Smart meters to be installed in Milford

MILFORD — Years of preparation will finally come to fruition as electricity consumers in Milford see advanced meters begin to replace older, outdated machinery around town thanks, in part, to a partnership between the city of Milford, American Municipal Power, Inc. and the Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation.

The addition to town will not only upgrade the equipment, but the process used, as well, leaders say. Currently, public works employees must visit each residence or facility that uses city electricity to measure, or read, the amount of electricity used and log it into the system.

Soon, with the help of the new advanced meters or smart meters, those same employees will be able to access that information quicker and more efficiently. The enhanced communication via wireless connections will offer consumers a sense of convenience not available with older meters as the city employees will not need to step onto the consumers’ property to read the meter.

Older meters will soon be replaced with smart meters throughout Milford.

“With the mesh network, nearby meters will communicate with each other and then to a node on a pole that will transmit day to the data center.  If any node is out of service, we will know quickly and be able have repairs made. The meter reading network will not access customer networks, like Wi-Fi in someone’s home,” City Manager Eric Norenberg said.

Consumers will also be able to check their electricity and water usages in “near real-time” thanks to this technology, giving consumers more control over how much they use monthly.

“There’s not a whole lot of difference between the meters that are there now,” Public Works Director Mark Whitfield said. “The biggest difference between the meters that are there now and the meters we’re having installed is that right now they offer one-way communication. Now, we’ll have two-way communication.”

The new meters will, also, allow for “improved power quality and reliability,” according to city officials who hope the upgrades will help improve response times when there is an outage or leak.

Despite the benefits, some consumers have had concerns, Mr. Whitfield said. Such as one concern stemming from news of fires in California after smart meters were installed.

“They made it a state law that all public utilities had to install smart meters in California. Because of the rapid deployment, no one was doing an inspection on the sockets which was found to be the cause of the fires, not the meters,” he explained.

This is just one of many new smart meters to be seen around town soon.

The sockets caused fires, he continued, because they were older and had split during the quick installations. This, however, should not be a problem in Milford, he contended, adding, “Our meters were just replaced 10–12 years ago, so the sockets are in pretty good shape. Typically, you should be able to go 40–50 years without replacing meter sockets. But, we will inspect all of the meter sockets before the smart meters are installed.”

Connecting and disconnecting the meters remotely through the new system will, also, help eliminate unnecessary wear and tear on the meter sockets.

Upgrades to the metering system in Milford have been budgeted in to the city’s utility operations and will not cause an increase in consumer’s bills.

NextGen Utility Solutions, as contracted through the city, will begin deploying the new meters, starting first with electric meters, under the supervision of staff from the city of Milford Monday, May 7.

They hope to be completed with both electric and water meters by Tuesday, Oct. 23.

More information can be found online at http://www.cityofmilford.com/414/Smart-Meter-Project.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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