The first four areas of San Antonio chosen to receive smart meters will be shared with the CPS Energy Board of Trustees at their monthly meeting Monday as part of a comprehensive update of its $290 million Smart Grid Initiative.
The four locations will allow CPS Energy to test our new distribution automation system, a major part of the smart grid project which will allow for real-time adjustment of electricity loads, increasing reliability.
Staff will also recommend a program that would allow customers in single family homes to opt out of having a smart meter installed. Eligible customers would pay a one time fee and a monthly fee for doing so. Low-income customers would pay reduced fees.
The first four areas to get the new meters were chosen for a variety of considerations. In the northwest area, a good deal of the new distributed automation system is already in place, so CPS Energy will be able to test how the different parts of the system will work together.
The downtown area has a lot of meters below ground and in other enclosed places, so we can test and tweak the communications signals.
All three outer areas contain a high percentage of our oldest meters, and so are also the areas which saw the largest number of estimated bills last summer. Installing smart meters will drastically reduce the number of meters we estimate in any given month. Installation will begin in August, and continue through 2018, when all 740,000 electric meters and 360,000 gas meters will be replaced or upgraded.
Early next year, we’ll launch our energy management app, which will allow customers to go online and track their energy use in near real time. Provided by OPower, the app will allow you to see a running tally of your bill based on the amount of power you’ve used thus far.
That will allow you to make changes to reduce your bill, rather than getting a bill long after you’re able to do anything about how much energy you used. With the first installations set for August, we’re also stepping up communications, and will be reaching out to each neighborhood to help customers understand why we’re upgrading our grid, what the upgrades consist of (meters are the most visible to customers, but they’re a small part of the overall project) and how everyone benefits.
For example, currently, if the power goes out, you must call CPS Energy to let us know. With a smart grid, CPS Energy will automatically know, and will be able to fix the problem remotely or quickly send a truck out.
When power fails, smart meters will send a “last gasp” signal to CPS, and “we’ll know within seconds,” spokesman John Moreno told the San Antonio Express-News. “That’s one of the big benefits of the smart grid. Now we don’t have to wait for that customer to come home and say, ‘I don’t know how long the power has been out, but the food in my refrigerator is warm.’”
A smart grid also means increased privacy. No more will we have to send meter readers to your home each month to read the meter. No more leaving the gate unlocked, no more worrying about the dog — for you or our meter readers! (And it’s important to note, we’re not laying anyone off. Meter readers are being retrained and transitioned to other parts of the company.)
And how about cleaner air? The smart grid helps with that several different ways: we’ll be driving almost 900,000 fewer miles each year since we won’t have to physically read each meter. We’ll save megawatts through better load management with distributed automation, and we’ll be able to better integrate more renewable power into the grid — and both of those mean less pollutants in the air.
“Adopting the smart grid for San Antonio is a natural evolution for a city on the rise,” said David Jungman, vice president of Corporate Development and Planning. “It positions us for the future.”