Even though each of the four Louisiana smart grid projects includes smart meters, the devices are not all exactly the same. In Lafayette, in addition to the electric meters getting replaced, residents will also get water meters. And the smart meters designed for Lafayette’s system will likely differ slightly from the ones installed in say, Ruston or Pineville, said system designers and utility officials.
Cleco Power spokeswomen Robbyn Cooper, who calls the project a system upgrade, says, “I want to be very careful because people use the word, smart meter, and they use it interchangeably with different things. I want to make sure we don’t oversell what we’re offering.” Officials report that the deployment will not add any costs to customers.
The Lafayette Utilities and Entergy New Orleans projects will include additional features such as in-home display devices, Andrew Duhon, the customer and support services manager at Lafayette Utilities, told 2theAdvocate.com. “We’ll have at least 1,000 in-home display devices that are paid for by the project that will allow customers to have that information, really, in their home.” Lafayette Utilities has not yet decided which of its 65,000 customers will get the in-home display devices.
The Entergy New Orleans “Smart View” project will provide 4,700 low- or moderate-income homes with the new smart meters, with 2,900 of those customers getting the in-home display devices, said spokesmen Philip Allison.
In Ruston, engineers are designing a complete smart grid system that will include equipment, software, and new meters for all customers, as well as charging stations for several city-owned electric vehicles.
The smart meters will give utilities more information related to outages and what parts of the service area are the heaviest users of power, says Robbyn Cooper. “It will help us better manage our electric system. When we say better manage, it means it’s going to help us improve our operation of the system and increase our reliability. And what that means is we’re going to better manage our load, which helps us plan for future system upgrades if we know more detailed usage information.”
Dale Pennington, managing director and executive consultant at Utiliworks, which Ruston contracted to handle the project explains to 2theAdvocate.com, “Now, it’s kind of like a living and breathing thing where 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week you’re understanding the complete demands of the environment that you’re trying to service. So it’s a lot, lot different than the old world.”
Duhon adds that when customers are more in touch with their power usage they manage it more effectively. “That’s an important aspect of all of this, customer education. By and large, we’re kinda blessed with relatively low power costs in Louisiana and so the incentive for a customer to educate himself about his utilities is not as strong as if you live in say, the West Coast or the Eastern Seaboard, where you end up paying twice as much per kilowatt hour as we pay here. But there’s still a need for us to educate customers.”