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Digital meters save energy and money

October 31, 2008
By MIRIAM MOELLER, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Marquette Board of Light and Power customers will soon know exactly how much money they're spending when running an air-conditioner, dishwasher or other electric appliances.

"We're looking to transform our whole system into a smart grid," said David Lynch, superintendent of distribution for the BLP.

Recently, the BLP approved investing $3 million in a 3-year advanced metering infrastructure project that will provide customers with new digital meters and in-home energy display units.

Article Photos

David Lynch, superintendent of distribution for the Marquette Board of Light and Power, holds up a smart meter — technology that will save consumers money and will help reduce a household’s energy use. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)

Lynch said the program will be launched in April when the BLP plans to replace about 15,000 customers' old meters with digital ones. The following year, the utility company plans on replacing the remaining 1,500 meters, which are mostly commercial meters, Lynch said.

At the same time, the BLP will offer in-home energy display units - probably at a reduced cost, according to Lynch - so homeowners can see how much energy they are using at any time of the day.

"I cut my bill by a third," said Lynch, who tested the system at his home.

He added that his kids loved the system, turning off lights or other electric devices, when they thought the charges for electricity seemed too high.

There are different types of in-home energy display units. Lynch used one that cost $149.

"I would have paid for it in three months," he said.

Lynch said the new system is more efficient and will not only save the customer and the BLP money, but more importantly it will save energy and reduce air pollution.

"If the utility burns less fuel, it brings everybody's cost down," Lynch said. "If we're not burning fuel, that's less carbon emitted into the air and that's beneficial to the environment."

The digital meters will eliminate the need for meter readers, but no one will be laid off, Lynch said. New tasks will be found for these employees.

The meters (including water and gas meters) will be read via computer. For instance, if there is a glitch in the system, Lynch will be notified via his blackberry when out of the office.

Since everything is computerized, the BLP will also offer a program that helps with the utility company's peak times. In summer, for example, when many people use their air-conditioners simultaneously, the BLP will ask customers to join a program that allows the utility to turn off their air-conditioners for a short period of time to reduce peak energy usage.

In exchange, customers will receive a credit on their bill, Lynch said.

"The homeowner really won't notice this," he said.

Eventually, customers will be able to access their electricity usage, bill and other information via the Internet - like online banking, Lynch said.



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