The Arab Electric Cooperative board of trustees on Monday is expected to discuss the purchase of AMI – Automated Metering Infrastructure – or “smart metering.”

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) creates the ability to read and send information about electric usage to and from customers in real time.

“AMI will provide our members immediate information to assist with any system problems that occur with their meter,” said AEC general manager Stacey White.

“Earlier this year I said that, ‘working together we can build on our past, embrace our heritage, serve our members, and create the future utility we want to become,’” she said. “Creating the future utility we want to become includes installing smart meters or AMI meters.”

The project is expected to cost nearly $3 million and, if approved, would be installed likely in the first six months of 2021.

As it is, smart meters reach about 780 million customers and Arab Electric is planning to add approximately 16,000 to that number.

The system can give AEC precise information regarding the transmission of electricity from a customer’s home or business, allowing more accurate data to be provided.

Smart metering offers potential benefits to customers, including an end to estimated bills, which are a major source of complaints from many customers, a tool to help consumers better manage their energy purchases – smart meters with a display outside the residence can provide up-to-date information on electricity consumption and in doing so help people to manage their energy use and reduce their energy bills.

“The board has been discussing the project for many months,” White said.

AEC is in the process of negotiating and approving a contract with a smart meter company.

Once the smart meters are ordered, it’ll take about 12 weeks to get them here, get the software for them installed and get employees trained. That would be Phase 1.

The second phase will be installing the meters.

“We have contracted with a company to install the meters and we hope this phase can start by February,” White said.

AMI also will proactively troubleshoot problems before a member is a aware of a problem, according to AEC.

“Say you’re on a trip and gone for a week and you’re power goes out,” White said. “As it is now, you’d come home to a freezer that’s been off and all your food has to be thrown out.

“With smart meters, we will be able to detect the problem and send a truck out to get it fixed.”

Note: Tribune editor Charles Whisenant is a member of the Arab Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees.

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