By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — If your electric supplier is AES, you may have already received a call about exchanging your traditional electric meter for a digital smart meter. The electric company has already begun exchanging the meters in Greenville and will be completing the project throughout the county in the next month and a half.
At their last meeting, members of Greenville City Council asked Safety Service Director Ryan Delk to have a representative from AES speak at a meeting to explain the purpose of the new meters. On Tuesday, Mary Ann Kabel, director of communications with AES, gave updates on the company’s four-year plan for phase one to modernize the grid and bring on green generation with solar, wind, battery storage and hydro while continuing to use coal and other thermal power resources. AES does not the use of nuclear.
Part of the modernization includes the transition to digital smart meters. According to Kabel, other utilities have or are in the process of transitioning to a digital platform. It allows these companies to better communicate with customers on how they want to be served. She gave an example of receiving a text for a power outage and when it is served.
In addition to the exchanging meters, phase one also includes automating 20 percent of the distribution and substation systems and replacing the foundational systems. Phase two would extend the distribution and substation automation. One of the benefits of the smart meter is that outages can be located quickly because of the communication between the meter and AES. She believes the energy company will be better able to get crews to those locations quickly. The new system will also allow AES to turn meters on and off remotely. She gave the example of an individual moving out of a home or into a new home. Instead of “rolling a truck,” they will be able to turn the service on or off remotely.
According to Kabel, the meters will also give residents better data to track their electric usage.
Jana Deeter, a Greenville resident, questioned Kabel about whether AES would reduce the amount of energy a home receives if the company believes they are using too much. Kabel said, “That is not how our service is built.” She explained those situations were out west and not in the AES service area.
Deeter also questioned the notice AES sent out over the holiday weekend regarding the threat of rolling outages. Kabel pointed out that AES along with every other energy company in 13 states and Washington, D.C. that are part of the regional grid operated by PJM issued the same conservation request. She said PJM was concerned with the “pull on the grid.” If PJM would have deemed it necessary to begin rolling blackouts, they would have been for 15-30 minutes in a specific area, and it would have happened only once in that area. Kabel said it has nothing to do with the smart meter.
Deeter was also concerned that people exchanging their traditional meter for a smart meter also saw dramatic increases in their electric bills. Kabel shared that some of the meter exchanges came around the same time their energy prices more than doubled. AES is given a date to go to auction for the energy prices. At their auction, the price increased from 4.8 kw to 10.9 kw. However, the City of Greenville goes through Energy Harbor for electric aggregation and the price continues to be 4.9 kw. If residents have opted into the program AES’s increase would have no bearing on their electric bills. Council President John Baumgardner and Councilman Clarence Godwin encouraged residents to check their electric bills to determine if they have opted in.
Residents can opt out of having a smart meter, but it comes at a price. If a homeowner chooses to opt out and continue with a traditional meter, there is a one-time fee of $98.89 and a monthly charge of $36.47. The additional fee would be for maintaining the current procedures and for having a meter reader come out. The price was approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and is the same for energy companies throughout the state.
For more information about the smart meters, visit https://www.aes-ohio.com/smart-meter-faqs.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].