Just seven months after the launch of its system-wide upgrade of natural gas meters, Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has successfully installed more than a quarter million advanced meters for customers in five counties. In all, SoCalGas plans to upgrade six million natural gas meters through 2017, adding a small communication device to customer meters on a carefully planned schedule throughout its service territory.
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“We are pleased by the effective introduction and smooth progress of the advanced meter project, the largest capital project in SoCalGas history,” said Patrick Lee, senior vice president of customer service, innovation and business strategy and chief environmental compliance officer at SoCalGas. “We expect advanced meter technology will enhance customer service and safety, increase energy conservation, and improve our operational efficiencies. By giving customers tools and more accurate and timely information to help them better manage their energy use, this much-needed upgrade will benefit our customers, our communities and the environment.”
From now until the expected project completion in 2017, SoCalGas customers from Los Angeles to Visalia may soon be seeing the familiar SoCalGas logo on trucks and blue uniformed technicians in their neighborhoods as crews begin advanced meter installations throughout the SoCalGas service territory, a 20,000-mile area that covers central and Southern California, from Fresno County to the Mexican border.
Since initiating advanced meter installations in southeast Los Angeles County in October 2012, SoCalGas has moved steadily forward and expects to be installing in several service regions by the end of 2013, including metro Los Angeles, and Kern, Riverside, San Bernardino, Tulare and Ventura counties. Throughout the process, SoCalGas customers and communities have been informed by frequent mailings, notices and emails, notifying them several weeks before installations begin. In addition, specially trained SoCalGas outreach teams have engaged civic groups and local leaders, communicating benefits, features and community installation schedules. SoCalGas is also working closely with local community-based organizations to help customers learn about the project.
The new advanced meter device is markedly different from electric smart meters and only turns on for a fraction of a second a day—a total of less than two minutes a year—to securely and safely send natural gas usage data from a customer’s home or business to SoCalGas customer centers. Shortly after the advanced meter is installed, customers will go live and SoCalGas will make the usage information available for the customer to view online the next business day.
“SoCalGas is continually innovating and looking for ways to better serve our customers,” said Patrick Petersilia, director of the advanced meter project at SoCalGas. “Advanced meters will help customers monitor and adjust gas usage, helping families and local businesses save energy and money. They also will help reduce some 140,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year as we take service vehicles off the road every day.”
The 15-minute upgrade process involves adding a small battery-powered communication device on existing residential and business customers’ meters. The detailed information advanced meters provide will help customers better understand and manage gas use and costs, enabling them to quickly identify and respond to sudden usage spikes and take steps to conserve.
Customers also will enjoy greater privacy and security, no longer having to provide physical access to their property for monthly meter reading. Installations will be completed by SoCalGas energy technicians during business hours, and in most cases, customers will not need to be present and natural gas service won’t be interrupted. Natural gas bills will continue to be based on a monthly read of usage.
Unlike electrical smart meters, the advanced meter device cannot communicate with other appliances inside the home, turn on or turn off gas service and will only be active for a fraction of a second each day to read and send gas usage data. No personal information will be sent and usage data will be encrypted for added security. The battery life of the device is expected to be 20 years, with SoCalGas providing any needed maintenance. SoCalGas expects the advanced meter system will enable significant operational and environmental savings over its life—savings that will be passed along to customers in reduced overall rates.
SoCalGas supports customer choice and recognizes that some customers may prefer to have their gas meter manually read each month. Those who have questions or would like to decline an advanced meter installation are asked to call the SoCalGas Customer Contact Center at (800) 427-2200 or (800) 342-4545 in Spanish. For more comprehensive information about advanced meters, customers also can visit socalgas.com/advanced. A SoCalGas advanced meter installation video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI04jL12qC4.