Regulatory Agency Demands High Tech Meters



Cheap thrills peeking at topless babes in the back yard, garden gates left open, and dog bites will soon be things of the past for Idaho Power meter readers.

In fact, meter readers themselves will be passe’ thanks to automated meters which will be installed throughout Southwest Idaho over the next three years. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has directed the electrical utility to install the meters at an estimated cost of $71 million.

Rates will get adjusted to cover the investment of course, but the neat thing is that anyone with a computer will be able to monitor their power usage over the internet on a daily basis. They can see a bar graph showing high consumption times, increases due to the clothes dryer or savings from cutting the use of air conditioning and other products.

Using the existing electrical connection to your house, the company will be able to remotely switch the power off/on with no telephone, cable or radio connection. Folks in McCall and Emmett are already outfitted with the automated meters.

The PUC said in a statement, “the potential benefits of advanced metering to ratepayers and the company are too great to delay implementation.”

While the company will be able to instantly turn on the power to new customers, they will also be able to turn it off just as easily when people fail to pay their bills.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. Wasn’t technology going to change the world? But then I remember in grade school they told us the metric system was coming soon….

  2. So, when Idaho Power decides we are using too much power on those really hot August days, they can now just simply cut off the power!
    What a country!

  3. Ready Kilowatt
    Feb 18, 2009, 10:30 pm

    The thing the new meters make possible, but the PUC and Idaho Power haven’t allowed, is time of day pricing. That, combined with the new meters, would allow you to benefit from, say, running your water heater at 5 am, when spot rates are .02 / kwh, instead of the middle of the of the day when spot rates are .20 / kwh or higher. The europeans have been doing it since the early 90s.

    The new meters are a baby step in the right direction. Let’s hope the finish the journey.

  4. Oh, good. Now Idaho Power will be able to allow some old person to freeze to death in their own house because of forgetfulness in paying the bill.

  5. My house has had the new, remote-read meter for several years.
    One big advantage to it for those of us outside town is that we no longer have to leave the gate open on meter-reading days — which for many people has meant moving the horses, cows or whatever out of the pasture the lane passes through, penning up the dogs, maybe even warning the hands not to shoot strangers see wandering around in back of the house.
    While Cyclops’ dire prognostication is accurate, I doubt it would be used quite that way (you already can sign up to voluntarily let them turn off your air conditioner for a few minutes when power usage threatens to overload the circuits. The plan is they would cut off some people for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, then turn them back on and cut off some others, sort of rolling it along).
    These also will enable handling “rolling blackouts” the same way, even cutting off homes but not businesses, and especially not hospitals.
    Also eventually should have a way of people letting them know if someone in the house is using some electrical device that’s necessary at all times, such as certain breathing apparatus, etc.; that house could be left connected even when all the others around it are shut off for a few minutes.
    The system certainly could be misused and abused, but that seems highly unlikely (the power company doesn’t like being sued for killing someone by cutting off their oxygen supply or somesuch).
    And, yes, as Ready Kilowatt says, it would make it much easier to take advantage of time-of-day pricing.
    OMG, does this sound like I’m actually in favor of something? Damn! There goes my reputation!

  6. Sounds like to me if they get rid of the meter readers and all the rest of the staff it takes. Then isn’t that also a savings for them.
    Shouldn’t the power bills go down?
    I’m I just kidding myself that they would pass that savings on to us.

  7. Tom Anderson
    Feb 19, 2009, 11:07 am

    The conservative dinosaurs will shriek when you change anything, it is merely a reptillian reflex action.

    This is a good thing. The days of the “use all you want feast of energy” are over. We need to be able to manage what we have available, not just continue building more capacity for that one day in July when it hits 115 degrees, after a 75 degree night.

    Unless our economy continues to fall forever, oil prices are going to head for uncharted territory in the next year or two, and will drag all energy prices up as well. We are experiencing a paradigm shift where our old grand style of living is going away, to be replaced with a much simpler, lower energy, more localized system.

    The best thing to do is get ahead of the curve now. Hoping for a return to cheap energy is personal and societal suicide.

  8. “So, when Idaho Power decides we are using too much power on those really hot August days, they can now just simply cut off the power!
    What a country!”

    BINGO! This puts a lot of power in the hands of bureaucrats and none at all in ours, and we get to pay for it!

  9. JIMV:
    Yeah, but wouldn’t you rather have them cut it off for a few minutes each hour (house shouldn’t heat up a whole lot in a few minutes) than have it go off for hours from a major blackout when the circuits overload and go boom?

  10. I wonder how it will work for those of us that do not have phone lines activated in the home. The only phone I have is my cell phone, will I be forced to reactivate my phone lines to accomodate Idaho Powers device?

    EDITOR NOTE–Dirk, read it again. The existing power line actually is used to transmit the information without phone, cable, or radio links. All you need is an internet connection which you can do with your cell phone. I believe the technique is called “duplexing”…using the same wires for two purposes.

  11. “JIMV:
    Yeah, but wouldn’t you rather have them cut it off for a few minutes each hour (house shouldn’t heat up a whole lot in a few minutes) than have it go off for hours from a major blackout when the circuits overload and go boom?”

    This would be OK if that was all they did and they did it rarely. Instead they shut us down for hours on hot days mid day. Worse, my hobby is audio. I have some nice audio gear and the power company slamming the power on and off plays hell with decent gear. If they fry something they sure don’t pay for it.

  12. JMV:
    Yep, but that’s true with unplanned power outages, too.
    We have some of those here, so we have a gizmo to plug the computer and other gear into, then plug the gizmo into the wall. When the power goes off, the battery in the gizmo keeps power on long enough to allow a normal shutdown instead of kaboom.

    BTW, when they put the new meter on our house, they didn’t say anything about needing an Internet hookup.

    I can’t see in the story where it says you need an internet connection. Am I missing something?

  13. Tom Anderson
    Feb 23, 2009, 10:22 am

    If I remember correctly, the communication transmission is broadcast through the electric wiring that connects to the meter.

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