Corporation Commission approves OG&E’s application to implement ’smart meter’ program

By Tim Talley, AP
Thursday, July 1, 2010

State commission approves OG&E ’smart meters’

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Corporation Commission authorized Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. on Thursday to expand its smart grid program statewide and install technology allowing consumers to monitor their electricity usage and take advantage of lower costs during off-peak hours.

Commissioners approved an agreement between Oklahoma’s largest electric utility, members of the commission’s staff and a coalition of industrial energy users after OG&E officials said a pilot program in Norman involving the installation of 42,000 “smart meters” was fully functional and operating normally.

“I’m extremely enthusiastic,” said Ken Grant of OG&E, who helped develop the utility’s smart grid program. “We’re billing off of those meters. We’ve had no billing errors.”

The program’s wireless communication technology allows customers to manage their energy usage and costs while helping the utility offer more reliable service and cut expenses. It is similar to smart grid programs already in place in Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania, utility officials said.

Smart meters attached to customers’ homes and businesses will transmit electricity usage information to the utility over a secure wireless network, allowing OG&E officials to remotely read customers’ meters, connect and disconnect service and know when a customer has experienced a power outage.

Consumers will have the option of using in-home monitoring devices that will give them more control over how much energy they consume during peak usage periods and allow them to take advantage of lower off-peak rates.

The program’s $366.4 million cost includes $130 million in federal economic stimulus money authorized in December by the U.S. Department of Energy, about 36 percent of the project’s total cost.

The average consumer who uses 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity a month will pay about $1.57 more per monthly utility bill, an increase that will be offset by a reduction in fuel costs beginning this month that will save residential customers about $10 a month.

The commission’s action lets the utility expand the service to its remaining customers in Oklahoma. OG&E serves more than 779,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas and plans to ask Arkansas regulators for authorization to install the technology there, OG&E officials said. The company plans to install about 180,000 smart meters this year.

Commissioners Bob Anthony and Jeff Cloud voted to accept the agreement. Commissioner Dana Murphy said she supports the program but asked that it be implemented in stages after more data is available concerning actual cost savings by smart meter customers.

“I think we should be able to see some verified results,” Murphy said.

OG&E spokesman Paul Renfrow said the utility understands Murphy’s concerns but that it has a three-year deadline for spending the federal stimulus money and has already signed contracts to move forward with the program.

Company officials said they expect to save about $22 million in operational costs through the program, a savings that will be returned to consumers.

Another OG&E spokesman, Tim Hartley, said the program will eventually affect the jobs of about 190 meter readers, dispatchers and others who are involved in meter-reading functions. Hartley said no layoffs are planned and that all the affected employees are being offered training and jobs elsewhere in the company.

“We’re working together to try to land them with a job that they would like to have,” Hartley said.

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