volume 67 - issue 8 - August 2017
Reliability an added benefit of smart meter installation
SMECO installed its first smart meters in March 2011 in a pilot area in Waldorf and at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. A period of testing followed to ensure that the meters operated correctly, communicated with SMECO’s base stations, provided accurate meter readings, and sent alerts when necessary.
Since full-scale deployment began, SMECO has installed more than 100,000 smart meters. SMECO and its contractor, Utility Partners of America (UPA), continue to make progress on the full-scale roll-out of smart meters in the Cooperative’s service area.
During the roll-out, UPA and SMECO are inspecting each meter installation on the system. Even customer-members who opt out will have their installation inspected and a standard digital meter installed. During the 20th century, meter technology did not change much, and some of the meters on our system are 35 to 40 years old and technically obsolete. Many of these meters have gone untouched for years. Opening the meter base and inspecting each meter installation has provided the Cooperative with the added benefit of finding and fixing issues that were previously undetected.
UPA and SMECO have discovered electrical code violations, loose connections, settling wires, and burnt terminals in the meter bases. Many of the problems were related to deterioration caused by age, and some were caused by human error; but they all created a potential for an outage at the location and possible damage to structures and electrical equipment.
“As things heat and cool over time, metal connections expand and contract, resulting in loose connections,” Automation/Meter Operations Manager David Johnson said. “As we are rolling out the smart meters, SMECO crews are working with a contract electrician and the homeowners to make necessary repairs.”
About two percent of the installations inspected have needed additional work to resolve problems.
Because SMECO is installing smart meters, the Cooperative is working with its customer-members as part of the full-scale deployment.
Many of the issues discovered during the smart meter installation are the homeowner’s responsibility. SMECO owns the meter and all equipment up to the service delivery point. Service entrance equipment, including the meter base and service entrance cables, are the property of the customer.
Once the issues are resolved and the new meter is installed, the smart meter will be able to assist in catching any new problems that arise—concerns that would previously have gone undiscovered until an outage with the old meters.
Smart meters are safe, smart, and secure—providing key benefits to SMECO’s customer-members. The new smart meters help SMECO operate more efficiently, and the Cooperative passes on the benefits to customers. The benefits include:
• Faster service for customers who open and close accounts
• Fewer estimated bills
• Data to help resolve billing and usage questions
• Lower costs for meter reading and billing
• No need to send technicians into the field for off-cycle meter readings or customer-requested service disconnects and reconnects
• Detailed hourly usage data to be made available to customers online
• Improved outage detection and power restoration capabilities