Central Texas Electric Cooperative will be investing in a new Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI system to improve the reliability and efficiency of the existing electric distribution system.
CTEC will begin installing the new equipment and meters in July of 2020 and expects to complete the installation over the next several years.
The new AMI system will enable the cooperative to perform several functions remotely, such as reading meters and reconnecting or disconnecting power.
Other benefits from the new system include:
- Faster response to outages
- More efficient power distribution, helping us keep costs down for members
- Fewer outages
- Improved power quality (fewer spikes blinks and surges)
- More accurate information about outages and restoration times
- More information about your power use
- Better detection of power theft
The AMI system is a significant improvement over our current metering technology and will benefit CTEC and our members. CTEC is a member-owned, not-for-profit utility, which means it is our job to look out for our members by investing in new technology to improve efficiency and reliability.
Frequently Asked Questions about Digital Meters
Central Texas Electric Cooperative is investing in new Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI to improve the efficiency and reliability of our electric system. Many members have asked questions about these new meters and how they work. Here are the most common questions and answers about this new system.
Is this new meter a “Smart Meter”?
Yes, a smart meter is a type of electricity meter that can digitally send meter readings. These meters can automatically register meter tampering, transmit outage information, report variances in voltage, and improve outage response. The new Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI and the digital meters collect this information and transmit the data back to the co-op via a secure radio frequency system. The difference is they do it faster, more accurately, and more reliably.
When will my meter be installed?
CTEC will begin full-scale deployment of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI beginning in August 2020. Changes may be made to the deployment areas if necessary. CTEC employees and contractors hired by CTEC will perform the meter installations and all members should receive a postcard, phone call, or email prior to installers being in your area. If you are installing a new service, or your old meter fails, you may get one of the new RF meters when a new service is established.
Will I lose electrical service during the installation?
Yes, for a few minutes. You will need to reset electronic clocks and other devices.
How does my new automated meter work?
Similar to your current meter, CTEC can read the meter remotely from our offices. Information from the meter is transmitted back to the co-op via a secure radio frequency system. These new meters also allow CTEC to connect or disconnect meters remotely, meaning a serviceman does not need to physically go to the location to remove or connect a meter.
Why are we changing to the automated meters?
The technology of our current meter infrastructure, which we began installing in 1999, will soon no longer be supported by the manufacturers. In addition, the old communication technique using PLC (power line carrier) is becoming more and more unreliable. The new automated meter infrastructure has many new benefits that include:
- The ability to read all meters, residential and commercial, at a much more accurate and increased rate.
- Having a two-way communication with the RF meters will enhance CTEC’s outage management system by more accurately determining outage locations.
- The new meters will report variances in voltage and other line conditions that will help CTEC maintain a more reliable power distribution system.
- The new meters will allow CTEC to offer our members more timely information, thru our Smart Hub app regarding their energy consumption, which will help members make wise decisions about how they use energy in their homes.
- Save money by eliminating the labor and transportation costs of in-person meter connects and disconnects – a saving we pass on to our members
- Pinpoint the exact location of outages more quickly, meaning a faster response time.
- Help secure the overall safety of the cooperative employee team
Who will be changing out the meters?
CTEC employees as well as contractors will work in conjunction to exchange the meters.
What information does the new meter record?
The new Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI records an electronic kWh reading, the date and time of energy usage, the overall peak demand of the electric account, if the meter has rotated backwards, and the number of times the meter has experienced a loss of power for any reason. In fact, the meter will record the date and time of light blinks and the length of the power outage. Its’ voltage monitoring ability will also aid our dispatchers in analyzing line conditions.
Will someone other than the co-op be able to read the new meter?
The Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI utilizes a banking data quality encrypted radio frequency system to transmit meter data from the meter to radio receivers, so it is extremely secure from unauthorized access. Our goal is to upgrade our electric distribution system to make it safer, more secure, and more reliable. Your new AMI is part of this effort.
Are there any potential health impacts from a meter that can receive and send data?
No. Research conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute, the Utilities Telecom Council, and others has revealed no health impacts from digital meters. The radio frequencies emitted by digital meters falls well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines. Contrary to some misconceptions, the new meters emit radio frequencies (RF) only when responding to a request for data from the co-op office – either once every fifteen minutes or once every hour for less than a second. Compare this activity to a laptop with a wireless connection, which is constantly sending and retrieving data. A digital meter equipped to send and receive data has an RF density hundreds of times less than the RF density of a cell phone – and the meters are installed on the outside of your house not next to your ear!
Will the co-op continue to do service inspections?
Routine inspections of all meters and services will continue in order to look for safety hazards, theft, or other problems.
Can the cooperative disconnect electric service using the new meters?
Yes, meters can have remote disconnect capabilities.
Will the new meter notify the co-op when the power goes out?
Yes, in most cases. The new Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI is capable of initiating two-way communication. This means that the meter can report outages and voltage variances, as well as other line conditions, without being prompted by our offices. This feature will decrease the duration of an outage. However, CTEC still recommends that you report your own outages by phone for extra insurance that your outage is documented.
How will I know if my meter has been changed?
Needs to be developed, CTEC employees or the co-op contractor will leave a door hanger on your front door to let you know they have changed the meter. We will work with businesses to minimize any inconvenience. You do not have to be present during the meter change. In the event of a circumstance such as a locked gate, pets in the yard or an obstruction that prevents the employee or contractor from exchanging your meter, a door hanger will be left notifying you of the problem. If you receive a notice like this, please follow the instructions on the card and contact us as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made.
How will this new RF meter benefit me?
The new RF meters will allow CTEC to maintain a more reliable power distribution system, have improved efficiency throughout the cooperative billing system, have improved system power quality, and provide better member/customer service. The Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI will allow CTEC to offer members more timely energy consumption data.
My meter displays several different things, what does all of that mean?
On residential meters, there can be three different screen displays. Usually, the meter display will alternate between showing the kilowatt-hours accumulated on the meter and a display refresh screen with all “8”s showing along with the words “VOLTAGE and kWh”. If the meter has been disconnected, it will display a icon showing status of the meter switch.