Oxford first for Duke's new green electric meters

Duke Energy will be able to track usage and pinpoint problems and be better for the environment.

OXFORD — Duke Energy installed the first of several thousand digital electric meters in Oxford on Thursday, Feb. 18, as part of an estimated $1 billion project for the company’s Ohio service area.

In the span of seven minutes, a Duke employee popped out three older electric meters and replaced them with what the company is referring to as “smart meters.” A total of 6,000 units will be replaced within Oxford by June, with the north side of the city getting upgraded first.

Tim Abbott, Duke spokesman, said the company is one of the first in the country to implement a “smart” grid. The digital meters will communicate with the company’s headquarters using digital cellular signals, sent via 900 communication nodes they will also be installing.

“Duke Energy is changing out century-old distribution systems to a new state-of-the-art digital two-way communication system,” Abbott said. “We’re bringing this technology to Oxford to benefit our customers, our company and the environment.”

Abbott said customers can expect to see “minimized costs” passed along as the work proceeds, but said they will cap at a certain point. The system allows Duke to remotely read electric meters, connect and disconnect service from afar and will pinpoint any power outages without the need for customers to phone the company.

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“With smart grid we’ll instantly know where the problem is at,” Abbott said.

“Power will redirect flow to isolate that area and minimize the number of customers that will be out of power. Our goal is to keep customers in power.”

Avery Adams, manager of the smart grid implementation, said every residential dwelling with a 200 amp meter will be receiving the new technology in the coming months. The average cost of swapping out the meters is close to $125 per unit, according to Adams.

“Smart meters are common, but the abilities of those meters really vary,”

Adams said. “We kind of feel like we’re a little bit ahead of everyone as ours is a complete smart grid system, not just a distribution and automation system.”

A rollout of the meters is expected to hit Middletown in 2011. Adams said all 800,000 customers in Ohio should expect to be using the new technology by 2015.

Duke has reportedly already replaced nearly 50,000 meters in various areas of Cincinnati.

The cutting-edge technology will serve to benefit numerous students and residents of the “small college town,” according to Vice Mayor Ken Bogard.

“This is a real showcase to choose Oxford as an example for the rest of the state of Ohio,” Bogard said.

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