The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is seeking approval from the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to award a contract for the purchase and installation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) for all of Los Alamos County.
AMI is a method of using communication technology to read meters remotely without having to physically access the meters on customers’ properties. In addition, DPU is requesting the BPU to allow an opt-out provision for customers who do not want AMI equipment on their properties, such as an electric smart meter and communication modules for water and natural gas.
The BPU will consider these requests at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20 in Council Chambers at 1000 Central Ave. Upon approval, the DPU will take the contract to the Los Alamos County Council.
DPU is requesting the ability to allow customers to opt out of the AMI project to address a privacy concern raised by BPU members at the September board meeting. As the DPU is county-owned, rather than an investor-owned, it falls under New Mexico sunshine laws, including the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The specific concern is that 15-minute customer consumption data may be considered a public record and subject to this state law that provides the public and media access to such information. Allowing customers who are concerned about privacy to opt out of the program eliminates incremental data from being available for those customers.
Once the opt-out provision and the contract are approved, crews will switch out approximately 8,000 existing electric meters for electric smart meters and attach communication modules to 14,000 existing gas and water meters. DPU’s contractor will commence in Pajarito Acres possibly as soon as June or July of 2019. From there, work will progress to La Senda and then the remaining neighborhoods in White Rock, before moving to the townsite. The project could take up to 18 months to be fully installed.
Once the AMI is fully deployed and integrated into the billing system, near real-time information on consumption of electricity, gas, and water will be made available to both DPU and its customers through the AMI network. According to DPU officials, benefits to the customers and the department are many. Customers will be able to proactively monitor their usage online or on mobile devices, allowing them to better manage consumption and take control of utility bills. DPU will no longer need to send a meter technician to customers’ properties every 30 days to read DPU’s meters. Bills will be issued more consistently and their accuracy will be improved. The AMI system will also alert DPU and customers of unusual usage patterns, such as a water leak, in advance of bills.
Another advantage, subject to BPU and County Council adoption, is that DPU could make a variety of pricing options possible through the AMI network, such as Time-of-Use rates. If implemented, this would allow customers to have even more control over their monthly utility bills, by choosing to use electricity when rates are lower.
Frequently Asked Questions and additional information is available on the DPU website at www.rebrand.ly/DPU-AMI.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) operates the county-owned electric, gas, water and wastewater systems under the jurisdiction of the Board of Public Utilities. The BPU meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20 in Council Chambers at 1000 Central Ave. The public is invited to attend. DPU is funded by rates paid for electric, gas, water and wastewater services and auxiliary fees, and has provided the community with these services for more than 50 years. CustomerCare@lacnm.us | 505.662.8333 | www.losalamosnm.us/government/departments/UTILITIES