Mayor Cunningham provided an overview of the proceedings and invited Terrie Simmons, Government Affairs representative from Com Ed, to begin her presentation.
Ms. Simmons stated that the smart meter deployment will occur in Woodridge in the middle of 2016. The smart meter installation is part of a $2.6 billion investment in the system. She then invited Mike McMahon, Vice President of Automatic Meter Deployment, to provide some additional information.
Mr. McMahon stated that the smart meter installation program is part of the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act. He stated that ComEd installs approximately 20,000 meters a week. He proceeded, producing an example of a smart meter as well as an example of an older electric meter that the smart meters will replace. The meters were passed amongst those in the room.
Mr. McMahon stated that the smart meter has a computer chip and two radios. He added that the meters are UL certified, and that ComEd is the only electric company in the county that provides a UL certified meter. He proceeded, stating that 90 days before installation of the meters, an informational bill insert regarding the smart meter will be included in ComEd bills. Sixty days before the installation there is a post-card sent, thirty days before a letter will be sent, ten days before a robo-call will go out, and the day of the installation an installer will speak to anyone that is home during the installation.
He continued, stating that thirty days after the installation a letter will go out reminding the home owner that they have a smart meter. The letter will provide suggestions on ways to take advantage of the new features of the meter. He stated that some of the advantages of a smart meter are that its users can view their daily energy usage in half hour increments, which can aide them in adjusting their usage patterns. He added that one radio in the smart meter connects to ComEd, which eliminates the need to visit the home for a meter read. The other radio is for the customer to use at their discretion, and allows for them to receive real-time energy readings.
He added that the Peak Time Savings Program is available to customers with a smart meter. Anyone reducing their use on the peak usage days will help to reduce electricity rates. Customers are credited one dollar per kilowatt hour that they save by reducing their use during peak usage times.
He continued, stating that installations of smart meters starts in July of next year and will go through November. Installations will take place at accounts and will proceed by following meter read routes. He added that installers will wear a badge that identifies them as a ComEd contractor. He encouraged people to ask to see the badge and stated that ComEd employees will never ask for money. He reminded people to call the police if individuals ask for money or cannot produce a badge.
He stated that meter sockets (receptacles where meters will be installed) are owned by home owners and the meter is owned by ComEd. If a socket is found to be in poor condition, the installer will arrange for an electrician to install a new socket.
Trustee Martinez asked if there was any additional cost to a resident for installation of the meter.
Mr. McMahon responded that there is no direct cost. The cost for the meter goes on the bill and is incorporated into the rate base. Smart meters end up adding a $1 - $2 to the bill.
Attorney Good stated that there have been some reports of individuals that do not want to have the smart meter installed. He asked Mr. McMahon to provide some background on these cases.
Mr. McMahon stated that ComEd has a very low refusal rate of 0.10% of people that have refused the meter installation. He added that generally, individuals do not want the meters over concerns of data privacy which includes concerns that the usage reading taken every 30 minutes will be sold to third party. He stated that the data would only be released if it's required by law or requested by the customer. The second common concern is data security and the concern that people will hack into their smart meter. He stated that ComEd has invested in cyber security and the company is able to update firmware in the meter wirelessly.
He stated that anyone can refuse a smart meter installation for any reason. After four months of refusal, an additional charge of $21.53 per month is added to that individual's bill as a refusal charge. The charge is mandated by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The reason is that a meter reader must be retained by ComEd to read the meter if it is not replaced by a smart meter. He stated that the last concern is over the radio frequencies emitted by the device. He stated that peer-reviewed independent studies have been conducted on this subject and none of the studies have drawn a causal relationship between radio frequency (RF) frequencies and cancer.
He continued, providing information on dynamic pricing for electricity and the ability to cut the supply of energy to a home when the homeowner moves out. He stated that one of the benefits provided by smart meters is the ability of ComEd to send out notifications to customers if electricity use is over what was used in prior years. This is called a high usage alert and it allows customers to sign up for the program to be notified if they use more electricity than in previous years. Customers can receive text, e-mail, and other notifications.
Mr. McMahon continued, answering questions from members of the audience and providing further information.
Trustee Martinez asked if smart meters can prevent outages in the future.
Mr. McMahon stated that they cannot prevent an outage, but can help detect it. Meters can send out a signal when an outage occurs. The meter also allows for ComEd to ping it, which has saved 13,000 truck rolls in the past year. This allows for trucks to be deployed to areas that are really in need of the help. Currently, it will help reduce the duration of the outage.