Debbie Hickman
Special to The Gardner News
Gardner Energy’s proposed budget for 2014 includes approximately $200,000 ear marked for the initial roll out of smart meters in our community.  This purchase would include 500 smart meters and the system necessary to provide the two-way communication between the meter itself and the central system. Smart meter installation would be scheduled for completion in 2017 with a total project cost estimated at $2.5 million.  Bill Krawczyk, electric director, pointed out that the meter and installation is provided at no cost to the customer. He also explained that currently there is no rate increase in the budget for the next 5 years.
Smart meters are wireless digital utility meters that record energy consumption in intervals of an hour or less, and then communicate that information back to the utility for billing and monitoring purposes. A smart meter immediately notifies the utility in the event of a power outage, allows for remote connect and disconnect (reducing operational costs) and aids in pin pointing problems. This automatic system, when fully implemented will eliminate the need for meter readers. So the days of estimated bills due to dogs in the yard, locked gates or weed covered meters will be no more.
Additional electronic features being considered by Gardner Energy would allow consumers to monitor their usage.  It would provide consumers with the opportunity to view/monitor their energy usage online (in real time) and allow them to immediately make any choices/changes in their usage habits that they deem beneficial to their wallets.
A smart meter does not have the ability to track or control individual appliances.  The smart meter, like its predecessor the mechanical meter, records whole-house readings only.
When asked if an opt-out scenario would be considered for those customers who may oppose the installation of a smart meter on their property, Krawczyk indicated that the Electric Utility Board is responsible for making policy that would cover such situations.
The Electric Utility Board will hold its regularly scheduled meeting at 7p.m. on Aug. 1 in the Gardner City Council Chambers.