CHICAGO (AP) – The days of the meter reader are numbered in most of Illinois with the advent of new digital “smart” meters – wireless devices that relay information on electricity consumption directly to utilities.
ComEd last week began installing meters to officially kick off a program by it and Ameren Illinois to upgrade the state’s power grid with advanced technology they say will improve their delivery systems.
ComEd will switch all 4 million of its northern Illinois customers to the new devices by 2021. Ameren Illinois will do the same downstate next year.
Here’s what you need to know:
Q: Why do we need new meters?
A: It’s a big component of a $3.2 billion plan to modernize and “storm-harden” Illinois’ power grid over the next 10 years, which the utilities say will make it more efficient and reliable. Besides sending information directly to the utility via radio signals – no more meter readers – smart meters will record usage more accurately because it’ll no longer be estimated. When meters are fully functional, they can automatically alert utilities to an outage.
Q: When will I get a smart meter?
A: About 130,000 ComEd customers in Chicago’s near-west suburbs already got them in a pilot program last year, and the company plans to install 60,000 by the end of the year. Installation is starting in the center of the network and cascading out, until all 4 million customers in its service area have them by 2021.
Ameren will install 780,000 new meters from mid-2014 through 2019 through most of its service area in central and downstate Illinois.
Q: Who’s paying for them?
A: Customers ultimately will pay for the overall effort through higher rates. Com Ed says its average customer will pay an additional $3 per month over the 10-year life of its $2.6 billion modernization effort. Ameren, which has fewer customers, says theirs will pay an average $3.40 more per year over 10 years to pay for its $643 million plan.