RG&E and NYSEG to begin installing smart meters across the region

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — In the coming weeks, RG&E and NYSEG will begin the three-year process of replacing all of the electric meters on homes, apartments and businesses in our region with smart meters. News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke sat down with the President of the utilities to talk about how the change-over will work and what customers need to know.

Jennifer Lewke – First and foremost, it doesn’t matter if the meter is inside or outside right, it’ll be replaced?  How is that process going to work?

Trish Nilsen – We will orchestrate that change around when we would normally be reading the meter and billing the customer so, they won’t have any interruption in terms of their bill cycle, it will all be the same.  There will be a slight interruption in service on the day when the switch happens but it will be very short. 

Jennifer Lewke – What’s in it for the customer?

Trish Nilsen – What comes with that new meter is a lot more knowledge and control from the customers perspective in terms of their energy use. We will have a dashboard on our website that shows their actual usage in real-time.  The customer is going to be billed every month on actual usage, it’s not an estimate anymore and that has been a source of frustration for our customers, it’s a source of frustration for us so this should help that. 

Jennifer Lewke – How often will NYSEG and RG&E check to make sure that these meters are communicating properly?

Trish Nilsen – We will be in constant communication with the meter and in fact when the meter is not communicating would be an example of when the power goes out so, a customer doesn’t even need to call it in, they still can of course.  If there is an issue, the meter will send a final ping before it can’t connect anymore, we’ll get that last-gasp ping and then we ping the meter back and if we don’t get any response we know there’s an issue and we know that we have to replace it or make repairs. 

Jennifer Lewke – This seems a bit like a long-term solution to some of the customer service issues you’ve been having.

Trish Nilsen – Some of the challenges came around having estimated reads and in particular having estimated reads during COVID so, having an actual read through a smart meter will alleviate and eliminate this going forward.

Jennifer Lewke – When it comes to the technology itself, how does it work?

Trish Nilsen – It is electronically connected to the company and the meter essentially will send data over radio waves so, we’ll receive that data without someone having to come to the area.

Jennifer Lewke – How do customers know that is a safe connection between their home and your company?

Trish Nilsen – I’m really glad you brought that up. Today we have data on our customer’s service and we have very, very detailed physical and cyber security programs within our company to protect our customer’s data that’s something we take very seriously. 

Jennifer Lewke – Have you not had any issues with that in other parts of the company that have already done this (transitioned to smart meters)?

Trish Nilsen – No, we have not had any issues with data security and I do want to remind customers we maintain their data privacy as well so, their data is only with us, we do not sell or provide data to any outside agency. 

Jennifer Lewke – Do I as a customer have to pay an extra fee for one of these new meters at my home?

Trish Nilsen – No you do not.  Actually, what happened is we reached out to the Public Service Commission as part of our rate filings and we went ahead and put together the proposal for what the program would cost and it is part of all of our customer’s rates so, in a sense, our customers are contributing towards the program today but there is no per meter or per installation cost that anyone is going to see.

Jennifer Lewke – Can people opt out if they don’t want a smart meter?

Trish Nilsen – They can, so it’s not a requirement that they do this.  It is strongly encouraged because they’ll have more power, they’ll have more control, they’ll have an actual read, and guess what… we haven’t even mentioned it, when the power goes out… we’ll know their power is out because that meter will be sending us information or lack thereof. So, it gives customers a lot of benefits but if they choose not to have a smart meter installed, they can choose to do so, there will be a monthly charge because we have to capture the cost of ensuring that we get there and get a read

Jennifer Lewke – How much is that opt-out fee?

Trish Nilsen – Around $12 per month. We don’t want to make it a requirement for our customers but we also don’t feel it’s reasonable for all customers to bear the burden of some people making a choice not to move forward.

Jennifer Lewke – Is there a timetable on when you’re planning to do what neighborhoods?

Trish Nilsen – We’re going to have a series of open houses to talk our customers through this and while we’re there, we’re going to have some customer service personnel, so if you happen to have a question about your bill or a question about your usage, we’ll have people right on hand to be able to help our customers. 

Here are the dates/times of the open houses:

Wednesday, September 14Wednesday, September 28Thursday, September 29Thursday, November 3
5-7 p.m.5-7 p.m.5-7 p.m.5-7 p.m.
Riverside Convention CenterSt. Anne ChurchHenrietta Town HallBrighton Town Hall
123 East Main Street1600 Mount Hope Boulevard451 Calkins Road2300 Elmwood Avenue