The Chelan PUD conversion to digital, or smart meters is complete, with more than 50,000 meters countywide having been swapped out.  

By comparison, 73 percent of residential meters in the nation are advanced meters, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

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The digital meters have eliminated the need for meter readers because power usage and other information are digitally sent back to the utility. 

Smart meters use AMI - Advanced Metering Infrastructure, which is a two-way communication system to collect detailed metering information throughout a utility's service area.  

Chelan PUD commissioners were given an update on the smart metering system at their Monday meeting, where they were told about several instances in which power outages were avoided or minimized because of the technological capabilities of the meters. 

PUD spokesperson Rachel Hansen says, in one case, they avoided a planned maintenance outage for about 1,000 customers by rerouting power and using smart meters to monitor voltage. 

"Because we were able to monitor that data coming in, to make sure that the voltage levels were safe, all those customers were able to remain in power while we did that work," said Hansen. 

The PUD says they've also used power loss alerts sent by smart meters to repair and reconnect homes while residents were away and didn't even know their power was out. 

Before smart meters existed, the PUD relied on calls from customers to inform them of a power outage.  

Other smart meter success stories described by staff at Monday’s meeting included the use of the meters’ low voltage alarms to identify a damaged conductor in the First Creek area. And smart meter amperage and voltage data was used to identify step-tank failures in near-real time helping to prevent overflows. 

There are a couple of improvements involving smart meters still to be implemented by the PUD. 

There's a plan to provide customers access to smart meter data through a customer portal so they can have almost real- time visibility of their power use at any given time during their billing cycle. 

In addition, plans call for integration of the smart meters with the PUD's Outage Management System (OMS) for faster outage responses. 

A small fraction of Chelan PUD customers, about 200, are skeptical of digital meters and have opted out of receiving them.  

Starting this month, those customers are being charged a $25 monthly fee to help cover the cost of manual meter readings.  

At Monday's meeting, PUD staff recommended offering an incentive to opt-in to the smart metering system. 

"We're trying to develop an incentive for customers, where they could get a one-time bill credit for those opt-out fees if they choose to opt back into AMI and let us swap out their meter," Hansen said. 

The one-time credit would be available where customers who accepted the smart meters would have all their additional $25 monthly fees erased from their billing. 

PUD commissioners discussed but did not settle on a grace period for the incentive program. 

Staff suggested opt-out fees assessed for the three months from June through August of this year could be waived. 

The PUD first began planning for the transition to smart meters back in 2017. 

The $15 million installation of advanced meters began more than a year ago. The PUD hired the firm National Metering and Technical Services to replace about 1,000 meters a week. 

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