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Moving Forward with Smart Meters

The Greater Memphis Chamber and Memphis Light, Gas and Water have a great working relationship. When the Chamber is recruiting new business to Memphis, MLGW is usually a role player, helping to create an attractive utility package. Our low utility rates, the lowest in the nation I might add, help keep overhead costs down. Among other factors, powering a new office building, manufacturing plant or warehouse can have a major impact on a company’s bottom line.

The cost-analysis of start-up or relocation to Memphis is pretty straightforward. But, what about the intangibles? There are “quality-of-life” considerations that also influence decision-making. One is the innovative character of a city. I’d argue with everything being equal, City A will win out over City B every time because of A’s reputation for being progressive. Whether you’re talking about green initiatives, education, health or technology, leaders want to take advantage of the synergies incubated in a city that’s ahead of the pack. You may be thinking at this point, what does being a progressive city have to do with this blog’s title and smart meters? A lot. And Memphis is playing catch up—read on.

First, what is a smart meter? Smart meters are measurement devices. They measure energy consumption. Because they have built-in communication, they can provide on-demand feedback about usage and will allow MLGW to automate many services such as meter reading, connection and reconnection. Reduced labor (through attrition) and transportation costs will mean reduced fees — up to 50 percent depending on the service — for our ratepayers.

The savings on fees are significant, but the real “bang for your buck” is the information the smart meters can provide. Utilizing an intricate and secure mesh network, MLGW will be able to empower customers to make informed decisions about their energy use. Instead of waiting until the end of the month for a bill, individual and corporate customers will be able to review their usage daily and adjust their energy use if they so choose. Will they? Findings from our 1,000 participant electric smart meter pilot program indicate customers will choose to save. On average, customers reduced their electric usage by 2.3 percent. Participants on voluntary time-of-use rates saved more than double that figure at 5.62 percent, equated to $82.68 annual monetary savings.

Right now, MLGW has more than 1.1 million antiquated analog meters in service. (Meter manufactures no longer make analog meters.) A 2.5 percent reduction of consumption at full smart meter deployment could collectively save MLGW customers $10 million annually. A 2010 Younger and Associates Economic Impact Study reported $10 million in utility savings among customers would create 152 jobs through increased discretionary spending in the community.

Across the United States, there are 37 million smart meters installed in households today. Full deployment would move us forward in comparison to other utilities in Tennessee and neighboring states:

• Electric Power Board, Chattanooga, TN, 170,000 smart meters, 100% of total meters
• Gibson County Electric, Gibson County, TN, 35,000, 100% of total meters
• CDE Electric, Clarksville, TN, 31,000+, 100% of total meters
• Bolivar Energy Authority, Bolivar, TN, 11,000+, 100% of total meters
• Volunteer Energy Cooperative, Polk County, TN, 112,000 meters, 99% of total meters
• North Georgia E.M.C., 99,000 meters, 99% of total meters
• Nashville Electric Service, Nashville, TN, 30,000 smart meters
• Knoxville Utilities Board, Knoxville, TN, 4,200 smart meters
MLGW, which services Tennessee’s largest county, has a mere 1,200 smart meters or 0.2 percent deployment. Customers with smart meters are experiencing enhanced services including automated outage notification, increased security (they no longer have to keep their gates unlocked on meter reading day) and the option to prepay for their utilities.

It’s time for Memphis to move forward with smart meters—it’s about empowerment, jobs, new business, energy efficiency, and progress.

--Jerry Collins Jr., President and CEO, Memphis Light, Gas and Water

After more than 10 years of research advanced metering technology, its applicability to MLGW operations and customer benefits, MLGW is adopting electric, gas and water smart meters as its metering standard. It is expected to take about seven years to replace the more than one million meters in MLGW’s system, including the build-out of a mesh radio network to cover Shelby County. The cost of replacing those meterswill be borne by MLGW’s operating budget, through the savings derived by avoided costs, including position cuts through attrition.

As smart meters are scheduled for installation in an area, customers will receive advance notice and have the choice to opt-out and retain their existing meters. Nationally, where opt-out choice is available, an average 1% of customers elect to opt-out.

The only difference between a smart meter and any other meter type is the communications. All meters measure consumption. Smart meters have two-way communications to send that data to the utility daily, rather than requiring a monthly manual meter reading. Nothing in the smart meter’s measurement process enables it to identify specifically what equipment or appliances are using the power, only how much power is being used. Smart meters cannot control usage, but they can provide customers with quicker access to more detailed information, which customers can use to make informed decisions. Participants in MLGW’s Smart Grid Demonstration reduced their electricity use by an average 2.3% compared to the control group. Participants who adopted the optional Time-of-Use rate reduced their electricity use even more, by 5.6% on average. There was no direct control by MLGW, just decisions by customers based on greater amounts of information. Smart meters are about choices, not control.

Learn more about MLGW’s smart meter initiative at You’ll find customer testimonials, Board and City Council presentations and many facts that can help you separate myth from reality.
6/14/2013 11:48:33 AM

The full picture is not being presented by Mr. Collins and MLGW. There is a lot more to the story, the concept and technology work as long as the company behind does NOT have a behavior agenda and gives the home or business owner the right to Opt-in not Opt-out, which is a Hugh difference. The smart meters they are buying can determine what consumption you are using and they can regulate the behavior by controlling the usage. For say air conditioning or heating if theY desire, but they will tell you they cannot. There are smart meters that don't require you to have a box wired into your fuse panel to register what appliances are pulling what amount of energy. The other part of the story is what it is going to cost to buy and install not only the electric meters but water meters and gas meters and who is going to pay for all of the estimated $250 million that is said to be as much as 4 times that much or 1 billion dollars. If you go to the hearings you find this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you need to look at private property rights and how this violates the owners rights. This is to deep of a subject for a blog and it is being just pushed right through. I will never trust MLGW to install any smart meter on my property.
5/29/2013 9:56:41 PM

Les Risner
Bring on the smart meters! Back in the late 80's, (in Phoenix, AZ) I had a "load controller" on my meter that saved me money by helping the utility company control peak demand. To survive in a competitive global economy, we must be cost efficient. None of us will like the end result of a "high cost" City.
Les Risner
5/29/2013 6:19:09 PM

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (