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Advanced Meters: Frequently Asked Questions

Mountain Parks Electric (MPE) is investing in new, advanced meters to improve the efficiency and reliability of its electric system.  To date, nearly 50 percent of U.S. households now have an advanced meter, which is fast becoming the industry standard. A majority of Colorado’s utilities have already deployed advanced metering systems. You may have questions about these new meters and how they work. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions -- and answers:


When will my meter be installed?
The target installation date will begin in May, 2015 with a target completion date of December 2016. We will begin installation in the Fraser/Winter Park area where MPE’s manually-read meters are located.


How is an advanced meter different than my existing meter?
At present, 83 percent of MPE’s existing meters already remotely transmit your electric usage to MPE’s headquarters for billing purposes. The new metering system transmits energy readings faster (and more detailed) than the existing system (usually hourly instead of 27-hour intervals).  Advanced meters also allow MPE to better respond to outages and high billing/usage issues. Additionally, by remotely reading the remaining 17% that are currently manually read each month, MPE will eliminate the cost of sending meter readers to those homes and businesses. The new meter will give MPE the ability (if needed) to read a meter any day of the month. This will eliminate the current special manual read fee (for the 17% of existing customers with older meters) of $54.00 to start or end electric service.


Why is MPE installing advanced meters?
The meter upgrade provides MPE’s members with numerous benefits. The new meters will:  

    1.  Pinpoint the exact location of outages more quickly, meaning a faster response time
    2.  Save money by eliminating labor and transportation costs of manual meter readings thus reducing operating costs.
    3.  Improve billing accuracy, eliminating misreads and inaccurate readings
    4.  Future members tools and services—online and mobile apps
    5.  Help troubleshoot high-bill/high-usage problems by providing you with more detailed information about power consumption patterns,
         outage and “blink” counts, and voltage information
    6.  Better data for electric system design and operation


Will someone other than the co-op be able to read the new meter?
It’s unlikely, but not impossible that some very sophisticated “bad actor” could access information from MPE’s advanced metering system. Meter manufacturers have incorporated security features and encryption technology into their meters, as recommended by national security experts. MPE expects this upgrade to make its electric distribution system safer, more secure and more reliable. Your new advanced meter 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 other entities has revealed no health impacts from advanced meters. The radio frequencies emitted by advanced meters fall well below the maximum recommended standard in federal guidelines. Contrary to some misconceptions, the new meters emit radio frequencies (RF) for less than a second only when responding to a request for data from MPE’s office.  Compare this activity to a laptop with a wireless connection, which is constantly sending and retrieving data.  An advanced 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!


Do I have a choice about getting a new meter?
Yes, if you are not an ETS time-of-use or net-metered member. The new meters will be installed at no charge. However, if you do not wish to have an advanced meter installed, MPE will manually read your meter for an additional $54 monthly fee on your statement. This charge is based on the 2015 cost of sending an MPE employee to your home or business. You will be required to sign a consent form, agreeing to the additional monthly fee.


How much is this going to cost?
There will be no additional cost charged to you for the new meter. Following installation, you will receive a bill with two readings:  one for the old meter and one for the new meter. No additional parts are anticipated or required during the installation. However, in rare cases, if something is identified as faulty or hazardous with member’s equipment, MPE will need to replace it.


Who will be changing out the meters?
MPE will hire qualified contractors for this work.


Will I lose electrical service during the installation?
Yes, for a few minutes. You will need to reset electronic clocks and other devices.


What information does the new meter record?
The new meter records the following: kWh reading, date and time of energy usage, overall peak demand, reverse meter rotations, electric surges, blinks and power outage data.


How secure will the new meters be?
The meter display is visible for you to check your consumption if you wish.  All other information and data stored in the meter is secure, and the meter is sealed.


What if my bill reports more kWh usage than normal, or I think my meter is not working correctly?
Call MPE at 970-887-3378 right away to discuss your billing concerns. Electronic meters are more accurate than old analog or mechanical meters. If you currently have an analog or mechanical meter (some MPE customers do), your usage may increase due to a slight inaccuracy of the old meter (the old meters consistently record between 98%-102% accurate). Once replaced, the new meter will be sending a more accurate read which could result in a slight increase in usage.


Will meter readers ever read the meter manually again once the new meter is in place?
Probably not. Meter readers will no longer need to spend valuable time traveling to read the same meters each month (unless you wish to pay for that $54/month service and keep an old meter).  Instead, the new meters will digitally transmit readings back to MPE’s main office in Granby. However, routine inspections of all meters and services will continue in order to identify safety hazards, theft or other problems.


What day of the month will the meters be read?
The service period on your billing statement will stay the same. MPE will read your meter electronically for a 30-day billing cycle. The meters can also be read as needed to access usage history or to investigate high usage inquiries.


Once MPE employees no longer read the meter manually, can obstacles be constructed that make the meter inaccessible?
No. Reasonable access to MPE metering equipment must be maintained. This allows for MPE personnel to maintain the meter if necessary and for safety. If we need to disconnect the meter for a structure fire or due to a safety hazard it is very important that MPE has immediate access to the meter without any obstacles.


Can MPE remotely disconnect and re-connect electric service using the new meters?
Yes – but only for meters equipped with remote disconnect capability.  Initially MPE will only install a few of these meters. After installation we will invest in more to better serve the membership.


How will MPE notify me prior to installation?
MPE will be posting installation schedules on our website at www.mpei.com, and also on our Facebook and Twitter sites. Additionally, we will be posting schedules in the Sky-Hi Daily News, the Jackson County Star and in the Grand Gazette.

 

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