Archive » November 11, 2010
SOLVANG RESIDENTS GET SMART WITH AN ELECTRICAL SURGE
By Isaiah Brookshire, Staff Writer
A new kind of technology is coming to the Danish capital of America, and it’s going to change the way residents learn about their energy usage.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is installing a wave of Smart Meters in Solvang in an ongoing effort to switch the state of California from analogue to digital meter reading. The new technology brings with it wireless meter reading and a website where users can see just how much energy they are using.
Smart meter technology was driven by the California Public Utilities Commission, who was seeking to upgrade the state’s infrastructure to include automated metering systems, to allow customers to see just how much energy they are using. Each meter communicates with its neighbors through a radio frequency network. Signals from one meter transmit through others, creating a network or mesh in neighborhoods that eventually ends at an access point, which can send information back to PG&E.
The two-way communication between the utility and building allows the meters to be upgraded remotely but also allows customers to see exactly how much energy they are using. By visiting PG&E’s website, customers can see their energy usage by month, day and hour. With the new system, they can even be notified when their energy usage is moving toward a more expensive rate tier. The hope is that the monitoring will encourage customers to lower their bills, thereby decreasing energy usage.
Kory Raftery, a PG&E spokesperson, said while they don’t have enough data to show that smart meters are saving energy yet, they are proving to be useful. “Stats do show shutoffs decreasing in areas where a smart meter is deployed, attributed to increased customer information allowing them to better manage their usage and avoid surprise bills,” he said.
At the Oct. 22 Solvang City Council meeting, city manager Brad Vidro announced that PG&E was ramping up its meter replacement efforts in the city. To date, more than 80 advanced meters have gone into Solvang buildings and PG&E plans to install more than 4,000 in the city by project completion. Raftery said installations would not begin in full capacity until December. When installations do begin to pick up speed, residents will be sent a notice two weeks in advance. PG&E asks all customers to provide a clear and safe access way to the meter, keep dogs inside or safely away from meters, and unplug sensitive equipment such as computers or televisions.
PG&E will be conducting installations during daylight hours Monday through Saturday. During the installations, power may be disconnected for about five minutes, while gas service will not be interrupted. Raftery said there will be no change in service to customers and there is no charge for the upgrade.
The changes in meters are not localized to Solvang. PG&E’s smart meter program sets 2012 as a goal for installing smart meters for all their customers in California. That means more than 60,000 in Santa Barbara County alone. PG&E’s website says they have installed more than 7 million smart meters as of Oct. 29 and are installing 15,000 smart meters on average each day.