The Lewis County PUD’s Meter Refresh program is coming your way soon where we will be replacing 100% of the meters in the District. In the coming weeks and months, you will see a PUD contractor making these enhancements.

On the rare occasion that access to your property is needed, we will call to schedule an appointment at your convenience. Once our work is done, you will find a notice on your door to let you know we are finished.

What the upgrade to an AMI Advanced Meter (a.k.a. Smart Meter or Digital Meter) means for you

Improved Outage Response

The new meters will help us respond to outages faster and with greater precision. If an outage occurs, the advanced meters can help the PUD locate and resolve the problem and restore power even more quickly.

Better Billing

At pre-determined, regular intervals, your meter will send the PUD data on how much energy you’ve consumed, eliminating the need for a PUD employee to manually read your meter. This gives us better and more timely information to prepare your bill.

Keeps Costs Low by Saving the PUD Money

Once the Meter Refresh is complete the PUD will save approximately one million dollars a year in operations and maintenance costs. This savings will help keep our rates low for our customers.

PUD contractors are currently replacing meters in the area shown below:

AMI Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Lewis County PUD replacing its meters?
  • Lewis County PUD is constantly upgrading and improving its electrical distribution system to provide our customers the best and most reliable service available. The Meter Refresh Program is the next way we are improving our system. AMI will allow us to save money by reading the meters remotely and it will improve outage restoration times by sending alerts when you are out of power. It will also allow customers to better monitor their usage with up to the hour capabilities.
Yes, but why is Lewis County PUD going with AMI Meters?

AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) meters—a.k.a. smart meters or digital meters—allow for two-way communication and operation between the meter and the PUD throughout the District’s service area and are an important part of a utility’s electronic infrastructure. AMI meters have many specific advantages over older digital and analog meters:

  • Advanced meters help us deliver electric services more efficiently and put our customers in greater control of their energy use.
  • Advanced meters provide faster outage detection and restoration without having to wait for you to call, and more accurately pinpoint the problem area for our crews.
  • Advanced meters reduce environmental impact by not having to send out employees to read meters saving thousands of miles of travel and carbon emissions.
  • Advanced meters allow customers to be remotely connected, disconnected, and reconnected which streamlines customer service and saves travel expenses for the PUD.
  • Advanced meters allow customers to sign up for energy alerts to let them know when energy use is greater than what they budgeted. This can help you detect if there is an issue with an appliance or equipment such as a hot water heater or a heat pump.
  • Advanced meters improve billing accuracy, eliminating misreads or inaccurate readings.

In short, AMI meter technology has proven its ability to add system reliability and save money.

What is Lewis County PUD doing in the Meter Refresh program?
  • AMI was included in the District’s 10-Year Strategic Plan (PDF), which was approved in July 2020, with an estimated cost of $9.7 million.
  • In September 2021, the PUD released a Request for Proposals (21-05-RFP) to procure a vendor or contractor specializing in the supply and installation of AMI Meters throughout the District’s service area.
  • At a regular PUD Commissioners meeting in March 2022, the commissioners unanimously voted to award Elster Solutions, LLC, a Honeywell company, the bid for approximately $5 million.
  • Lewis County PUD is upgrading 100% of the meters in the District to Honeywell AMI advanced meters (a.k.a. smart meters or digital meters).
    The refresh includes software and hardware upgrades and all the meters will be connected to the PUD’s Customer Service, Billing, and Outages services.
What is an Advanced Meter or Smart Meter?

An advanced meter is a digital device that collects energy-use information, measured in kilowatt hours, and sends that data to the utility. An advanced meter can also receive information back from the PUD. The information to and from the advanced meter is encrypted and sent through a secure wireless network. As of 2021, there were about 111 million advanced meters installed throughout the United States.Below are the types of Honeywell AMI Meters the PUD will be using:

  • Alpha 4 Residential
  • Alpha 4 Commercial Industrial

Honeywell is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, US and their AMI meters are made at their plant location in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Are there any health and safety concerns with advanced meters?
  • With about 111 million advanced meters currently operating safely in the U.S. as of 2021, the PUD is confident advanced meters are safe for Lewis County. However, some of our residents have brought up concerns about exposure to radio frequency emissions from advanced meters.
  • Advanced meters do use low energy radio frequency (RF) to transmit data. Radio frequency is a form of electromagnetic energy used by a number of household devices like cell phones, baby monitors, and WiFi routers to transmit information. Unlike those household devices, our meters can be programmed to transmit signals as infrequently as once every 4 hours, meaning total transmission time is far less than 1 minute per day.
  • In one 30 minute cell phone call you receive more signal than an advanced meter produces in 20 years.
  • The meters transmit 1,000 milliwatts (mW) for approximately 1.5 seconds every 2 to 4 hours at a typical distance of 10 feet away, whereas cell phones transmit 600 milliwatts (mW) continuously when in use at a typical distance of 1 centimeter away.
  • RF Safety and Honeywell Smart Grid Technology (PDF)

Can I opt-out if I don’t want an advanced meter?
  • Yes. Currently, an additional $25 monthly fee will be added to the customer’s bill to recover the PUD’s costs to perform manual readings of the meter by a District employee. That fee is the AMI Opt-Out Monthly Charge – for dispatching District personnel to read non-remote meters that was approved by the PUD Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, December 19th. The fee will help recover costs associated with employee time, fuel, and vehicle maintenance.
  • The PUD is reevaluating the cost to opt-out and will continue to do so on a regular basis.
  • Download the AMI Opt-Out Application (PDF)
  • Download the Miscellaneous Charges for Customers policy(PDF) which includes language pertaining to the AMI Opt-Out Monthly Charge
  • If you choose to Opt-Out, the radio transceiver function of the new meter will be turned off.

What frequency do the meters transmit on?
  • Honeywell AMI Meters use radios that operate in the 900-MHz ISM band (which is the same frequency as the Automated Meter Reading or AMR meters that the PUD has been using for over 20 years) using Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum technology and they have a maximum transmit power of 1,000 milliwatts (mW). The radiation pattern of a device depends on the antenna and on surrounding objects. When installed in an electrical meter base, the energy radiated backwards through the meter base into the home would be significantly less due to the metal meter base.
  • The metal meter base reduces the energy transmitted into the residence and redirects the energy out the front of the meter. The signal sends and receives in the same fashion as an FM radio signal.
What are the safety features of the advanced meters?
  • The new AMI Meters have temperature sensors on them that let the PUD know if they are overheating or are getting hot. This could be used to notify homeowners and possibly prevent fires or notify residents that a fire is near at meter.
  • The AMI Meters also communicate when there is power that is back feeding on to the lines, which helps protect our crews when they are out working on lines and restoring power.
What kind of meters do we have now?
  • The District has a combination of traditional analog spinning disc meters, digital meters with no communications, and digital meters read from a remote handheld device.
How can advanced metering save me money?
  • You’ll be able to see your daily energy-use information, which helps you make more informed energy-related decisions. Knowing when you use the most electricity, and finding ways to reduce consumption, can help you reduce costs.
  • The new meters also provide efficiencies for the PUD, creating cost savings that can help stabilize rates. In the future, advanced metering will be able to tell us how much electricity is being used and where it’s going. This will help us better understand the power grid and more efficiently manage the distribution system.
How will advanced meters benefit the environment?
  • The advanced metering system will also allow Lewis County PUD to manage the electric grid more efficiently, reducing waste. Advanced meters will also help reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Today, the meter reader contractors we use drive 1,000s of miles a year around Lewis County to collect customer data. All that driving represents a lot of carbon dioxide emissions that will be drastically reduced using advanced meters.
Are there any data security concerns with advanced meters?
  • The advanced metering network the PUD plans to use will have multiple layers of protection, similar to security used with online banking and ATM machines. Personal identifying information (such as name, address, or account number) is not stored in the meter, nor is it sent through the wireless network. Only the meter’s serial number and the usage data will be collected and transmitted. All transmitted information will be secure and protected through encryption within the network.
  • Honeywell takes a comprehensive approach to security to provide confidentiality, integrity, availability, and auditability within the utility’s network. EnergyAxis features a robust, end-to-end security solution that provides protection against all types of security breaches and attacks. This multi-pronged approach includes these features:
    • Access – Users receive their access privileges based upon their functional roles. The system also supports both media access control (MAC) and Internet Protocol (IP)-address access control lists. Only users with certain levels of authority can perform specific tasks.
    • Authentication – Authentication limits transmissions on the network to authorized devices and personnel only. Sophisticated authentication techniques are used and these techniques are enhanced by utilizing unique keys for each device.
    • Encryption – Encryption prevents unauthorized parties from reading data. National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST)-approved encryption modes and algorithms are used.
    • Monitoring and Reporting – The utility receives notification in the case of a security breach. Security audit logging and reporting allow early detection of any security issues. The Honeywell solution also enables the integration of third-party Intrusion Detection and Prevention systems.
  • The encryption keys are automatically changed on a periodic basis in keeping with industry best-practice security standards.
  • There are 5 steps to enable a meter to work in the field. Keys are never transmitted over the communication network and seeds are never transmitted in the clear.
    • Manufacturing – Every device will have a network interface card (NIC). At manufacturing every NIC will in turn have its’ own unique encrypted identity.
    • Utility HQ – Remote – A manifest with encrypted initialization keys is sent to Utility.
    • Connexo NetSense – The Connexo NetSense Head-End is setup and keys are stored in system.
    • Connexo FieldSense – On Site – Utility Field serviceman will replace old meter with new Honeywell meter and will use handheld to scan barcode on the meter to designate and confirm field installation and syncing installation status. At this point, keys remain encrypted.
    • Utility HQ-Remote – NetSense will validate that NIC is trusted to operate on this system.
  • Routers do not accept LAN commands via the EnergyAxis 900-MHz radio that requests it to initiate LAN activity. This design feature denies an adversary any possibility of using a 900-MHz radio to control the Router’s activities or gaining access.
  • Honeywell views cybersecurity as a never-ending pursuit to thwart an unremitting threat and they are committed to the continuous improvement of their security systems. The Honeywell AMI system design meticulously constructs and implements the system with security in mind. Their system is intrinsically secure. It is not bolted-together-parts secure.

 

Honeywell Graphic stating security measures and steps.

Who pays for the advanced meters?
  • There is no additional cost to the customer for the replacement meter.
  • The project costs have been built into the PUD’s budget. The entire project is estimated to cost the PUD $5.3 million, which is less than originally budgeted. The PUD expects to recoup the costs of the project within 4 to 4.5 Years through more accurate meter reads, less PUD staff requirements, fewer third-party meter reading costs, better customer communications, better outage management, and better system controls. The overall project will reduce District operating costs long after the initial payback period.
Will my power bill go up?
  • While some customers will see little to no change in their individual usage and billing, customers whose residences that currently have faulty or underperforming meters may see changes to their bill when a new advanced meter is installed and reading and reporting usage data accurately.