CL&W to accept bids for new meters

April 22, 2013 9:17:07 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


Inadequate performance in the automatic meter system Columbus Light and Water intended to install for all its customers will necessitate restarting the bid-seeking process for a new meter provider, CL&W General Manager Todd Gale said after the board of directors' most recent meeting April 18. 


Responding to that need, the board unanimously approved to issue requests for proposal for automated water and electrical meter system manufacturers to offer their services. Gale said CL&W would advertise next month before bringing recommended candidates back before the board during its June meeting to make a selection. A three-month process to install the backbone of the communication system for the meters would begin in July, Gale said. 


"After that's installed, you can start installing water meters, which will take about six months," Gale told directors. "That puts you at a year from today." 


One difference between the system that didn't work and the one CL&W now seeks is the communication system itself. Sensus, the company initially selected for the city's smart meter project, is a radio-based system where meter data is reported directly to towers, Gale said. His preference is to switch to a web-based metering system that would allow households and business owners to remotely control energy use over an Internet connection, he said. 


That switch would better suit CL&W distributor Tennessee Valley Authority's own switch from a flat rate to a time-of-use rate by allowing customers to better monitor their usage, Gale said. For households who take advantage of electric companies' monthly pre-pay offers, knowing how much power is being used is important, he said. 


"They would get a text saying based on their usage they've got two days left," he said. "If they have three or four days (until they) get paid, hopefully they're going to conserve to get over that hump. It just puts more power in their hands." 


The city will contract with Siemens for testing and installing water meters after the backbone of the communication system is complete. Electric meters would be installed in house after the water meters, he said. 


A previous Dispatch article reported that the energy efficiency program was approximately $6 million and CL&W had already tested 500 electric and water meters.

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.