Photo by Emily Mentzer
John Sanders, Pacific Power field supervisor, installs a new smart meter at Indy Commons in Independence.
As of Tuesday, January 16, 2018
INDEPENDENCE — Pacific Power has started replacing meters with smart meters — and Independence and Polk County are the first to receive them.
“It’s a big thing for the organization, and obviously for customers,” said Tom Gauntt, media spokesman for Pacific Power. “There aren’t too many things that change for all customers. It’s a two-year effort. It’s definitely going to touch every customer over a two-year period.”
Gauntt said Independence and Polk County made a good starting point for a variety of reasons, from the size of the county to the weather reports.
“We picked Independence since it has been building out gigabit internet, working with technology companies to bring Internet of Things to agriculture, and trying to bring real 21st century jobs and opportunities to their community,” Gauntt said.
Smart meters are not new, he noted.
“This is fairly mature technology,” Gauntt said. “Rather than being the first person to get a PC (personal computer), you’re the 70th million to get a PC. It’s more smooth, more friendly. Prices are more competitive.”
In fact, Monmouth Power & Light customers have had smart meters — albeit an older generation — since 2006, said Monmouth Power & Light Director Chuck Thurman.
The meters have saved the Monmouth utility money and time on meter reading and on getting more accurate meter readings, Thurman said.
The new meters installed by Pacific Power will do that and more.
Customers will be able to look at yesterday’s power usage and see what they used, Gauntt said.
If a customer washed more laundry than usual, he or she could see how much energy that used, he said.
“Not that you’re going to stop doing laundry, but it’s the information that you get that you might be able to — all appliances have ratings on them,” Gauntt said. “You can say, ‘Gee, that’s a 20-year-old washing machine there, what’s a newer one going to cost?’”
In general, people replace old appliances when they break down, Gauntt said.
The information gathered by the new smart meters will give customers the ability to budget for a new appliance for the sake of saving energy.
Other ways customers can use the information to save on electric bills is by experimenting with shorter showers, or hanging blankets on windows during cold spells, Gauntt said.
The information is not in real time, but it’s quicker than waiting until receiving the power bill at the end of the month, he said.
Customers can sign up for alerts when their power usage gets close to a certain point, Gauntt said.
“Just like you’re getting notices now about your data usage, you’d get a notice and you’d be able to say, ‘well, maybe now’s not the time to set up a woodshop,’” Gauntt said.
Once the installation in Independence is complete, smart meters will roll out to Dallas, Rickreall and West Salem. Gauntt said the project should be complete in Polk County by mid-February.