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

Updated August 23, 2019


 

Introduction: The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities will begin the installation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure in the coming months. The below provides some basic responses for frequently asked questions (FAQ). For more detailed information, or if you have questions not addressed in the FAQ please contact the County’s Customer Care Center at (505) 662-8333 or at CustomerCare@lacnm.us.

Q. What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure?

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

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

A. Yes. DPU will be installing AMI which includes replacing all electric meters with electric smart meters and attaching communication modules to the existing gas and water meters. The smart meters and the modules will send consumption reads through a point to multi-point radio frequency network.

Q. When will this work begin?

A. Installation of the AMI equipment could begin as soon as January 2020. Contract crews will begin in Pajarito Acres. 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 any additional fees. You can inform us of your desire to opt out by visiting our website and filling out the online form at: http://ladpu.com/DPU-OptOut or by contacting us at (505) 662-8333 or CustomerCare@lacnm.us. A copy of the complete rule is available on our website at: http://ladpu.com/Rule-GR16


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 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.

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

A. Yes. The AMI (including smart meters 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 emissions from a smart meter has been shown to be 125 to 1,250 times below that of a cell phone.

Q. Is the AMI a cyber security risk?

A. While any electronic communications system is theoretically subject to hacking, the AMI architecture has inherent security features built in to keep information private and secure.
1) Any data sent over the AMI network uses industry-proven encryption combined with a proprietary protocol.
2) The smart 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. Is my consumption data private?

A. Potentially no. 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 General Rule GR-16 at the Feb. 20, 2019 board meeting. In accordance with GR-16.03 of this rule, customers may elect to opt out without an additionally fee. A copy of the complete rule is available on our website at: http://ladpu.com/Rule-GR16

DPU will disable the newly installed electric smart meters and communication modules so that information is not transmitted electronically. DPU’s meter technicians will continue to read the electric, gas and water meters monthly for customers who have opted out. To opt out, please complete the online form at: http://ladpu.com/DPU-OptOut or contact our office at 505 662 8333 or CustomerCare@lacnm.us.


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. Once the AMI is fully implemented, customers can access electric, gas, and water consumption data online and in near-real time. This information 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. Information on how to log into your account to access your consumption data will be provided to you after the AMI is installed.

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.