Frequently Asked Questions about Grid Modernization

Frequently Asked Questions about Grid Modernization

Common questions about our Grid Modernization project.

Below you will find many common questions about PUD 3’s Grid Modernization Project. If you have further questions, please give us a call at (360) 426-8255.

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Much of our electric distribution system was built in the mid-1900s. Many of the meters we use today have changed little over the last 75 years. They’ve reached the end of their lifespan and need to be updated. Advanced metering helps us deliver electric services more efficiently and put our customers in greater control of their energy use. 

An advanced meter collects energy-use information, measured in kilowatt hours, just as today’s meters do. The energy-use information is sent to PUD 3 through a secure wireless network, where it’s safely and securely stored on PUD 3 servers for customer billing. Meter readers will no longer need to visit homes and businesses to manually record information every month. Customer billing, which today is done every 28-35 days will occur over a more consistent timeframe. 

If you are a PUD 3 customer, you will receive a new meter. We’ll tell you well in advance of installing meters.

You’ll be able to see your daily energy-use information, which helps you make more informed energy-related decisions. Knowing when you use the most electricity, and finding ways to reduce consumption, can help you to reduce costs. As they say, knowing is half the battle! 

The new meters also provide efficiencies for the PUD, creating cost savings that can help stabilize rates. In the future, advanced metering will be able to tell us how much electricity is being used and where it’s going. This will help us better understand the power grid and more efficiently manage the distribution system. 

 

What happens when the power goes out and no one is around to report it?

The advanced meters quickly notify PUD 3 when a meter loses power. We don't even need you to call us anymore! Our 24-hour system monitoring team will see the alert and dispatch a lineman to investigate.

Mason County Christian School benefitted from this system over Christmas break. Watch the video below to hear their story.

Today, PUD 3 meter readers drive more than 75,000 miles a year throughout the Mason County to collect customer data. All that driving represents 37 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. With fewer meter-reading vehicles on the road, PUD 3 will have a smaller impact on carbon emissions, which is a great partnership with our already 97% carbon-free electricity!

The advanced metering system will also allow PUD 3 to manage the electric grid more efficiently, reducing energy losses (waste).

We are serious when it comes to protecting the personal information of our customers. Personally identifying information (such as name, address, or account number) is not stored in the meter, nor is it sent through the wireless network. Only the meter number and the amount of energy a customer uses will be collected. 

Once the information is safely delivered to the secure side of PUD 3’s data center, the meter number is matched up with customer information and the billing is processed.

 

With energy-use information traveling through a wireless network, it is important that we maintain customer privacy and protect the system. The advanced metering network will have multiple layers of protection, similar to security used with online banking and ATM machines. All information will be secure and protected through encryption within the network. 

Protecting our customers’ information is a top priority. Your energy-use information can be viewed only by:

  • You. You’ll be able to access your password protected account online to view your daily energy-use information.
  • Authorized PUD 3 personnel. Access to customer information is restricted to PUD 3 staff who need the information to handle service, billing issues or electrical service delivery. These are the same personnel who currently have access to your account information. We will continue to comply with public disclosure laws, just as we do today. 

Advanced metering uses low-energy radio frequency waves to send customers’ energy-use information to PUD 3 through a secure wireless network. Radio frequency is a form of electromagnetic energy that moves through the space around us. It is used with many everyday devices such as baby monitors, cell phones, and Wi-Fi routers. Advanced meters result in much lower levels of radio frequency exposure than many common household electric devices. In fact, exposure levels are many times lower than with a cell phone held to the ear. Read more about radio frequency and advanced meters on our Meter Details page. 

After extensive research and consultation with leading experts, we are confident advanced meters are safe. The science shows that radio frequency emissions typical of many common household devices, like advanced meters, do not affect health (SOURCE: California Council on Science and Technology, 2011).

Radio frequency emissions from advanced meters are far below the limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). One study for the state of Vermont found that radio frequency levels at one foot from the meter are about 1,500 times below the exposure limits (SOURCE: Richard Tell Associates, Inc., 2013). 

Mason PUD 3 has been studying Grid Modernization since 1995.

PUD 3 has set aside $7 million for the project, some of which came from a bond sale six years ago. Studies show that the project should provide nearly $15 million in savings over ten years.

The main purpose is for a more efficient use of energy on the distribution system, better outage response and customer notification, future access by customers to manage their accounts and check their use of energy, and the efficiency of automatic meter reading. 

Just like the meters we are replacing, PUD 3 will own the new meters when they are installed. The customer owns the meter base to which the meter connects. Every meter base will be inspected before installation to check for existing safety hazards. If we find a problem, there will be time for repairs, if needed. 

Utility meter fires are rare, but have occurred. Thankfully, none at PUD 3. The few that occur are typically caused not by the meter itself, but by the meter bases overheating from loose connections or power overloading conditions. This can happen with an old mechanical meter or a new advanced meter.

Every meter base will be inspected before installation to check for existing safety hazards. If we find a problem, there will be time for repairs, if needed. This process will help to uncover potentially hazardous meter bases that may exist within Mason County, and make repairs to ensure they are safe for the future. 

Meter Base Repair Release Form

Customers have the choice to opt out of receiving an advanced meter. If you choose to opt out, you will pay for meter reading service — which means a person will be required to drive to your account location every other month. PUD 3 has more information about the Opt Out program here.

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