COOS COUNTY — Starting this month, 25,000 smart meters are being installed in homes throughout Coos County.
To help educate the public on what this means, Pacific Power held a workshop at The Mill Casino-Hotel on Thursday.
“We’ve been doing these workshops in communities where smart meters are being rolled out, giving people a chance to have questions answered and talk to experts face-to-face,” said Lisa Scholin, public relations contractor on behalf of Pacific Power.
According to a press release, “In all, Pacific Power will replace 590,000 meters in communities across the state from now through fall 2019.”
During the workshop, Regional Business Manager Sam Carter for Pacific Power explained that all of this began two years ago.
“We’ve looked at how we can adopt this technology, which has been around for 15 years,” he said. “It’s not new. We looked at it as helping to increase the efficiency of our business, save cost and keep our rates low.”
In fact, Oregon Energy Green analyst, Jason Turner, stood next to one of the new smart meters and pointed out that 70 million have already been installed throughout the United States. Most of the east coast already has smart meters.
“We skipped the first three versions of the smart meter,” Turner said. “When you hear people talk about them, you hear about fires, but those were the early versions.”
Once installed, these smart meters will send information to Pacific Power once every 45 minutes. Sending that information, Turner said, will take a fraction of a second.
“It’s not a constant conversation with Pacific Power,” he said. “It’s an x-amount of minutes and says that this home used two kilowatts, then three more, or that it didn’t use anything. It doesn’t care if it’s the washing machine. It is just power that was used.”
There are two main benefits for updating the meters. Carter said one major benefit is Pacific Power’s outage response.
“Meters will communicate with us when we have an outage in the area,” he said. “Now we largely rely on people to call when their power is out. We get some calls and have to decipher where the outage is and send a serviceman out to inspect. Now we will know exactly who is out in the area and respond with more information and get the lights on more quickly.”
The other main benefit is that the change will give homeowners more visibility into their electrical usage.
“When you get your bill, you can see how much energy you used in the last 30 days,” Carter said. “With a smart meter, you can see hour-by-hour how much energy you used and can look back throughout the month. If it spikes, you’ll know that maybe your hot water heater is malfunctioning. Homeowners will be more knowledgeable about their usage.”
Though the change seems positive for customers and Pacific Power, a small gathering of protesters held signs across the street as the workshop took place.
Some told The World they didn’t want to see the smart meters installed due to radio waves and side effects it allegedly causes.
During the workshop, Coos County resident Bruce Beauchamp argued that there may be possible sleep disturbances.
However, Carter was aware of these concerns and of the protesters, saying that Pacific Power has heard from customers about this and it is partly what led to the event.
“The health of our customers is utmost,” he said. “We aren’t going to install something that will harm their health. The meters transport low-frequency waves, but have a station here at the workshop showing it to be less than other appliances like cell phones, microwaves, baby monitors and internet hot spots.”
Smart meter installations will continue for another three to four months in Coos County.
“The physical changing of the meter is less than five minutes and does require a short outage,” Carter said. “It is unplugging the old meter and plugging the new one in. It takes time because the installer will knock on the door, get in touch with the homeowner if they’re home and let them shut down appliances they have.”
For more information, call 866-869-8520.