The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is seeking approval from the Los Alamos County Council 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. AMI infrastructure includes electric smart meters, and communication modules that attach to the natural gas and water meters. Councilors will consider the request at a council meeting at 6 p.m., Dec. 18, in Council Chambers, 1000 Central Ave., Los Alamos, NM.
The AMI contract is making its way to Council, after the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved it last month. At the Nov. 20 meeting, BPU members also approved a provision to allow customers concerned with privacy, the ability to opt out of the AMI project with no additional monthly fees. As the DPU is a county-owned utility, incremental consumption data that is collected through the AMI may be subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).
Procedures for opting out will be developed by the DPU and taken back to the BPU for approval.
Should the Council approve awarding the contract Dec. 18, AMI equipment will be ordered so that crews may begin the process of switching out approximately 8,000 existing electric meters for electric smart meters and attaching communication modules to 14,000 existing gas and water meters as soon as June or July 2019. DPU’s contractor will commence the process in Pajarito Acres, progress to La Senda and then finish up 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 customers through a customer portal.
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 reader 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, customers would have 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.