In a little more than 10 days, Pacific Power representatives will swarm through town to replace old analog electricity meters with so-called smart meters that will enable customers to see nearly real-time power consumption.

The team will start in Bend, move northward and hopes to be done by the fall, replacing 76,000 meters across Central Oregon.

To date, 116 Central Oregon customers have opted out of the program and will stick with their analog meters.

The replacement program is part of a statewide rollout that began in January 2018 in Independence, in southwest Oregon, and affects 590,000 customers. Statewide, less than 1 percent have opted not have to have their meters replaced, said Matt Chancellor, Pacific Power regional business manager for Central Oregon.

Customers who opt to keep their analog meter can pay an additional $36 a month for monthly manual readings, or $9 per month for meter reading three times a year, according to the company’s website.

The cost of installing the smart meters statewide is $117.5 million. Pacific Power will recoup that cost through savings realized with the technology, a Pacific Power spokeswoman said.

“We’re really happy with the smart meters,” Chancellor said. “It’s part of our commitment to meet our energy goals into the future.”

Pacific Power anticipates filing a general rate case in March 2020 for new rates effective Jan. 1, 2021. At that time the embedded cost of manual meter reads will be removed from rates.

In January, the utility announced that it would pass along savings of about $4 per month to customers in Oregon, Washington and California because of savings from the federal tax cut that reduced annual operating expenses.

Oregon is one of six states in the Pacific Power coverage area to install the improved technology. The replacement program began in Southern Oregon and is about two-thirds complete, said Cory Estlund, Pacific Power’s manager of AMI operations.

“We’ll know immediately when there’s an outage,” Chancellor said. “There will be quicker response. Now, if there’s an outage, we rely on the customers to report it and it takes time to find out where to send crews.”

Some customers, in reaction to the replacement of meters, objected because of concerns about possible health effects from the technology. Smart meters have been around since 2009, according to whatissmartgrid.org. The meters transmit information on power usage to the utility by radio, which is a low-frequency transmission and requires less energy than cellphones or microwave ovens, according to the consumer-­oriented website.

Installers from Aclara will arrive between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. starting April 29, Chancellor said. Customers should have received letters in the mail and will receive a reminder phone call before installation. Installers will knock on customers’ doors and then swap out the meters. Total power disruption should be no more than five minutes, according to Pacific Power.

Customers will need to access their accounts on a smart phone app or on their computers to track their power usage. Account access should be available six weeks after installation is complete.

Pacific Power serves more than 740,000 customers in Oregon, Washington and California.

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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