Benefits of an updated metering system

BY TYLER THEIN, P.E.

In the June issue of Living with Energy in Iowa, Kevin Wheeler – General Manager/CEO for Access Energy Cooperative – shared the news that we will be upgrading our metering system this fall. As the project manager for this initiative, I am excited about the significant value it will provide for our members and the cooperative. When it comes to the benefits, they are abundant in helping to serve our members better as technology continues to evolve and improve.

From my perspective, the top two things that will benefit all members include – 1) Improved outage data – allowing us to pinpoint and isolate system issues more efficiently, which will lead to improved restoration times and overall reliability; and 2) Interaction with SmartHub – giving members access to near real-time energy use and helping you to make informed decisions with your energy consumption. Plus, this upgrade will be a tremendous resource for us in troubleshooting issues, coordinating system maintenance and improvements, and evaluating and potentially adopting alternate energy resources.

In my role, I appreciate when our members are engaged with us and ask questions. We have been successfully using digital meters for nearly two decades, and it’s gratifying to see how the systems have advanced in that time. After thorough research and evaluation, we are 100% comfortable transitioning to a new system. Our members can have full confidence in the new meters.

The most frequent questions I receive are about the safety of radio frequency emissions and privacy concerns. Like you, many of us are Access Energy Cooperative members so we care about these things, too. I would like to share some of the most common questions I receive and my responses.

 

Q: Is there a fee to the member for transitioning to this new system? No!

Q: Are radio frequencies from digital meters safe? Yes! In everyday life, people are continuously exposed to very low levels of natural and man-made radio frequency fields (RF). Even the earth’s surface and the human body are constant sources of RF fields. Dr. Yakov P. Shkolnikov, Ph.D., scientific researcher and expert on RF technology finds that RF exposures from digital meters are much lower than other RF sources. For example, natural RF from the human body is 20 times greater, a Wi-Fi signal is 67 times greater and a cell phone held to your ear is 12,677 times greater!

Q: What if I am close to a meter, does that pose a health risk to me? No! At 20 inches in front of a meter, the average exposure to radio frequency signals is less than the background RF signals naturally generated by the earth and less than one-seven-thousandth of the safe exposure standard set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Exposure to RF is significantly reduced by buildings. At one yard in front of the meter on a typical day, inside your home, your exposure is minuscule — more than 1.3 million times below the FCC safety standard.

Q: I’m worried about privacy and if data is being collected “all day” from the meter? On a daily basis, digital meters emit power for less than one minute per day. Access Energy Cooperative is not collecting any data beyond energy use information that helps with outage management or troubleshooting issues. We don’t share your private information with outside entities without your written consent.

If you still have questions, I welcome the opportunity to visit with you. I can be reached by phone at 319-385-1577, email tthein@accessenergycoop.com or in person at our office. 

Tyler Thein is the director of engineering for Access Energy Cooperative.

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