ROCHESTER, NY (WHEC) – In the coming weeks, RG&E and NYSEG will begin the three-year process to replace all electric meters in homes, apartments and businesses in our area with smart meters. News10NBC investigative reporter Jennifer Lewke sat down with the president of utilities to discuss how the change works and what customers need to know.
Jennifer Lewke– First and foremost, no matter if the meter is inside or outside, will it be replaced? How will this process work?
Trish Nilsen – We will orchestrate this change around when we would normally read the meter and bill the customer so that there is no disruption in terms of the billing cycle, everything will be the same. There will be a slight service interruption on the day of the changeover, but it will be very short-lived.
Jennifer Lewke– What’s in it for the customer?
Trish Nilsen– What comes with this new meter is a lot more knowledge and control from the customer’s point of view in terms of energy consumption. We will have a dashboard on our website that will show their actual usage in real time. The customer is going to be billed monthly on actual usage, it’s not an estimate anymore and it’s been a source of frustration for our customers, it’s a source of frustration for us so that should help that.
Jennifer Lewke– How often will NYSEG and RG&E verify that these meters are communicating correctly?
Trish Nilsen– We will be in constant communication with the meter and in fact when the meter is not communicating that would be an example of a power outage so a customer doesn’t even have to call it, they always can of course. If there is a problem the counter will send a final ping before it can no longer connect, we will get that last ping and then we will resend the counter and if we don’t get any response we know there is has a problem and we know we need to replace it or make repairs.
Jennifer Lewke– It sounds a bit like a long-term solution to some of the customer service issues you’re having.
Trish Nilsen– Some of the challenges came with having estimated readings and especially estimated readings during COVID, so having an actual reading through a smart meter will mitigate and eliminate that going forward.
Jennifer Lewke– As for the technology itself, how does it work?
Trish Nilsen– It is electronically connected to the company and the meter will basically send data over radio waves. We will therefore receive this data without anyone having to travel to the region.
Jennifer Lewke– How do customers know it’s a secure connection between their home and your business?
Trish Nilsen– I’m really glad you brought that up. Today we have customer service data and we have very, very detailed physical security and cybersecurity programs within our company to protect our customer data, that’s something we take very seriously.
Jennifer Lewke– Haven’t you had issues with this in other parts of the business that have already done this (transition to smart meters)?
Trish Nilsen– No, we had no issues with data security and I would like to remind customers that we also maintain the confidentiality of their data. So their data is only with us, we do not sell or provide data to any outside agency.
Jennifer Lewke– As a customer, do I have to pay extra for one of these new meters at my home?
Trish Nilsen– No, you don’t. In fact what happened was that we contacted the Public Service Commission as part of our rate filings and we went ahead and worked out the proposal of what the program would cost and it’s part of all our customer rates, so in a sense our customers are contributing to the program today, but there’s no cost per meter or per install that anyone will see.
Jennifer Lewke – Can people opt out if they don’t want a smart meter?
Trish Nilsen– They can, so it’s not a requirement that they do. It’s highly encouraged because they’ll have more power, they’ll have more control, they’ll have actual reading, and guess what…we haven’t even talked about it, when the power goes out…we will know their power is off because this meter will send us information or lack thereof. So that gives customers a lot of benefits but if they choose not to install a smart meter they can choose to, there will be a monthly charge because we have to capture the cost to make sure we’re there let’s come and get a lily
Jennifer Lewke– How much is this unsubscribe fee?
Trish Nilsen– About $12 per month. We don’t want to make this a requirement for our customers, but we also don’t think it’s reasonable for all customers to bear the burden of some people choosing not to go ahead.
Jennifer Lewke– Is there a timeline on when you plan to do which quarters?
Trish Nilsen– We’re going to be having a series of open houses to talk to our customers about this and while we’re there we’ll have customer service staff so if you have a question about your bill or a question about your usage we’ll have people at hand to help our customers.
Here are the dates/times of the open doors:
|Wednesday September 14||Wednesday, September 28||Thursday, September 29||Thursday, November 3|
|5-7 p.m.||5-7 p.m.||5-7 p.m.||5-7 p.m.|
|Riverside Convention Center||St. Anne’s Church||Henrietta town hall||Brighton Town Hall|
|123 Main Street East||1600 Mount Hope Blvd.||451 Calkins Road||2300 Elmwood Avenue|