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Officials begin 'smart grid' meter offensive

Meeting helps explain what new 'smart grid' equipment is, what it does.

March 25, 2011|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

Burbank Water and Power officials on Wednesday prepped the public for the installation of new “smart grid” meters starting in May.

Only eight residents gathered at Buena Vista Library on rainy night — not to complain, but to find out how the new meters will impact them.

“I want to know what I can expect from this,” said longtime Burbank resident Kathryn Levine. “I wanted to get informed and that way I can explain it to my friends as well.”

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Levine has lived in Burbank since the early 1950s and said she has never seen the water meters changed out.

The new technology will notify the utility of outages and malfunctions in real-time, and will make it much harder to tamper with the meters, said Joanne Fletcher, assistant general manager of Burbank Water and Power.

“Technology that does not change over time eventually starts to go backwards,” she said.

Batteries in the meters can last up to 20 years and residents will be able to take advantage of more smart appliances in their homes, Program Manager Bruce Hamer said.

Burbank was one of only a handful of cities in the nation to receive federal stimulus money for its smart grid project — $20 million toward the total $60-million price tag. Glendale also received stimulus money for its switch to smart meters.

Fletcher also assured residents that the new meters would not cause utility rates to rise, and would even save money in the long run by allowing officials to rent out some of the system to bring in additional revenue and by eliminating the need for meter readers, who will be reassigned.

“We have been working on training this group for new skills for quite some time,” utility spokeswoman Jeanette Meyer said.

Within a year of the meter installation, Burbank Water and Power plans to make detailed information available to customers about their exact water and electricity usage during the day in hopes of changing their habits in exchange for saving some dollars with new rate structures, officials said.

Water will be cheaper to use during off-peak hours in the evening, Fletcher said.

Installation of the meters will begin in the southeast quarter of the city and will move counter-clockwise until the project is completed at the end of the year, officials said.

 
 

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