Wednesday, May 18, 2011

‘Smart meters’ coming to Bellevue

Human meter readers no longer needed

Express Staff Writer

The days of the traveling house-to-house meter reader will soon be gone in Idaho, thanks to Idaho Power's installation of "smart grid" technology.

Bellevue will be one of the next towns in the state to get computerized "smart meters" installed, perhaps as soon as July.

Smart meters are computerized electrical meters that automatically provide electricity consumption data four times daily, from a residence or business, to Idaho Power's office in Boise. Traditional meters have to be read each month by meter readers driving by or walking on private property.

"We don't need meter readers anymore," said Idaho Power spokesman Dan Olmstead at a Bellevue City Council meeting last Thursday.

"The new meters will save us about one million driving miles per year," he said.

Residents of Emmett and McCall received smart meters in 2004.

Idaho Power began replacing the rest of its 490,000 electrical meters in Idaho and Oregon with smart meters in 2009, using a $47 million federal stimulus grant. Olmstead said the company is also spending $45 million of its own money to complete the replacements by 2013.

He said the smart meters would ultimately allow ratepayers to use energy-demanding machines like washers and dryers at "off-peak" hours during the day, when electricity is cheaper.

"They will give each customer a better way to manage electrical usage," he said.

The installation of smart meters is one step in the development of a smart electrical grid in Idaho that will allow for detailed monitoring of electricity consumption.

Olmstead also said the smart grid would reduce the duration and impact of power outages in the Wood River Valley.

"Big Brother in Boise can ping each meter and tell if it is operating," he said. "This should help us in our response time to outages."

Longterm goals of smart grid technology include providing support for integration of renewable energy resources into the grid.

Olmstead said the 106 human meter readers that have served Idaho Power in this area will be re-positioned within Idaho Power.

"There will be no layoffs," he said.

In other Bellevue news:

( Resident Robert Whiting called for a stop sign on Muldoon Road. With all the pedestrian traffic there, he asked, why was the stop sign removed to begin with? The matter will be on the agenda at the next council meeting on May 26.

( Several residents complained about a "vicious" pitbull dog in a neighborhood in east Bellevue. The council agreed to attend to the matter at the May 26 council meeting.

Tony Evans:

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