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Frequently Asked Questions about Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Technology

IREA is investing in new meters to improve the efficiency and reliability of our electric system. Many customers have asked questions about these new meters and how they work. Here are the most common questions we have received and their answers:

What is the AMI project?

IREA is replacing all of its meters with new, more advanced meters. The new meters will be capable of two-way wireless communication and will provide IREA and its customers with timely information about the quantity and quality of electric usage. The project requires installation of a new communications network that also will be used to automate parts of the distribution system.

How do automated meters work?

The new meters will transmit electricity usage data using IREA’s own communication network. Information from the meter is transmitted back to IREA in scheduled increments and upon request by IREA. Transmitting this information electronically means that a meter-reader will no longer drive through your neighborhood for readings and IREA service personnel will not need to visit locations for requested reads or to connect and disconnect service.

What information does the new meter record?

The new meter records an electronic kilowatt-hour (kWh) reading, the date and time of energy usage, the overall peak demand of the electric account, whether the meter has run backward, 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 power blinks and the duration of any power outage.

Why are we changing to the automated meters?

The new meters will help us:

• Promptly obtain customer-requested meter reads.

• Give customers near real-time information about energy usage.

• Eliminate the cost of in-person meter reading.

• Pinpoint the exact location of outages by notifying IREA of a power loss, meaning a faster response time.

• Troubleshoot high-bill and low-bill problems by providing information about power consumption patterns, outage and blink-count history, and voltage information.

• Improve electric service reliability and power quality – fewer outages, blinks and surges.

• Secure the overall safety of IREA employees.

• Better target capital spending by identifying parts of the distribution system that require upgrades.

• Help us identify power theft.

• Let customers choose, within limits, when their meters are read each month

• Provide customers a pre-pay billing option.

• Develop rates that give customers more choices.

• Manage additional customer-sited renewable energy generation.

Will IREA personnel ever need to come to read the meter manually again once the new meter is in place?

Probably not, unless there is a problem that requires investigation. Meter-readers will no longer travel to every meter for a monthly read. All meter-reads will be digitally transmitted back to IREA headquarters.

What day of the month will the meters be read?

All of the association’s new meters can be read at any time. For billing purposes, however, customer bills will be read on monthly schedules. Customers will be able to select a three-day window within which the meters will be read.

Once IREA employees no longer need to read the meter, can obstacles be constructed that may make the meter inaccessible?

No. Reasonable access to IREA equipment still must be maintained. This allows for IREA personnel to either read or maintain the meter if necessary at reasonable times.

How will IREA read the meters?

IREA will obtain meter readings through its secure wireless communications network at predetermined intervals and upon request.

When will AMI meters be installed?

We plan to have all new meters installed by the end of 2020. You will receive a notification postcard ahead of planned installation at your home or business.

Will I lose electrical service during the installation?

Yes, for a few minutes. You will receive advance notice prior to installation and information on your door following installation. You will need to reset electronic clocks and other devices.

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 effects from digital meters. The radio frequencies emitted by digital meters fall well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines. The new meters will emit radio frequencies (RF) only at scheduled intervals, when responding to a request for data from IREA, or when the power to the service location fails. 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 IREA do service inspections?

Routine inspections of all meters and services will be conducted to look for safety hazards, theft or other problems.

Can IREA disconnect electric service using the new meters?

Yes, residential meters will have remote disconnect and reconnect capabilities.

Will the new meter notify IREA when the power goes out?

Yes. The meters will be able communicate with IREA’s control center when distribution system outages occur and will allow IREA control center personnel to verify to customers who call in about power loss whether an outage is on the customer’s side of the meter or the association’s.

Will IREA notify me prior to installation?

Yes. You will receive a postcard ahead of planned meter change-out.

How much is this going to cost?

There will be no additional costs to the customer to install the new system. There is no rate increase anticipated in association with this project. The project will be paid for and financed as part of IREA’s ongoing capital expenditures for system improvements. IREA has been alerted to recent phone scam attempts in which customers are asked to pay up front for new meters as part of the AMI project. Customers will NOT be asked to pay for these new meters and should be immediately suspicious of any call in which they are asked for payment via “Green Dot” or other pre-paid card. Don’t hesitate to contact us directly at (800) 332-9540 if you doubt the legitimacy of any call, email or visit.

How secure will the new meters be?

The meter display is visible for customers to be able to check their consumption. All other information and data stored in the meter is secure and the meter is sealed. No customer-identifying information – names or addresses, for example – is stored in the meters or transmitted across the network. Any information transmitted by the meters is encrypted.

Will IREA share customer data with third parties?

Because AMI meters collect and wirelessly transmit data about electricity consumption, it is important to have strong privacy protections in place. Protecting customer data is a priority for IREA. As is our current practice, IREA will not share personally identifiable customer information obtained by the AMI system with any third party, including government agencies, except pursuant to a lawful order, warrant or subpoena.

Will the new meters enable IREA to collect information on my activities within my home?

No. The meters collect data on our system’s performance on our side of the meter only. That information can tell us about usage at a point in time at the service location, such as whether there is power going to the meter, how much power is going to the meter and the voltage level, but it does not tell us the purpose for which the power is being used.

Is an AMI meter safe for homes with older wiring?

An AMI meter does not impose any additional burden to the existing meter enclosure or house wiring. The meter installer is trained to inspect your meter enclosures for any potential equipment concerns. This process could potentially uncover problems that otherwise would go unnoticed. This step is incorporated into our installation process as a safety process for our installers, as well as our customers.

Do customers have a choice in getting a new meter?

IREA’s Rates & Regulations allow customers to opt out of AMI upon certain terms and conditions, including payment of non-standard meter charges. An AMI opt-out requires a one-time fee of $80 to set up a non-standard meter and a recurring fee of $20 on each monthly bill. These fees will recover some, but not all, of the costs to install different meters, set up alternative billing and read meters manually. Please call (800) 332-9540 or use the contact form below if you want to opt out of AMI. Opt-out is not available to all customers. Refer to our Rates & Regulations for more information.

If you have any questions that are not answered above or would like to share with IREA any comments regarding AMI, please use the contact form below.

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