Last week, New York Public Service Commission approved a plan put out by ConEd — the largest utility company in the state — to distribute new high-tech meters to more than four million customers within the next few years. Reporter Jephie Bernard says these new meters are supposed to get New Yorkers thinking about their electrical use more than just when they pay their monthly bill.
BERNARD:Corinne Lawrence lives in East Flatbush and a huge part of her income every month goes to paying her electricity.
LAWRENCE:The most recent bill we had was seven hundred and thirty two dollars and that was in the space of two months.
BERNARD: That bill is determined because once a month somebody from ConEd goes to her house and checks that meter. That’s how almost everybody in New York’s bill is figured out.
BERNARD: But ConEd’s new meter may change that. The company says the new smart meter means people will be able to think differently about their electricity — and ultimately use less of it. That’s good for the environment and customer’s bank accounts.
BERNARD: Patty Kim is the one of the project managers of the advanced meter infrastructure at ConEd.
KIM: In some of our service territories of ConEdison currently we have what’s called AMR which is a one way communicating meter. The smart meter we will be deploying will allow us to two way communication with the customer and the company.
BERNARD: Kim says that ConEd will soon be able to provide real time data where the customer can see what their energy consumption usage was — just fifteen minutes earlier.
KIM: If I log in at two o’clock I can see what my usage was at one forty-five.
BERNARD: So if you can check your electricity everyday, then you’re aware of it. Sort of like wearing a pedometer to keep track of your steps or using an app to count the amount calories you eat. The idea is that having constant access to your energy usage information can change your habits. For Lawrence — that means she’d be able to figure out why she is using so much electricity.
LAWRENCE: Because if you can be on your phone or you can be somewhere out of the home and still be able to access what’s going on at that time or get alerts to see– hey you’re bill is going too high you might want to reduce your usage that would always be helpful
BERNARD: But that also means ConEd has much more specific information about its customers. And that can be a bit worrying.
LAWRENCE: I’m one of those people who always wonder when people put electronic things in your home is it just for that purpose only — sometime you wonder is it also to monitor things or you know; you know you have to be cynical sometimes.
RABAGO: Nobody is talking about using this data to pry into the lives of customers
BERNARD: That’s Karl Rabago – the executive director of Pace Energy and Climate Center in White Plains, New York. He says the bigger concern is the environmental footprint we already leaving behind.
RABAGO: The electric utility industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world.. Ultimately our electricity use goes back to the burning of coal and natural gas..
BERNARD: Rabago says the meters we have right now don’t really help us to be active participants in our energy use management. He says it’s about time the information age and technology came to the utility industry. And as for New Yorkers – they should expect to see the rollout of the smart meters sometime in the Fall of 2017.
Jephie Bernard, Columbia Radio News.