By BECKY GILLETTE
It is a big investment installing new advanced metering infrastructure for every customer of Entergy Mississippi. The Mississippi Public Service Commission approved Entergy’s plan for AMI in homes and businesses in May. The total cost of the system to be installed between 2019 and 2021 is $136 million, with Entergy Mississippi estimating a long-term cost savings to customers of $496 million.
“Our analysis shows that the benefits will far outweigh the costs of the meters and with these new technologies customers will have access to new money saving opportunities,” said Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartmann. “Advanced meters will provide access to more detailed information about energy usage, designed to help customers understand and manage their energy use more effectively. While customers will pay the costs to deploy this new technology, the benefits will more than offset those costs over time.”
The AMI allows two-way communication between Entergy Mississippi and its customers. Hartmann said the company is investing in technology that will help them build a smarter energy future for their customers and the communities in which they live.
“As a result of advanced metering, we’ll have a stronger and ‘smarter’ localized electrical infrastructure to help improve system resiliency by helping us identify outages and restore electricity in homes and businesses more quickly after outages and potentially spot problems before they occur,” Hartmann said. “We’ll be armed with better information that will allow us to answer customers’ billing and service questions more quickly and effectively.”
Hartmann said short-term benefits can include:
» Customer access to their detailed, near real-time energy use information.
» Online tools that help customers understand their energy usage and empower customers to make decisions that will save money on monthly bills.
» Quicker response to power outages and faster service restoration.
» Automated outage notification.
» Improved customer service.
» Remote connect and disconnect when customers move or build a new home, which leads to lower costs that will be reflected in their electric rates.
Long-term benefits can include:
» Greener communities due to reduced carbon emissions stemming from lower energy usage.
» Potential future new energy and money-saving programs.
» Long-term improved reliability, particularly after challenging weather.
It is estimated that about half of the electric utilities in the country have installed advanced metering infrastructure, some of which are sometimes referred to as “smart meters” because they allow two-way communication between the meter and utility via a wireless network.
Across the country, there have some consumers who have opposed “smart meters” on the grounds of invasion of privacy, fire hazards and creating wireless pollution that some people believe can cause health problems. But Hartmann said none of their customers opposed the AMI deployment plan at the PSC. However, the PSC approved Entergy Mississippi’s proposal that there be an opt-out option for customers who may not want to have a smart meter installed at their home.
“While the specifics of the opt-out option have not been finalized, generally, customers who opt out would be expected to pay the costs associated with the operation and maintenance of additional infrastructure and manual processes that are required to serve them and read the meter manually each month,” Hartmann said. “This would avoid having other customers bear the additional costs caused by customers who may opt-out. In addition, opt-out customers would not have access to their detailed energy use (via the online tools) or be eligible to participate in some future money saving programs.”
Hartmann said the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and the World Health Organization (WHO) have all verified the safety and security of radio frequency (RF) technology used in advanced meters. However, the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radio frequency radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and has announced it is conducting further research. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has passed a resolution calling for a halt to smart meter installation due to potentially harmful RF exposure.
Hartmann said advanced meters use the same wireless technology currently found in items around your most people’s homes, including cellphones, baby monitors and laptops. “However, radio frequency technology used in advanced meters is actually way below levels emitted by such common household appliances,” she said.
Hartmann said Entergy Mississippi customers will benefit from advanced metering by getting help managing energy use through the available online account tools.
“Entergy Mississippi is developing an education plan to ensure that customers are educated about the benefits of AMI and understand how to take advantage of those benefits, particularly those that require specific customer action, such as to reduce energy consumption,” Hartmann said. “AMI is a multi-year deployment, which will allow Entergy Mississippi a number of opportunities to educate, communicate, and engage with its customers. Education messages will be used to inform customers that advanced meters are coming, to inform businesses how to schedule convenient installation times, to introduce and explain the benefits of AMI, and to explain how customers can take advantage of those benefits.”