Automatic metering in future plans for Plymouth Utilities

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The meter reader could become a relic of the past in the city in a few years.

City Administrator/Utilities Manager Brian Yerges and Phil Hansen of WPPI outlined plans to convert Plymouth Utilities to an advanced metering system for the City Council’s Public Works and Utilities Committee Tuesday.

The system would utilize new solid-state meters with two-way communication that would automatically transmit usage data to a collection point at the Plymouth Utilities operations center.

“We don’t know what it’s going to cost, but I believe in Sturgeon Bay it was about $2 million,” to install the system, Yerges told the committee. He added that the Sturgeon Bay public utility is similar in size to Plymouth Utilities.

“A lot of the cost will be in software and that side, but the bulk will be in the metering,” Hansen explained.

The utilities had initially included the cost of initiating the system in a bond issue several years ago, Yerges noted. But that money was used for other needs, such as the new water tower and well.

Now, the city is looking at scheduling the project in the near future as the next priority for Plymouth Utilities, Yerges said.

“This is modernizing your utilities, how you interact with customers and collect data,” Yerges said of the automatic metering system.

“The value is in all the extra stuff you get,” Hansen told the committee.

The system eliminates the need for individual meter reading, he said, but it goes well beyond that.

The system allows for much more detailed and specific analysis of usage data for both residential and business customers, according to Hansen.

Greater implementation of time-of-use rates for utilities, leading to cost savings for customers and Plymouth Utilities, was one example he cited.

The system would also enable Plymouth Utilities to react more quickly to emergencies, power outages, alarms and other incidents than under the current system.

It can also help the utilities alert individual customers to excess usage of electricity or water, which could be signs of leaks or faulty appliances, more quickly, he added.

Hansen said WPPI provides computer and other support to member municipal utilities that enhance the system and provide additional benefits.

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