meter must be added to the computer by its serial number and substation location. Someone using a home computer will not be able to read this electric meter. All meter data is secure and stored at the meter, then downloaded to the computers at OTEC's headquarters. Additionally, other electric companies’ similar software systems will not be able to read the cooperative’s meters. Members can still see their meter read outs vie athe LED readout on the meter face. All bill calculations will be done at the OTEC’s headquarters’ office.
Will OTEC continue to do service inspections?
Routine inspections of all meters and services will continue in order to look for safety hazards, theft or other problems.
How secure will the OTEC meters be?
The OTEC meter display is visible for members to be able to check their consumption. All other information and data stored in the meter is secure and the meter is sealed.
Can the cooperative disconnect electric service using the new OTEC meters?
Yes, meters can have remote disconnect capabilities.
Will the new meter notify OTEC when the power goes out?
The meters will be able to record outages allowing the cooperative to verify whether the outage is either on the member’s side of the meter or OTEC's. We still, however, request that members continue to call in outages at 1-866-430-4265 - the more information you can provide about the outage, the more quickly OTEC an help correct the problem. It is also important for members to report outages after office hours.
Will a power outage occur during the conversion?
Yes, members will experience a short disruption in their service during conversion. It should take about 5 minutes or less to change out the meter. The OTEC employee or contractor will knock on the door to let the member know he/she is changing out the meter. If no one answers the door, the employee will leave a door hanger notifying the member that the change-out has been made.
There will be a momentary blink in power when the meter is changed out. Members should check any electric clocks they have set. In extreme situations problems with equipment there may result in a longer disruption of service for minor repairs.
Will OTEC notify me prior to installation?
No. Technicians may knock on the door to tell you they are about to change out your meter. Or they may simply leave a door hanger if it appears that no one is at home.
How will I know if my meter has been changed?
An OTEC employee or contractor will leave an OTEC door hanger on your front door to let you know they have changed the meter. We will work with businesses to minimize any inconvenience. You do not have to be present during the meter change.
What if my bill reports more kWh usage than normal or I think my meter is not working correctly?
Contact your nearest OTEC office right away to discuss your billing concerns. Electronic meters are more accurate than analog or mechanical meters. The new meters installed have been tested and meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations.
The new meters allow for more accurate reads. In some cases, members have not had accurate bill reads from the older meters. The new meters will show more accurate reads and eliminate human error.. If you feel there are discrepancies in the meter reads, contact your local OTEC office.