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Meter Exchange Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions and answers provide more details about our Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or Smart Meter Project.
- Why is Idaho Power installing new smart meters?
- What are smart meters and how do they work?
- When are the meter exchanges scheduled?
- Are all Idaho Power customers receiving new meters?
- Who will do the meter exchange work?
- Did customers experience an outage during the meter exchange?
- What does the new meter look like?
- How were the old meters disposed?
- What is the cost of installing a smart meter?
- Will Idaho Power ever need access to customers' property again?
- Are smart meters safe?
- Are smart meters accurate?
- Is my information secure when communicated via smart meter?
- Can you disconnect my power through the smart meter?
- What are smart meter benefits to me?
- How did Idaho Power communicate this project to customers?
1. Why is Idaho Power installing new smart meters?
New technology, called Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), or smart meters, enables Idaho Power to remotely read meters. This results in:
- Operational efficiency
- Enhanced customer service
- Billing and power restoration
- Environmental benefits
- Energy use and demand-side management options.
Other benefits of the new advanced meters include:
- The meter is digital, secure and easier to read.
- Energy usage data collected remotely eliminates mis-reads and estimated electricity bills.
- Meter readers no longer need access to customers' property every month.
- Reduce company vehicle use and fuel consumption result in environmental benefits and cost savings.
- Power outages may be restored faster with greater meter communication capabilities.
Idaho Power has completed the project, changing out more than 500,000 meters as part of its smart meter project.
2. What are smart meters and how do they work?
Smart meters are part of Idaho Power's Advanced Metering Infrastructure. AMI is the acronym for this proven technology, which was first developed in the 1970s. Previously known as 'AMR' for Automated Meter Reading, the AMI system uses power line carrier technology to provide remote meter data without having to physically visit and manually read the meter.
Energy usage data travels from the smart meter to the substation via existing electrical distribution lines. At the substation, the data then travels through communication lines and is collected in Idaho Power’s existing customer information and billing system.
3. When are the meter exchanges scheduled?
The overall project was completed in three years as follows:
- 2009 Ada and Boise counties
- 2010 Canyon County, Payette, eastern Oregon and Mountain Home
- 2011 eastern Idaho region and Magic Valley areas
Idaho Power contractors from TruCheck finished exchanging meters in November 2011.
4. Are all Idaho Power customers receiving new meters?
All Oregon and Idaho residential, commercial and irrigation customers will have new smart meters, some industrial customers currently have interval meters.
Customers in Emmett and McCall received their smart meters during the Phase I project in 2004, and those meters will not be replaced again.
Customer response to the meter exchange and the new smart meters has been very positive. Smart meters empower customers to monitor and manage their energy usage. They provide customers with access to detailed energy usage information enabling them to make changes for wise energy use, potentially resulting in lower bills.
5. Who did the meter exchange work?
Idaho Power meter technicians completed all self-contained 480-volt, three-phase meter exchanges for large commercial and irrigation customers. A contractor, TruCheck, completed all residential, small commercial and other meter exchanges by removing existing meters and installing new smart meters.
6. Did customers experience an outage during the meter exchange?
Yes, in most cases there was a brief power interruption lasting only a few seconds. That enabled the old meter to be safely removed and replaced with the new smart meter.
7. What does the new meter look like?
The smart meter's exterior appearance looks similar to the old mechanical meters. The primary difference is customers who currently have mechanical meters with dials will notice there are no dials, but rather a new digital display. The smart meter is secure and easier to read.
8. How were the old meters disposed?
All parts and components of the old meters have been properly recycled.
The average cost of installing a new smart meter is approximately $130 per meter. Total project costs over the three-year project are approximately $71 million. There is no direct cost to customers for the new meters or installation.
10. Will Idaho Power ever need access to customers' property again?
Yes, there may be circumstances when company employees need to visit with customers or stop by their property
11. Are smart meters safe?
Yes. The smart meter technology we are deploying at Idaho Power utilizes the low frequency 60 hertz (Hz) power line signal as the carrier for our communications. The system we are deploying uses only wired infrastructure to communicate to and from our smart meters.
We are aware some smart meter deployments in other states have raised questions about potential hazards related to wireless transmissions from AMI meters. The technology we are deploying in Idaho is fundamentally different from the technologies in question. The smart meters being deployed in Idaho Power's service territory do not transmit wirelessly; they use the 60 Hz power line to communicate.
12. Are smart meters accurate?
Yes. Smart meters measure energy just like traditional electric meters. They count only the energy customers use. In the past, for some of our customers the installation of smart meters has coincided with bill impacts from rate changes or from additional energy use due to colder than normal weather. The smart meter is not the cause of any of these bill changes it is simply a coincidence when the installation of a smart meter and a higher bill happen at the same time.
Each smart meter goes through a stringent quality control process before it's installed at a customer's location. The manufacturers of our smart meters must meet strict electricity metering accuracy standards, including American National Institute of Standards (ANSI) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
All new meters come to us with certified factory test results, which we verify ourselves by statistical sample testing on every order received.
13. Is my information secure when communicated via smart meter?
Yes. Smart meters are secure, and they do not communicate over public airways or the Internet. Idaho Power does not use wireless smart meter technology. We have taken great precaution to protect our communication system physically and have employed cyber-security standards of encryption and isolation to further ensure the integrity of the system.
In our system, all 'conversations' happen over the power line between individual smart meters and a secure Idaho Power distribution substation using proprietary, highly technical, and secure equipment. There is no meter-to-meter communication. It is physically impossible for these meters to communicate with anything other than the substation. Typically the meters communicate with the substation four times daily to collect usage information.
Idaho Power customer data received from smart meters is secure, confidential, and used only for Idaho Power business purposes. We do not sell customer information, and smart meters have no photo or video capabilities.
14. Can you disconnect my power through the smart meter?
No. Idaho Power is not installing or using remote service-disconnect capability with our smart meter system at this time.
15. What are smart meter benefits to me?
Smart meters provide customers with access to detailed energy usage information enabling them to make changes for wise energy use, potentially resulting in lower bills.
You can register to be an Account Manager to access account information 24/7. You'll find details on usage, billings, payments and more. If you have your new smart meter you can view hourly use information, making it easier to identify ways to save on your monthly bill. To sign up for Account Manager, you will need your Idaho Power account number and last payment amount.
If you're already a registered Account Manager, use this link to login. It's quick, easy and convenient!
16. How did Idaho Power communicate this project to customers?
The following methods are currently planned or being implemented:
- Postcards were mailed to customers two weeks before their meter exchange was scheduled.
- The Web page on www.idahopower.com/meterexchange provides answers to frequently asked questions, a photo of the new smart meter, the project timeline and other information.
- Articles can be found in company newsletters and information has been placed in local newspapers and television news broadcasts to address specific issues as needed.
- Community Relations Representatives may contact local elected officials in the communities regarding the project.
- A door hanger was left for customers to let them know their meter was exchanged successfully.
- After an area has successful meter exchanges, a message was printed on customer bills.