The electric company, based out of Pineville, was awarded a $20 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) in May 2010 to help offset the costs. The price tag for Cleco itself was steep, $52.9 million of its own money to finish paying for the project.
But, after getting the grant and then, in 2011, receiving approval from the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC), Cleco has moved forward with the project.
“The new meters improve Cleco’s service and reliability by creating efficiencies relating to the new communication network,” said Robbyn Cooper, senior communications representative, in a statement.
The system upgrade, as Cleco has labeled it, will do five things for Cleco and its consumers:
1. It will allow Cleco Power the opportunity to utilize the $20 million DOE Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG).
2. It will provide data necessary to respond to electric demand changes, perform remote connections and disconnection and reduce energy theft.
3. It will provide power quality monitoring data to improve distribution system performance.
4. It will provide accurate outage monitoring to improve reliability.
5. Finally, it will optimize asset utilization, productivity and operational efficiency.
“The new meters will help Cleco provide better service,” said Cooper. “This will be achieved through the technology used by the meters and communication infrastructure.”
For example, Cooper pointed out how customers moving into a new residence powered by Cleco will now not have to wait for an appointment to get the electricity turned on at their residence.
Furthermore, in its application to the LPSC, Cleco asserted that its AMI Project is the company’s first step toward modernization of distributing its resources as well as preparing the way for smart grid technologies.
After receiving approval from the LPSC, Cleco began replacing its existing meters with the new “smart” meters. It has been a process that has been going on, according to Cooper for about a year now and is projected to be completed in 2013.
“The system upgrade began in mid-2012,” she said.
The “smart” meters recently made their way into Acadia Parish for installation, which may have some customers worried that things will need to be changed or will change. Cooper assures customers, however, that things will remain at status quo, and that the cost of the installation will not fall on the customers.
“Customers will not pay any additional costs for this system upgrade,” she said. “Program cost savings through efficiencies created through the new system make the system upgrade possible.
“Cleco, like any other business, must periodically upgrade equipment to continue offering reliable power and good services to our customers.
“Customers do not need to do anything different when the meters are installed. There will simply be a different meter on your home. It will still measure electricity use and does not require you to do anything. You will easily be able to read your meter now because it will have a digital display. You may want to try reading it at the same time each day to track your own usage. This can be helpful if you are trying to see which activities use the most electricity.”
Cooper also explained that because it is a simple system upgrade, the company will knock on doors as they are changing meter.
And customers do not need to worry about whether the new meters work, as Cleco has tested them and continues to test them.
“More than 80,000 electronic meters, including 15,000 communicating meters, have been active on Cleco’s system for years,” said Cooper. “These meters have proven to be very accurate. To verify and ensure this accuracy, and to give customers an extra measure of confidence, each new meter will be factory tested, and Cleco will also test a sample of the new meters.”