Southern Company announced on March 5 that it had reached a major milestone when it installed its one-millionth smart meter. Eventually, the biggest utility company in the South-eastern United States will have 4.4 million smart meters installed.
Southern Company has more than 42 gigawatts of generating capacity and is one of the biggest suppliers of energy in the United States. It owns electric utilities located in four states and fibre optics and wireless communications technologies. For nine straight years, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has ranked Southern Company the top American electric service provider in terms of customer satisfaction.
Southern Company’s smart meter program utilizes smart grid technology to provide enhanced service to its customers while reducing operating costs at the same time. The regional utility will have the basic infrastructure in place so it can deploy other smart grid features in the future. However, the utility, its customers, and the environment will all benefit right away.
Southern Company began installing smart meters in January of last year for its subsidiaries including Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Mississippi Power, and Gulf Power. The company is averaging 4,500 installations a day.
With more efficient operations, Southern Company can lower utility rates for its customers. It will also reduce the number of vehicles in its fleet by at least 500 since personnel won’t have to perform meter reads any longer. This will result in 12.5 million fewer miles driven annually and a reduced carbon footprint.
Once the system is fully operational, customers will be able to monitor and manage their energy usage through their smart meters. Consumers can develop energy conserving habits by studying their historical consumption data and make money-saving decisions regarding how they use power. Southern Company also plans to introduce innovative rate plans.
The utility is deploying a smart meter network built upon Sensus FlexNet technology that allows for a number of advanced features including remote meter reading, remote connect and disconnect, bi-directional communications, and automated outage detection.
“Southern Company continues to be an industry leader in adopting technology that benefits customers while reducing environmental impact,” said David Ratcliffe, the company CEO. “The company’s progress in the smart meter program underscores our commitment to customer service and environmental responsibility.”
Southern Company has a number of other programs underway aimed at reducing environmental impact. Both Alabama Power and Georgia Power have launched pilot programs aimed at discovering the best way to use solar cells in the hot and humid South-eastern states. Georgia Power recently applied for permission to convert a power plant near Albany, Georgia into one that generates solely biomass power. If approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission, the biomass plant will generate 96 megawatts of power and will be the largest biomass power plant in the country.
“Southern Company believes that a diverse portfolio of solutions will be necessary to reduce CO2 emissions from power generation,” said Tom Fanning, COO of Southern Company at the Southern States Energy Board’s annual stakeholders’ meeting. “As there is no single answer, we are pursuing a number of CO2 reduction strategies including increasing energy efficiency and conservation, bringing more renewables online, and deploying new nuclear and clean coal technologies.”
Southern Company 30 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. NW Atlanta, GA 30308 http://www.southerncompany.com
Sensus Metering Systems 8601 Six Forks Road – Suite 300 Raleigh, NC 27615 http://www.sensus.com