Smart Meter

For more on the Energy Smart Community project see our articles from February: Power In, Power Out - The Future of Electricity Comes To Tompkins County and The Electricity Future Comes To Lansing, Dryden and Ithaca
Cornell Cooperative Extension, Avangrid, and NYSEG was at the Lansing Town Hall Tuesday for the first of seven 'smart meter' information sessions.  In the next few months 12,400 homes and businesses within the Energy Smart Community area -- the northeast potion of Tompkins County -- will have their analog electric meters replaced with smart meters that can radio accurate electric usage data to NYSEG. 

"One of the benefits of the NYSEG program in particular is that not only are you getting a smart meter, but you're also getting enabling technology," says Cooperative Extension Energy Smart Community Liaison Rosalyn Bandy.  "If you are computer-savvy you can log into a program and actually track your energy use hour to hour and day to day."

Representatives said that the meter swap will provide little disruption to electric service, in most cases only causing a momentary power outage.  Customers for whom even a short power outage could cause a problem with medical equipment or similar needs will be contacted ahead of time, and all customers will be notified when their meter has been swapped with a card left on their front door knob.

"The actual process may take 20 minutes," said NYSEG Community Outreach Coordinator Charleen Heidt.  "But the power out part -- some power doesn't even go out, they switch it so fast.  If it does go out it's my understanding that the power only goes out for seconds."

Avangrid Director of Business Effectiveness Keith Lorenzetti spoke at length about cyber security and how customer data is protected, as well as rigorous testing each meter goes through for accuracy and reliability.

Cooperative Extension has partnered with NYSEG to conduct information meetings and help the public understand the Energy Smart Community, a test program that will eventually be expanded across the state and the country.  Earlier it conducted focus groups for the project, and will provide what Bandy calls a 'feedback loop' for customers ideas and concerns to get back to NYSEG.

energysmart tompkinsmap200The test area includes most of Lansing, parts of Ithaca, Groton and Dryden, which the company says represents a variety of electricity users in a community that has an unusually high number of people engaged in energy use and preservation, and a county that uniquely has its own energy road map.

In addition to the electric smart meters, NYSEG will install about 7,300 smart gas meters for its natural gas customers.

Bandy, Lorenzetti, and Heidt, gave an hour and a half presentation that went into detail about the Energy Smart Community and smart meters' role in making it a reality.  NYSEG has been updating its switches and equipment to make the grid in the target area more able to handle 'two-way' power solutions that will mean that it will be more able to handle power coming from a variety of sources including solar and other installations, as well as the traditional flow of electricity from power plants.  The new switches connect to the utility by radio, which will give real-time data on grid performance, and will help locate problems in the equipment when power goes out at any given location.

Smart meters also communicate with NYSEG via bursts of radio communication, eliminating the need for meter readers.  The company says it will also eliminate estimated billing after the first few months after the smart meters are installed.  Similar smart meters have been installed by the Bolton Point Water Commission recently, and while some customers have found that their bills went up because of flaws in the old meter, others have found that they have gone down as more accurate data is relayed to the utility.

"I think that remains to be seen," Bandy says.  "One thing that we know from the focus group work that Cooperative Extension has done is that people are extremely dissatisfied with estimated billing.  So while it could go in both directions, we know there's gong to be no more estimated bills.  It's going to be actual use and you will be able to check up on what that use is and make sure your bill is correct."

Bandy says this online energy manager is unique in that other utilities that have installed smart meters don't make data available to their customers.  It will be several months before the smart meters are integrated with NYSEG's billing system and an energy manager that each customer will be able to access online.  Bandy says the Web application will eventually facilitate a connection with smart appliances around your house if you choose to use ti that way.  That might take the form of running your dish washer outside of peak usage hours, or turning down your air conditioner when power is more expensive.  It will also offer opt-in pricing choices.

The second meeting took place at the Village of Lansing Office Wednesday, and the remaining five will be held throughout this month in Ithaca, Etna, Groton, and Cayuga Heights.

"We will continue to be involved throughout 2017 and 2018," bandy says.  "Our primary goal is educating the community as we do in all of our programs, and to be that feedback loop for NYSEG.  We will continue opportunities for the community to come together, provide feedback, get answers.  If there are more questions that evolve we will create platforms for people to have a voice.  In particular we want people who typically don't have a voice to have a voice with their concerns and their questions, and have that opportunity to be equitable across the County."