Smart Meters: Frequently Asked Questions
Why is having a Smart Meter important?
A Smart Meter is important because it will give you more choices and enable you to have greater control over your monthly electric bill. Imagine going to the grocery store, week after week, and not receiving the bill for your food items until 30 days later. This is what happens with your electricity bill. Therefore, it is hard to fully understand how much electricity you are using, which appliances are using the most or how electricity rates vary by time of day. You don't have the information and control you need to make informed decisions. By having access to real-time information about how you consume electricity, you can begin to make informed decisions and if you choose or modify how you use electricity you can reduce your consumption and lower your electric bills. Lastly, installation of Smart Meters is an important step in moving the electric grid into the digital age.
What do I need to do to get my new meter?
There is nothing that you will have to do to have the new meter installed. The utility will send a technician to remove the current meter from your home or business and replace it with the new Smart Meter. You should be notified via door hanger or postcard prior to this taking place.
When will I get my new meter?
As of August 2009, all five transmission and distribution utility companies in Texas have filed their deployment plans with the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Oncor Electric Delivery, CenterPoint Energy, AEP Central, and AEP North have received approval for their Smart Meters plans by the PUC. The plans for Texas New Mexico Power (TNMP) have not yet been approved. To find out more information about the utility companies deployment schedules, please visit their Websites:
What is required of me during the install?
Nothing is required of you.
How long will it take to install my new meter?
Installation of your Smart Meter should take about 10 minutes, during which time you will experience a brief power outage. As long as your existing meter is accessible, the installation can be completed even if you are not home.
Who approved the surcharge that shows up on my bill?
In 2005, Texas law allowed utilities to assess a surcharge to recover the costs of Smart Meters. This charge is passed onto to your retail electric provider (REP) and the REP then passes it onto to you. This surcharge will be shared among all electric customers receiving a new meter and will be added to your bill. All utilities regulated by the PUC go through a complete review process with the Commission before their surcharge amount and conditions are approved. Just as you currently pay your share of the current meters, as well as the poles and wires the utility is responsible for maintaining, you must also pay your share of the costs to install and maintain Smart Meters.
How much will this new meter cost me?
Texas law allows the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to authorize utilities to assess a surcharge to recover the costs of Smart Meters. This surcharge will be shared among all electricity users receiving a new meter and will be added to customers' bills. To learn how these charges will be handled, contact your Retail Electric Provider by calling the number on your electric bill.
Oncor's surcharge will be $2.21 through December 2019. CenterPoint Energy's surcharge will be $3.24 per month for each residential customer for the first 24 months, beginning in February 2009; thereafter, the surcharge will be reduced to $3.05 per month through January 2021.
AEP TCC residential surcharge is $3.15 during the first two years, $2.89 during the next two years, and $2.26 for the remainder of the surcharge period until December 2020.
AEP TNC residential surcharge is $3.15 during the first two years, $2.77 during the next two years, and $2.35 for the remainder of the surcharge period until December 2020.
TNMP's residential surcharge is $3.40 through deployment completion in 2016.
Is there any way to offset the meter surcharge?
There are currently no special programs to reduce the costs of implementing Smart Meters, but by replacing just one 100W light bulb with an Energy Star compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb you could save more than $2.30 a month. In fact, according to Energy Star one CFL bulb can save you $30 or more over the life of the bulb.
Why am I being charged a fee for the new meter before I actually get the new meter?
The Smart Meter is only part of a complete technology upgrade, which also includes communications equipment and computer software. The cost of this technology upgrade will be shared equally by all the customers of each utility.
Won't the savings on meter readers pay for the new Smart Meters?
Will my meter ever become out of date?
If new technology develops, the two-way communication capabilities that these meters have will easily allow for software upgrades, keeping the meters as current as possible.
Will the meter reader stop coming to my property?
If I move, can I take the Smart Meter with me?
No. Smart Meters will be installed in established neighborhoods according to the utility's deployment schedule. For newly constructed neighborhoods, Smart Meters will be installed but not receive full "smart" functioning until that neighborhood's actual scheduled deployment.
Who do I contact about my Smart Meter?
If you have questions about the new Smart Meters, please contact your retail electric provider (REP) at the number provided on your electric bill or call the utility responsible for installing your new meter (known as the Transmission and Distribution Utility or TDU). If you get your electric service from a city-owned electric utility or an electric co-op, contact them for information about current or future plans for Smart Meters.
What can my utility company tell me?
Your utility company (known as the Transmission and Distribution Utility or TDU) can give you its meter installation schedule and information on the customer surcharge that will be shared among all electricity users receiving a new meter.
When Texas New Mexico Power's (TNMP) Smart Meter campaign launches, we will add its address to the above list.
What can my retail electric company tell me?
Your electric company (known as a retail electric provider or REP) can offer you general information about Smart Meters, such as their current capabilities and how you can start taking advantage of what the new meters offer. As Texas' energy technology develops, there are many possible Smart Meter benefits. Please check with your REP regularly for new products or offers.
Do Smart Meters benefit the environment?
Studies suggest that given the ability to monitor energy use in near real-time, many consumers will begin energy-saving behaviors such as turning off unneeded appliances, changing to more efficient lighting, and adjusting thermostats. Even small changes can have a significant impact during hot summer months or during periods of high electric demand. Over time, less power may need to be produced if consumers manage their electricity use more efficiently. Reduced emissions from building fewer power plants and eliminated meter reader trucks over time can translate into overall better air quality.
Can Smart Meters help me save money?
There are many factors that contribute to the overall cost of your electric bill, such as wholesale electricity prices, retail service offerings, and your energy consumption habits. Smart Meters will make your energy usage information available to you. If you choose to use that information to lower your energy consumption, it will be possible to save money on your electric bill. Studies indicate that raising consumer awareness of energy use does lead to lower consumption. This should not only save money for consumers who reduce their usage but also could lower the cost of electricity for all consumers.
Additionally, Smart Meters will allow Retail Electric Providers (REPs) to offer rate packages that reflect the varying cost of power during the day and night (for example, it costs less for power used at 8:00 at night than it does for power used at 3:00 in the afternoon). This will encourage electricity use during off-peak periods.
What evidence do you have that consumers will reduce demand and achieve savings?
How can I learn more about these Smart Meters and how they will help me control my energy consumption, reduce my electricity costs, and help the environment?
For more information on Smart Meters and the full list of benefits they offer, please visit your utility company's website. If you receive your electricity from a co-op or municipality, please visit their website. Other information that may be helpful can be found at:
I live in the Oncor territory. Didn't I just get a new meter? Why am I getting a new one?
If you live in the Oncor territory and a meter was installed during the 2006-2007 timeframe, that meter was not a "Smart Meter" by Texas standards. That meter was digital, but it only had one-way communication capabilities. This means that the critical electricity consumption information could not be communicated to customers. It also did not enable the retail electric provider (REP ) to offer you special rate packages, such as pay-as-you-go. These meters do not provide all the information you will need to better control your electricity usage. By definition, Smart Meters in Texas must provided two–way communication capabilities and will employ more advanced technology.
Is anyone else in the country implementing Smart Meters?
Utility companies worldwide are looking for ways to deliver more reliable and environmentally friendly electric service. Smart Meters are an important part of those goals. Examples in the United States include:
Are small businesses getting Smart Meters?
Yes. This will allow small businesses to now have the energy management tools that larger businesses already have. Large commercial or industrial businesses typically have energy managers on staff or energy consultants under contract, who review and analyze the company's energy consumption through special meters called Interval Data Recorders (IDRs). Since small businesses typically can't afford to hire an energy manager and the necessary equipment, they will benefit from the Smart Meter's energy management tools, thus helping them to manage their costs and stay competitive.
If I have an offsite meter reading (OMR) meter, will it be replaced?
Smart Meters will replace OMR meters. OMR meters are less technologically advanced and meter readers still need to walk or drive by the property to pick up the meter's remote signal. Additionally, OMR meters do not give consumers near real-time usage information, which can encourage changes in energy usage that could save money. These meters were installed because the utility did not have access to your meter due to a locked gate or other circumstances that prevented reading the meter.