2:36pm

Mon October 31, 2011
Business and the Economy

Co-ops Transition to Smart Meter

Several Kentucky electricity co-ops will begin using a new technology called “smart meters” soon.The devices send energy data to power companies—so there’s no need for someone to travel to read the meter. Smart meters also tell consumers more information than traditional meters. With a glance, ratepayers can see how much electricity they’re using, how much it costs and during what times in the day electricity is cheaper.

Glenn English is the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. He says co-ops are leading the way in the smart meter effort. Besides saving money, he says the devices encourage efficiency.

“So obviously, the more efficient the co-op is and the more efficient consumers are then the less you need in the way of new power plants,” he said. “It’s not just an emissions issue, it’s also, keep in mind, a question of cost.”

But some critics of the technology say it makes it easier for companies to shut off power to consumers who are only a few days behind paying their bill. There are also concerns about the health implications associated with exposure to the meter emissions.

English says the criticism is unfounded. The meters are expensive, he says, but the costs are recovered. English says the nature of co-ops means they can’t implement technology that doesn’t ultimately save their consumers.

“The primary focus of that electric cooperative, as well as providing reliable electric power, is to provide it in the most affordable way they possibly can, so they’re always looking for savings,” he said.

In Kentucky, Owen Electric Cooperative, Blue Grass Energy and Farmers Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation are among the coops that plan to roll out the new technology soon.