Current Connections – April 2012
As EWEB begins its second century of service, the utility is looking at modernizing technology
and practices, including how we read customer meters for billing purposes. On April 17,
Eugene Water & Electric Board Commissioners directed utility staff to
continue planning and gathering information for a possible roll out of advanced "smart" meters no
earlier than 2014.
More work needs to be done before commissioners make a final decision on whether to
finance and implement the advanced metering project, including engaging customers.
Beginning in May, EWEB will conduct workshops and other meetings to help customers better
understand the benefits of these smart meters, to gather feedback from customers about the
projects, and to seek their advice on how to implement a metering system that will benefit customers.
Customers can play a key role in helping the utility decide which energy-saving programs
might be most useful to customers. The utility also is asking customers to weigh in on any
potential policies related to health, safety, data security and other issues.
The driving force behind smart meter technology is to create a "smart grid" that enables
utilities and customers to more efficiently use the electricity generated from existing
hydroelectric dams, wind farms and solar arrays. The hope is that smarter use of existing
generation sources will negate the need to build more and more generating plants.
Just like the old mechanical meters on most homes in Eugene, smart meters will record energy
consumption for billing purposes. The difference with smart meters is that they can record
consumption in shorter intervals (for example, every hour or once a day), and then
communicate that information back to the utility – and the customer – using
a low-strength, two-way radio that broadcasts at a power of less than 1 watt. Customers can
then monitor their electric consumption through a Web-based portal or an in-home display.
EWEB has studied the advanced meters for more than a decade, and in October 2011 kicked off a
smart meter pilot program
that includes 100 customers throughout the Eugene area. All
five elected commissioners are also participating in the pilot program.
Early feedback is positive.
"It is empowering to me to be able to check the amount of power I am using at any time,
and then alter my choices accordingly," said one pilot program participant. "I have already cut
my bill by $7 in one month – in the midst of cold weather."
More information will provide customers with more control – enabling customers to make more
informed energy choices throughout the month.
Other utilities in the Northwest and around the country that have already installed smart
meters offer a variety of voluntary programs intended to reduce energy consumption and
lower customer bills. Some of those programs include pay-as-you-go and offering incentives
to customers who use electricity during off-peak times such as after 8 p.m. in the evening.
EWEB plans to engage customers this spring and summer about voluntary programs they might
Check back for details about