By Jack Mayne The Burien City Council on Monday was given a preview of Seattle City Light’s $94 million system-wide advanced metering system replacing 420,000 old meters at homes and businesses. The new system – meant “to enable the utility to operate far more efficiently, cost effectively … to create better and enhanced services” – will be installed in Burien during the coming summer, and the utility will soon be sending individual households notice of the changes, said Scott Thomsen, City Light Communications Senior Strategic Advisor. The system wide change is beginning north of the ship canal in Seattle and will progress southward. The time it will make it to Burien is unknown, but expected to be later this year. No more meter readers Many of the individual meters were installed in the 1950s with a system that was building during the first part of the 20th century, the Council was told. The new system will no longer use people going to each household and checking a meter, it will be done electronically directly to City Light, Thomsen said, making the readings more reliable and reducing emissions from all of the cars. The change will also save the 200,000 miles that meter readers and repair crews now travel. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, unusual in her physical attendance at the Council meeting, asked what would happen to the employees replaced by the electronic meters. Thomsen said there are 51 meter readers now, and they expect to have about six after the new installations and “we have been working with this group for more than a year on coaching and support … to help them find other jobs either within City Light or elsewhere.” The system also will provide new opportunities for customers, such as the meter having the ability to inform City Light of outages directly and when they happen, instead of a person having to call the utility, “speeding our response get you reconnected and get the lights back on.” Burien to get part of $94 million City Light program for new electronic meters 1 The system sends a digitally encrypted transmission of the power usage directly from the home or business to City Light headquarters over existing cellular networks every few hours of each day, Thomsen said. “All of this information is going to be used by the utility to be more efficient and cost effective,” he said, adding analysis can be accomplished on peak demand of equipment so neighborhood usage can be analyzed more or different equipment can be made available to avoid an outage. It will also allow analyses of incoming power from resident-owned solar panels, increasingly used by City Light customers. “We’ve grown from just a few hundred to more than 2,000 customers with solar panels in just the last four years,” he said. Thomsen said the questions that usually come up include whether the system is save, is data secure, will they make people sick or “Is ‘big brother’ watching me?” Burien to get part of $94 million City Light program for new electronic meters 2 The utility will repair or replace damaged bases they find while installing the new system but it will not replace defective wiring on the customer side, and customers with meters in the wrong location or inaccessible will have to “make corrections to continue the service.” There also will be three notices given to customers when the change is being made and the actual shutdown of power for the change is only one to two minutes. Individual customers can opt out of the new electronic meters, and will get a new non-communicating meter for a fee and a monthly service charge. Opt out applications are on the City Light website, by mail or by phone, he said.]]>