naperville smart grid initiative

Posted on 08/03/2012 05:48 PM, by Naperville Maps

For over a century, the City of Naperville has operated, owned, and maintained its electric utility and all the equipment associated with it such as the meters in buildings and homes.  Naperville’s electric utility is a $356 million asset to the City and Naperville has come up with a new program to improve the efficiency of this utility.  The Naperville Smart Grid initiative (NSGI) is an upgrade to Naperville’s electric network in which the meters will be replaced with digital wireless smart meters.  The new smart meters can measure energy usage in near-real time and transmit data directly to the City’s electric utility through the wireless grid.  This system is meant to give customers more awareness and control on their energy usage and improve efficiency while reducing costs. 

                The Naperville Smart Grid Initiative took effect in January 2012 with City officials starting to visit homes and businesses to replace electric meters with the smart meters.  The City will install the meters by area with a procedure to keep the residents and businesses in a certain area well informed on the NSGI and when the new meters will be installed.  Six to eight weeks before installation, residents and businesses receive a letter in the mail with NSGI information and the date and time of an open house about the NSGI that takes place three weeks prior to meter installation.  The open houses are an opportunity for the customers to talk directly to City staff and Ambassadors about the smart meters.  Customers should receive a post card informing them of the date and time of meter installation about two or three weeks before installation. 

                One the day of installation, it is not necessary for the customer to be present as the installation should only take up to fifteen minutes.  A contractor from Utility Partners of America (UPA) will arrive in a clearly marked vehicle and introduce him or herself before beginning the installation if the customer is present.  The electricity will be disconnected for about five or ten minutes while the meter is replaced.  After the installation, customers have the ability to access and control their energy usage on an ePortal website or they can do nothing and continue to use and pay their electric bill like before. 

The Naperville Smart Grid Initiative has many benefits for both customers and the City.  The ability to access information about energy usage allows customers to use their electricity more efficiently.  The smart grid will also provide more reliable service and can communicate problems to the central command center and even fix some problems, eliminating the need for sending a technician.  There are tools available such as home energy displays, smart phone apps, and programmable thermostats for customers to monitor and control their energy usage.  Old meters have analog dials that have to be read by a person and entered manually to be electrically transmitted for billing purposes while the smart grid monitors energy use with much more accuracy.  The NSGI is also economically friendly because of their lower rates, high reliability, and the job creation that resulted. 

Some Naperville residents have expressed concern over the NSGI, mostly regarding privacy and exposure to radio frequency.  The privacy concern is that smart meters monitor too much activity in people’s homes.  The meters have been approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and only monitor energy usage.  The smart grid is protected with the most up-to-date network data security to ensure privacy for all data that passes through the system.  The other concern is exposure to radio frequency.  The smart meters are relatively low frequency and there are no mainstream studies that show a correlation between adverse health effects and exposure to radio frequency.  The City of Naperville has plenty of information available on the NSGI system and its many benefits.  

Read more from the official Site of the city of Naperville and the Naperville smart grid initiative home page.

(Map detailing the smart meter installation schedule throughout Naperville; mobile friendlier version available at http://bit.ly/nsgimeterreplacement)

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