NIPSCO upgrading to automatic meter reading system
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent January 28, 2013 4:08PM
Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO has launched a pilot program that allows customers to designate a portion, or all, of their monthly electric usage to be attributable to power generated by renewable energy sources, such as wind power. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 2, 2013 6:17AM
NIPSCO announced Monday it will begin installing an automated meter reading system for all its natural gas and electric customers in February, which will mean an end to estimated bills and meter readers entering customers’ homes or yards.
The new AMR meters will allow Northern Indiana Public Service Co. employees to gather monthly readings through a receiver mounted in a NIPSCO vehicle, eliminating the need for a meter reader to walk door-to-door.
The new technology, which represents a $90 million investment by the Merrillville-based utility, will be installed at no cost to customers, NIPSCO spokeswoman Kathleen Szot said.
“The new technology will help avoid inconvenience and intrusions associated with entering customers’ yards or homes. It also will improve our employees’ safety by eliminating many of the common obstacles our meter readers face, such as inclement weather, dog bites and tripping hazards,” NIPSCO Chief Operating Officer Mike Finissi said in a prepared statement.
The company added that these are not the same as smart readers, which transmit information through a wireless communication network. The AMR receivers collect only meter readings; not personal account information.
Szot said the new technology will be installed on all 900,000 gas and electric meters throughout the company’s service area in northern Indiana by 2016. The first installations will begin in late February in South Haven.
“We wanted to start with a densely populated area, and we have 3,000 gas and electric customers in South Haven. This helps us to make sure every step involved in the process goes well,” Szot said.
She said no specific time frame has been set for other installations.
She said customers will receive a letter in advance of the meter change and technicians will carry photo IDs, wear uniforms and drive marked vehicles. She said local police departments will also be informed ahead of time.
The installation process will take about 20 minutes for an electric meter, less for gas, Szot said. There may be a brief interruption of service during the switch, she said.
Due to the high volume of work, NIPSCO has selected Metadigm, a national utility services company, to complete the installations in partnership with about 60 technicians from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 697 in Merrillville.
“We are pleased to provide job opportunities for new IBEW members to successfully complete this project for NIPSCO, and our hope is that the arrangement will be replicated around the rest of the country,” IBEW representative Ray Kasmark said.
NIPSCO said the new technology will allow a meter reader to collect 6,300 readings in four hours, compared to 300 readings now.
Szot said no job loss will occur as a result of this upgrade. She said current meter readers will either continue with the driving routes or will be placed elsewhere within the company.