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Entergy’s advanced meters come to GC in 2019

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Posted: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 12:00 am

Recently, Entergy Texas Inc. customers received a flyer in their monthly bill advising that the Texas legislature approved SB 1145 that will allow Entergy to add an AMS Surcharge to recover “reasonable and necessary” costs of deployment of Advanced Metering Systems. So exactly what are advanced metering systems, and what are the benefits and costs to Entergy’s customers in Grimes County?

Wave of the future

AMS are not exactly “new” news. According to Entergy representative Andrew Schonert, the Texas legislature approved HB 2129 in 2005 to encourage deployment of advanced metering systems throughout the state and following this legislation, various utilities began deployment of the advanced meters. At present, around 7 million have already been installed, a figure that represents approximately 72 percent of electric users in Texas. Schonert advised that SB 1145 just passed by the 85th legislature made it clear that the law applies to Entergy as well.

Nationwide, advanced meter installation began about 10 years and more than half the households in America have advanced metering systems. Whether or not they are routinely installed in new construction varies by region and utility company, but Entergy has not yet begun deployment of advanced meters.

Out with the old!

Residents do not have to be home but the process will require an Entergy installer to manually replace the old meter with the advanced meter.

Schonert said, “Yes, the old meter will be replaced with the new, advanced meter in the exact location and meter socket as the existing meter. There may be technical or safety reasons the meter enclosure may change but these would be rare, if at all.”

Schonert said, “Residents may experience a brief interruption of power for approximately 15 minutes but we will communicate in advance of a customer’s expected meter installation.”

He added that installers will knock if the meter is inaccessible or if another issue arises.

A door hanger on the front door will notify the homeowner that installation is complete. Based on the regulatory approval process timeline, Schonert expects Entergy to begin replacement of meters for their 8,500 customers in Grimes County in 2019 with completion by the end of 2021.

How do they work?

Schonert explained that advanced electric meters have a radio that enables two-way communication between the meter and Entergy Texas, via a wireless internet. The new systems offer customer service benefits such as the ability for residential customers to read energy use in 15-minute intervals. The information will be available the following day through the customer’s online account and can be useful in helping customers understand how they are using electricity and how to manage their usage.

Schonert did point out that while the information on the web portal doesn’t show energy consumption by individual appliance, other benefits include remote connect and disconnect should customers move, allowing customers to view their usage hourly, daily and weekly, and creating their own billing schedule. In addition, customers can set monthly budget and energy use goals and receive notifications when nearing that goal.

Faster outage resolution

On the operational side, Schonert said the new information will help customer service reps resolve billing issues faster, eliminate the operating costs associated with meter readers and allow a quicker and more effective response to outages.

Schonert said, “Because of AMS, we’ll have the ability to ‘ping’ meters remotely to see if power is available to the home. When a meter loses power it automatically signals ‘lights out’ to the system. Knowing which meters are without power will help Entergy Texas identify where the power is out along the grid. We’ll know if your meter loses power before the customer calls to report an outage.”

The price of technology

The proposed surcharge will be in place for 12 years but for the first five years, beginning with the first billing cycle of January 2018, monthly surcharges will be assessed as follows: Residential customers, $3.18; Small General Service, $4.79; General Service, $4.74; Large General Service, $4.96; and Large Industrial (non-transmission only), $4.58.

At the end of five years, the surcharge for residential customers will decrease to $1.73 per month while all other customers will be $0.00 per month.

Schonert advised “the two-step surcharge period for residential customers was to reduce the initial amount of the surcharge, spreading over a longer period of time.”

According to Schonert, Entergy’s proposal under review by the PUC includes an opt-out option for those who do not want advanced meters. The one-time non-refundable fee to keep an existing meter ranges from $142.95 to $204.60 with a recurring monthly fee of $29.71 to offset the costs of operation, maintenance and monthly manual meter readings.

Schonert noted a detailed customer education program designed to help customers better understand the technology and the benefits will be available.

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