Seattle City Light is preparing for a major upgrade in how we measure your energy usage and when we share it with you.
Currently, our 51 meter readers drive to the homes and businesses of our 420,000 (and growing) customers once every two months to manually read electricity meters, record the information and enter it into computer systems so we can generate a bill and sent it to you by mail or eBilling. That bill is your first opportunity to know how much electricity you used during the past two months and how much it cost you. At that point, you don’t have any choice other than to pay the bill.
Few purchases work this way. When you go to the gas station, you see how much gas you’re putting in the tank and how much you’re paying. Pick up a bag of peanuts at the grocery store and you get the opportunity to weigh it and see how much it will cost before you are committed to completing the purchase. If it’s more than you want to spend, you can put some of the peanuts back to stick within your budget.
Buying electricity has been different, but we’re about to change that.
In July, City Light will start to replace existing electricity meters with Advanced Meters. It will take about 18 months to replace all the residential meters in our service territory and most of the commercial meters. Some specialized meters for businesses that use a lot of electricity could take a little longer.
These new meters use wireless technology like that in cellular telephones to send energy consumption information to the utility. Once the installations are complete and computer systems have been connected, this new technology will allow you to view your energy usage and your account balance online whenever you want.
This puts more power in your hands.
If you see your balance growing faster than you’d like, you’ll have the opportunity to adjust your usage and save money – no surprise from a big bill you weren’t expecting.
Additionally, the Advanced Meters will eliminate most instances of estimated bills. Currently, if one of our meter readers is unable to read your meter because there’s a dog in the yard, a gate was locked or any other reason, we will estimate your energy consumption based on your past usage and send you a bill based on that estimate. The next time we read the meter, your bill will reflect the actual amount of electricity used, including any that was not accounted for (or paid for in advance) by the earlier estimate.
Combined with the increased accuracy of the new meters, this means you will get more accurate billing.
Advanced metering also will enable other enhanced services, such as automated outage reporting, improved support for escrow actions when a customer sells a home, and more.
We’re excited to provide this new technology and the enhanced services it will enable to our customers. If for any reason you don’t want an advanced meter, you can opt out of the program and receive a new, non-communicating digital meter. Fees do apply for opting out.
Learn more about Advanced Metering here.