FAQs Advanced Metering Infrastructure Project
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Frequently Asked Questions
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (including Smart Meters)

Q. What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure?

A
. Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI is a method of using communication technology to read meters remotely without having to access the meters located in meter boxes or in the ground.

Q. Is the Department of Public Utilities installing Advanced Metering Infrastructure and does that include smart meters?

A.
Yes. DPU will be upgrading its meters with Advanced Metering Infrastructure for electric, gas and water. However, only the electric meters will be smart meters. Communication modules will be attached to the existing gas and water meters that will send consumption reads through a point to multi-point radio frequency network.

Q. When will this work begin?

A.
Installation of the AMI, including smart meters, could begin as soon as six months after the contract to purchase and install the AMI. Crews will start installing electric smart meters, and the communication modules for gas and water meters in Pajarito Acres first, no sooner than August or September 2019. They will then proceed to La Senda and finish up the rest of White Rock. From there crews will move to the townsite. It could take up to 18 months to have the entire county upgraded to the new AMI.  

Q. Will you be replacing the smart meters already installed in North and Barranca Mesas?

A.
Yes. The electric smart meters that were installed during the demonstration smart grid project with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology and Development Organization are not compatible with the new AMI architecture. Unfortunately, we will need to replace those.

Q. Is there an opt-out provision for smart meters?

A
. Yes.  The Board of Public Utilities approved General Rule GR-16 on Advanced Metering Infrastructure. Section GR-16.03 of this Rule provides customers the ability to opt out without penalty.  

Q. Does that mean I won’t have someone in my yard reading my meter?

A.
Eventually that will be the case. However, the county is moved to a new Enterprise Resource Planning software system which includes a new utility billing system. This means it may take a few months to get the two new systems to interface smoothly. We will continue to have some meters read manually until we are certain that the two systems will be billing correctly with minimal glitches.

After the new AMI and billing system are interfacing, with the exception of customers who have elected to opt out, there will only be rare occasions when a manual meter read may be necessary in the event of a meter or communication malfunction. 

Q. Are the new smart meters and communication modules safe?

A.
Yes.  Smart meter and the communication modules transmit at a lower radio frequency power than a baby monitor, cell phone or microwave.

1)  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted radio frequency (RF) exposure limits that ensure safety for the public and workers, and the actual RF emissions from smart meters are a fraction of the limit allowed.
2)  Radio frequency from a smart meter has been shown to be 125 to 1,250 times below that of a cell phone.
3)  There has never been a documented injury or health problem associated with smart meters or the communication modules.


Q. Are smart meters and communication modules a security risk?

A
. No. Smart meters and communication modules have inherent security features built in to keep information private and secure.

1)  Any traffic sent over the AMI network uses industry-proven encryption combined with a proprietary protocol.
2)  The meters and communication modules are password protected.
3)  The AMI architecture contains intelligence technology to alert a highly secure data center of any suspicious activity.

Q. Does the AMI allow the DPU to access my private data?

A.
No personal information is stored in or on a smart meter or communication module. Instead, smart meters and communication modules use a code associated with the customer’s account to track consumption. In the same way that the DPU has always read and reported to customers the amount of electricity, gas and water usage for billing purposes, the AMI will send the same information for the same purpose.

Q. Is my consumption data private?

A. DPU is a county-owned utility, which means that we fall under New Mexico sunshine laws and provisions. Under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), the public or media may request to inspect public records, of which a customer’s consumption data may be subject to such an inspection. 

The Board of Public Utilities approved Rule GR-16 Advanced Metering Infrastructure at the Feb. 20, 1019 board meeting.  In accordance with GR-16.03 of this rule, customers who express privacy concerns regarding 15-minute consumption data being public records, may elect to opt out without penalty.

DPU will disable the newly installed electric smart meters and modules so that information is neither stored nor is it transmitted electronically.  DPU’s meter technicians will continue to read the electric, gas and water meters monthly for customers who have opted out.

 
Q. Will my utility bill go up?

A. The AMI will not raise or change your utility costs. Some customers, however, may see increased bills as older, worn out, and less accurate mechanical meters are replaced with newer and more accurate meters. By charging customers for their actual consumption reduces expenses that are levelized to all customers for unaccounted for water or gas resulting from less accurate meters.

Q. Can I access my readings online?

A. Yes. Note that once the AMI is fully implemented, customers can access electric, gas, and water consumption data online and in near-real time. This knowledge of when and how much electricity, gas, and water are being consumed can assist customers in reducing bills. Rather than waiting for a meter technician to read a meter every thirty days, customers have the ability to check their consumption throughout the month. This allows them, if they choose, to change habits and lower bills.

Q. Can the AMI alert me to service problems?

A.
Yes. The AMI will be able to alert the DPU and the customer of service problems, such as a water leak. Customers can also set up alerts to notify them if consumption levels are approaching certain thresholds to avoid the surprise of high bills.

Q. Does the AMI interfere with other electronics?

A
. No. The AMI network meets federal standards to operate without interfering with other devices.