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Edmond utilities to use pilot program as it considers a switch to smart meters

 [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoma Archives]

[Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoma Archives]

EDMOND — Edmond officials are conducting a pilot program as part of an investigation to determine if the city wants to install smart meters.

The pilot program could last from six months to a year before a decision is made, said Glen Fisher, Edmond Electric director.

Smart meters are digital utility meters with two-way radio communication.

The advanced metering infrastructure using smart meters would allow two-way communication where people can obtain real-time information about their utility usage, Fisher said.

New electricity usage information would be available every 15 minutes.

The system would be used by the city's 35,000 electric customers and 32,000 homes with water service.

Consultants in 2011 told city officials in a feasibility study that a total system, with all the possible extras, could cost $36 million over 15 years.

Fisher thinks $10.5 million is more realistic. All the extras aren't necessary and prices have lowered over the last five years, he said.

Paying for upgrades

Cost of the new meters would come from money in reserves and revenue from bonds.

"The savings cost would cover the debit services," Fisher said. "We will be updating the numbers."

OG&E has 773,000 smart meters operating in Oklahoma City. The number of smart meters being used across Oklahoma was recorded at 1.7 million in 2014.

"We are one of the last sizable cities to investigate using the meters," Mayor Charles Lamb said.

Fisher told council members at a workshop this week that his information would be generic because it is unknown what type of system might be used or how it will interface with the city's network.

"It's done by multilayer encrypted two-way radio communication between electric and water meters and utility systems," Fisher said. "All the information the meters transmit is encrypted.

"It uses the Advance Encryption Standard 256 bits encryption. That is what the Department of Defense, NSA, everyone else in the federal level uses. It is a worldwide standard."

Health concerns

Resident Don Powers has been writing letters to the city since 2013 warning of health dangers he believes are associated with using smart meter technology with a wireless system.

In his latest letter dated Aug. 1, Power wrote the city could use a wired system or fiber-optic system without harm to people. He urged the council to keep wireless smart meters out of Edmond.

Edmond Public Schools have installed 10 power meters, which allows them to see what they are spending on electricity at a certain location at specific time, Christina Hoehn, schools chief operating officer, told council members.

School administrators are looking at getting others.

"We are doing the same thing," Hoehn said. "One of our largest expenses besides salaries in the school district is energy.

"We like what we see. It makes sense."

As part of the pilot program, Fisher said, the city will be looking to include older homes, new homes and commercial property.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the city of Edmond's smart meter pilot program is asked to call 216-7660.

Diana Baldwin

Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote the original stories about the... Read more ›