P.O. Box 500
1492 Wind River Hwy
Carson, Washington 98610

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Phone: 509-427-5126
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Advanced Metering Infrastructure

A fictional representation of what an advanced meter looks likeYou may have questions about our plans to evaluate advanced meters. As the project unfolds, we will provide updates to include new information. Please check back periodically.

At Skamania Public Utility District (PUD), we’re undertaking an important project to evaluate how our customers could benefit from the 21st-century technology that’s improving the delivery and reliability of utility services – and enhancing customer service, convenience, and efforts to conserve.  We’re considering replacing our customers’ existing water and electric meters with advanced meters.

On March 16th and April 22, 2021, the PUD held Public Meetings to present information on the AMI project, Opt-out Policy, and take public comments:

View AMI Image Gallery

Advanced Metering FAQs

What is Advanced Metering and how does it work?

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) uses a two-way communication device that measures and transmits electric and water data. This data provides accurate water and electric usage along with detailed system information such as voltage levels, current, and power factor on the electric side and pressure and leak alerts on the water side. Data would be sent to the PUD through a secure wireless network, where it’s safely and securely stored for customer billing. No customer-identifying information – names or addresses, for example – is stored in the meters or transmitted across the network.  Meter readers would no longer need to visit homes and businesses to manually record information every month. Customer billing, which today is done every 27 to 35 days will occur over a more consistent timeframe.

How are advanced meters beneficial?

Advanced meters offer important customer benefits over our current meters:
  • A sample outage map showing the Skamania Public Utility District with fictional outagesOutage Notifications. Skamania PUD’s current meters do not have the capability to send outage alerts. The new meters will notify staff automatically and instantly when the power goes out, ensuring that crews are dispatched quickly, without waiting for customers to report the outage. Customers will be able to access an outage map showing if their area is affected and anticipated power restoration time.
  • Energy Usage: The new meters will report usage frequently and reliably,A sample of what a utility customer's usage in a graph format showing usage over the course of two months allowing customers to view their hourly usage online, and if they choose, can even receive usage alerts to help avoid high bills.
  • Waive Deposits: New customers are often required to pay a deposit when opening a new account. The new meters are built to work with prepayment programs. Customers who enroll in the prepayment program will be able to avoid paying a deposit and will not experience any late or disconnect fees.
  • Account Flexibility: With the new meters, Skamania PUD will be able to offer more flexibility in how and when you pay your bills including prepaid services, allowing you to tailor your account to fit your budget and lifestyle.
  • No More Estimating: Consistent billing cycles will be used and meter estimates will not be needed (sometimes used when weather or other access issues prevent meter readers from reading meters).

Who else has advanced meters?

Utilities in Washington State have employed advanced meters for over a decade. The following Washington utilities have either installed an advanced meter system or are in the process of doing so:  
  • Avista Corporation
  • Benton Public Utility District
  • Big Bend Electric Cooperative
  • Chelan Public Utility District
  • City of Seattle
  • City of Tacoma
  • Clallam Public Utility District
  • Clearwater Power Company
  • Columbia Rural Electric Association
  • Cowlitz Public Utility District
  • Ferry Public Utility District
  • Franklin Public Utility District
  • Grant Public Utility District
  • Grays Harbor Public Utility District
  • Inland Power & Light
  • Kootenai Electric Cooperative
  • Lakeview Light & Power
  • Mason 3 Public Utility District
  • Pacific County Public Utility District
  • Peninsula Light Company
  • Puget Sound Energy
  • Okanogan Public Utility District
  • Orcas Power & Light
  • Seattle City Light
  • Tacoma Power
  • Tanner Electric Cooperative
Advanced meters are becoming the standard across the country. In 2020, U.S. electric utilities had about 107 million advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) installations accounting for over 70% of all customers.

Are advanced meters safe?

Advanced meters must meet safety requirements and standards spelled out in the National Electric Safety Code (NESC). Public service commissions require independent certification proving that advanced meters are safe and show resistance to heat, fire, voltages, surges, and self-heating. Companies that manufacture advanced meters produce certifiably safe and reliable equipment. Nevertheless, advanced meters should be installed and uninstalled only by trained professionals exercising standard safety precautions.

Should I be concerned about health effects of radio frequencies?

RF Emissions

An in-depth review of the scientific literature by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the small amount of radiofrequency (RF) energy produced by advanced meters is not harmful to human health.

In the United States, the limits for human exposure are those adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The FCC maximum permissible exposures (MPEs) are applicable because the meters communicate over FCC licensed frequencies. In addition to the FCC MPEs, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has published recommendations for safe exposure limits (IEEE, C95.1).

RF emitted by advanced meters is well below the limits set by Federal Communications Commission and it is below levels produced by other common household devices like cell phones, baby monitors, satellite TVs, and microwaves. In fact, you would have to be exposed to the RF from an advanced meter for 375 years to get a dose equivalent to that of one year of 15-minutes-per-day cell phone use.

No credible evidence shows any threat to human health from RF emissions at or below RF exposure limits developed by the FCC. With over 25,000 articles published on the topic over the last 30 years, scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals.

 

How will you protect my privacy?

We take your privacy very seriously. No customer-identifying data – such as names and addresses – is stored in the meters or transmitted across the network. Unless you install a home energy management system, advanced meters cannot tell whether the energy used is from your oven, air conditioner, or hairdryer. Just like the current meters, the advanced meters will simply collect how much energy and water is being used. The advanced meters encrypt energy and water use information to ensure privacy and would transmit it to the PUD over a wireless network with multiple layers of security. Like today, the data will be used only for billing purposes, operational analysis, and planning.

What if I don’t want an advanced meter?

The PUD will offer our customers an option to “opt-out” of having an advanced meter. The customer would pay the monthly difference in cost for the PUD to operate and maintain a meter without transmitting capability (opt-out fee). The details of the opt-out policy are in development.

I heard that the PUD may have installed some advanced meters already. Is one installed at my house?

The PUD conducted testing of 74 randomly selected water meters in the Carson and Underwood water systems to evaluate the existing meter accuracy. All customers that were part of the meter testing project were notified prior to the meter change. The old water meter was sent to a lab for bench testing and replaced with a new electromagnetic flow meter. The new water meters are compatible with an advanced metering system; however, no radio module was installed in the meter to allow for radio frequency (RF) communication. The weighted average accuracy of the old meters, based on measurements at minimum flow, intermediate flow, and maximum flow, found that the meters underreport water usage by 9.1%.

What are the next steps in this project?

Skamania PUD staff and board members are currently gathering more information and evaluating advanced meters. This includes researching existing information, discussions with other utilities in the pacific northwest that have successfully deployed advanced metering, and discussions with vendors to fully understand the available options and impacts. A public meeting is being scheduled for Tuesday, March 16, 2021, at 7 pm via Zoom. Meeting details can be found here. The public meeting would include a presentation by staff and consultants followed by time for the public to provide feedback to the board. The board will not be making a decision on the project until after the public meeting.

When will meters be installed at my house?

If the board approves the Advanced Metering Project, then the design and permitting of the project would be scheduled to start in May 2021. The project is proposing to install meters and communication facilities in two phases:
  • Phase 1 - Carson, Stabler, Mill A and Underwood service areas in summer/fall of 2022
  • Phase 2 - Stevenson, North Bonneville, Skamania, and Washougal service areas in 2023/2024

Will the Meter Readers lose their jobs?

No. It is expected that through attrition and training in other job-specific skills, both the permanent and temporary Meter Readers will be reassigned to other important positions within the PUD.

What is the cost of advanced meters?

The total cost of the project is estimated at $4.52 million dollars with $2.76 million for Phase 1 and $1.76 million for Phase 2. The project would result in a reduction in utility operating costs of over $224,000 per year and utility savings of $141,000 per year– as a public utility, such savings will ultimately benefit ratepayers. Operational savings are gained from work flow changes such as reduced truck rolls to read meters and disconnect and reconnect services. These are dollars that can be spent on value-added services such as vegetation management, line upgrades, etc.  Utility savings are those related to replacing old inaccurate meters. The annual project savings will pay for the project cost over a 11 year period. Any future rate increase would be unaffected by the AMI project as it is a rate neutral project, meaning the initial and ongoing project costs would be offset by annual cost savings. The project would be funded out of normal operating budgets. As the PUD realizes financial benefits, those savings will also be used to fund this project.

Is there any grant funding available for this project?

The Board approved the request from staff to apply for a $500,000 Washington State Department of Commerce Energy Efficiency Grant. The grant would help offset some of the cost for the installation of advanced meters for Phase 1 of the project. Commerce will notify applicants about awards by April 30, 2021. If awarded the grant, the board will still have a chance to decide if they want to accept the grant funding and go forward with the project. Staff is always on the lookout for additional grant funding that may be available in the future to help offset costs.

Where can I find out more information about advanced meters?