Rochester Gas & Electric will begin installing smart readers for some customers east of Rochester. They hope these will help customers with energy use, but also their bills. The utility said it plans to install the devices for 26,000 customers in the ‘Sodus Division’ customers in Wayne and Cayuga counties by July. NYSEG and the companies oter 17 divisions will follow later
RG&E said the meters will allow customers to see exactly how much energy they’re using and will lead to more accurate billing.
The smart meters will allow customers to track exactly how much energy they are using, and offer more accurate billing, according to RG&E’s CEO and President Patricia Nilsen. During the pandemic, RG&E had relied on using estimates more frequently for billing, to avoid sending staff to do physical meter readings, which led to many customer complaints.
“When we replace that meter it is going to give them a lot more power to understand their energy use because they will be able to get bills every month based on actual meter reads and they will be automatic readings so we don’t have to come to homes and businesses,” Nilsen said.
“We don’t have to wait for the customer to call it in so it is more efficient and more technologically sound to have this smart meter,” Nilsen said.
An additional benefit to these new smart meters is that if you have a power outage, you won’t have to call the company to come and restore power. Instead, RG&E will be notified that you lost power and will immediately be able to respond.
RG&E is working with cyber experts to ensure data collected through the smart meters stays secure.
“This system will not go live until our cyber security team has signed off on it,” Nilsen said.
The process to replace every meter with smart meters will cost RG&E about $480 million.
Communications Manager of RG&E and NYSEG Alexis Arnold says, “It’s part of RG&E’s efforts to continue to improve customer service.” Arnold also says it will drastically reduce estimating bills and provide more accurate reads for customers.
“The process to installing a smart meter is low maintenance. There isn’t much that needs to be done on the customer’s part,” Arnold said. “They just receive a phone call or a mailer letting them know that crews are coming to their neighborhood. If your meters are outside, you won’t have to do a thing. They’ll come out, they’ll inspect, complete the install. Once that installation process is complete, they’ll leave a door hanger on the door letting the customer know that installation is complete.”
On Wednesday, the New York State Department of Public Service shared RG&E had been hit with a $900,000 penalty for billing service issues. Nilsen expects the smart meters to help with billing issues the company has been experiencing, by offering the exact meter reading. For that reason, she said the company has requested the state waive the fine.
There will be no charge to customers to replace the meters, but opting out of using a smart meter will cost an RG&E customer about $12 per month, because the company will still have to send out a staff member to do a physical meter reading every other month.
It is expected to take about three years to complete the transition to smart meters.
Until then, Nilsen said RG&E is sending more staff out to do physical meter readings, instead of using estimates. The company also rolled out a new billing system over Labor Day.
The smart meter can also send information back to RG&E in instances of a power outage.
Two public open houses will be held for customers to learn more information about the installations.
The first will be held Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the Sodus Community Library from 5-7 p.m.
The second will be held Thursday, March 2 at Leavenworth Middle School in Wolcott from 5-7 p.m.