Frequently Asked Questions: Project, Installation, Billing
Why is MVEA upgrading their digital meters?
Technology moves fast, and it’s time for an upgrade! Starting in the summer of 2019, Mountain View Electric Association, Inc. will start a system-wide improvement plan to upgrade existing processes and infrastructure. The plan includes an integrated system of upgraded digital meters, communications networks and data management systems to provide better service to our co-op members. The upgraded digital meters will be a powerful tool for you to manage your energy use and become more energy efficient. Curious about the impact a space heater in the winter, or a window AC unit in the summer has on your electric bill? The upgraded meters will allow you to monitor your electric use, not by the month, but down to the day and the hour.
The meter upgrade provides MVEA members with numerous benefits. The upgraded digital meters will help us achieve:
Improved Member Service: Combined with online account management tools from SmartHub, the upgraded meters allow MVEA to offer our members timelier information regarding energy use, such as:
- Hourly data which can help troubleshoot high bill concerns.
- Outage history and electric use patterns.
In addition, the upgraded digital meters can be disconnected or reconnected in the event of an emergency or necessity.
Improved Reliability: Increased two-way communication with the upgraded meters will help pinpoint the exact location of outages quicker, meaning a faster response time, and fewer outages, blinks and surges. The new system will report variances in voltage or potential line conditions that will help MVEA maintain a more reliable power distribution system and alert us of potential issues before they occur.
What’s the difference between the new meters and the old meters?
MVEA has been using digital meter technology for over 20 years. A digital meter upgrade that includes the latest advancements in technology benefits the co-op and members alike. One notable difference between our current digital meters and the upgraded meters is how efficiently the electronic circuit board communicates remotely with MVEA. Our current digital meters require an MVEA employee to physically drive by the service location to register a reading. With the new meters, MVEA will be able to read the meter remotely. Information, such as energy consumption and power quality from the meter, is transmitted back to the co-op each hour through a licensed, secure and private system. Transmitting this information electronically means that a meter reader no longer comes to your house in person or must drive past a service to register a reading. The collected data includes: usage readings, voltage levels, and outage / blink information. No personal information (i.e. member address, name, etc. or other) is stored inside of a meter.
What information does the new meter record?
The new meter records an electronic kWh reading, the date and time of energy use, the overall peak demand of the electric account, if the meter has rotated backwards, and the number of times the meter has experienced a loss of power for any reason. In fact, the meter will record the date and time of light blinks and the length of the power outage. We’ll also be able to tell if a meter has been tampered with.
When will the digital meter upgrade project start?
Launching in August 2019, the project will take an estimated 18 months to complete from testing to final installation.
Will MVEA notify members prior to installation?
Yes. You will be notified by mail when installations are scheduled for your home or business. While there may be some exceptions, the majority of the meter installations will take place outside the home where the current meters are located, so the process will have minimal impact. Members will not need to be home during this time, but for those who are, they should expect to lose power for only a few minutes as the technicians switch out the meters.
How will I know if my meter has been changed?
The co-op employee or contractor will leave a door hanger on your front door to let you know they have changed the meter. We will work with businesses to minimize any inconvenience.
Is there an additional fee to install the meter?
There will be no installation cost to MVEA members for the upgraded digital meters. The project will be paid for, and financed, as part of MVEA’s ongoing capital expenditures for system improvements. Following the installation, members will receive their normal monthly bill with two readings: one for the old meter and one for the new meter.
Will I keep the same rate after the upgrade?
Yes, members will continue to stay on the same rate class as they have in the past.
What day of the month will the meters be read?
All of the co-op’s upgraded digital meters can be read at a variety of times to obtain a history of account information. However, for billing purposes member bills will be read on the same monthly schedules as before.
What if my bill reports higher kWh use than normal or I think my meter is not working correctly?
Contact our office at (800) 388-9881 to discuss your billing concerns. Billing cycle changes, extreme weather conditions, higher consumption, faulty home appliances or heating and air conditioning systems can result in high electricity bills. The upgraded digital meters have been tested and meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations.
Will meter readers ever need to come to read the meter manually again once the new meter is in place?
Occasionally. Meter readers will no longer need to visit regularly, however, MVEA may visit you for non-meter related matters such as line maintenance or right-of-way and possibly during power outages. In addition, MVEA may have meter maintenance as needed.
How will the co-op read the meters?
When the upgraded digital meters are installed, they will be programmed with a data reporting schedule. The data will be sent to MVEA four times a day in scheduled intervals. The collected daily data will be available to members through SmartHub to better understand their electric use. The monthly billing data will be used by MVEA for billing purposes.
Will the co-op continue to do service inspections?
Routine inspections of all meters and services will continue in order to look for safety hazards, theft or other problems.
Once co-op employees no longer need to read the meter, can obstacles be constructed that may make the meter inaccessible?
No. Reasonable access to equipment still must be maintained. This allows for cooperative personnel to either read or maintain the meter if necessary at reasonable times.
Will MVEA be able to disconnect power using digital meter technology?
Yes. All residential meters will have a disconnect switch that is capable of remotely disconnecting the service. This switch may be used for disconnects and safety measures. For example, a meter may be disconnected if there is danger from a fire in the area or a downed line. In addition, a remote disconnect can be used when a member receives a disconnection notice due to non-payments or in violation of our terms of service. We do alert members with reasonable effort before disconnections occur, including a phone call to alert our members that disconnection will occur on stated date unless an arrangement or compliance is made.
Will the new meter notify MVEA when the power goes out?
The meters will be able to record outages allowing the cooperative to verify whether the outage is either on the member’s side of the meter or the co-op’s.
Will all members be required to accept an upgraded digital meter?
The co-op’s goal is for all MVEA members to have an upgraded digital meter. MVEA has been using digital meter technology for over 20 years, we are simply upgrading the system to better serve our members. However, we understand the importance of serving all members, and will allow qualifying MVEA members to opt out of the program if desired. Members who choose to opt out will be required to sign an agreement. This agreement will include an additional monthly fee required for the meter to be manually read by an MVEA employee each month. To view the policy, visit: Residential Meter Upgrade Opt Out
Frequently Asked Questions: Security & Safety
How secure will the new meters be?
The meter display is visible for members to be able to check their consumption. All other information and data stored in the meter is secure and the meter is sealed. No member-identifying information – names or addresses, for example – is stored in the meters or transmitted across the network. Information that is to be transmitted by meters is encrypted.
Will MVEA share member data with third parties?
Protecting member data is a priority for MVEA. Because digital meters collect and wirelessly transmit data about electricity consumption, it is important to have strong privacy protections in place. As is our current practice, MVEA will not share personally identifiable member information obtained by the digital meter system with any third party, including government agencies, except pursuant to a lawful order, warrant or subpoena.
Will the new meters enable MVEA to collect information on my activities within my home?
The upgraded digital meters will be a powerful tool for members to manage their energy use and become more energy efficient. Curious about the impact a space heater in the winter, or a window AC unit in the summer has on your electric bill? The upgraded meters will allow members to monitor their electric use, not by the month, but down to the day and the hour. Paired with online account management through SmartHub, the insights offered through access to hourly electric use will allow members to get a better understanding of how their activities impact their electric use, and their monthly bill.
What about MVEA? While we can tell how much electricity you are using, we cannot tell you exactly how you are using it. The digital meter is owned by MVEA as part of our distribution system; its sole purpose is to allow us to calculate the amount of electricity delivered by that system so we can know how much to bill and understand the performance of the system. That information can tell us about electric use at a point in time at the service location, such as whether there is power going to the meter, how much power is going to the meter and the voltage level, but it does not tell us the exact purpose for which the power is being used.
Is a digital meter safe for homes with older wiring?
A digital meter does not impose any additional burden to the existing meter enclosure or house wiring. The meter installer is trained to inspect your meter enclosures for any potential equipment concerns. This process could potentially uncover problems that otherwise would go unnoticed. This step is incorporated into our installation process as a safety process for our installers, as well as our co-op members.
Are there any potential health impacts from a meter that can receive and send data?
No. Research conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute, the Utilities Telecom Council and others has revealed no health effects from digital meters. The radio frequencies emitted by digital meters fall well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines. The new meters will emit radio frequencies (RF) only at scheduled intervals, when responding to a request for data from MVEA, or when the power to the service location fails. Compare this activity to a laptop with a wireless connection, which is constantly sending and retrieving data. A digital meter equipped to send and receive data has an RF density hundreds of times less than the RF density of a cell phone, and the meters are installed on the outside of your house, not next to your ear. For more information please visit: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/emf/