NIPSCO plans to start installing automated meter reading equipment across its service territory during the next three years, starting next month in South Haven.
The new system should make estimated meter readings and meter readers tromping across customer's yards a thing of the past, according to the utility.
“The new technology will help avoid inconvenience and intrusions associated with entering customers’ yards or homes," said NIPSCO Chief Operating Office Mike Finissi. "It also will improve our employees’ safety by eliminating many of the common obstacles our meter readers face, such as inclement weather, dog bites and tripping hazards.”
The automated meter reading system differs from the "smart meters" installed by some utilities. Smart meters can transmit meter readings through a wireless communication network direct to utility headquarters. Concerns have been raised about personal account information that may be transmitted over such networks.
The automated meter reading system to be installed by NIPSCO will allow a meter reader to gather up to 6,300 readings every four hours from a vehicle equipped with a receiver. That compares to about 300 meters in that same time on foot.
NIPSCO says there will be no job eliminations due to the new system. NIPSCO meter readers now go door to door to about 900,000 meters each month.
NIPSCO has hired Metadigm Services, of Atlanta, Ga., to complete the installations. Local labor will be provided by 60 technicians provided by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - Local 697, based in Merrillville.
"We are pleased to provide job opportunities for new IBEW members to successfully complete this project for NIPSCO, and our hope is that the arrangement will be replicated around the rest of the country," said IBEW representative Ray Kasmark.
Customers will receive a letter in advance of the meter work and technicians will carry photo ID, wear uniforms and drive marked vehicles.
The installations can be done in 20 minutes or less. Electric customers may notice a brief interruption in service as the entire electric meter will be replaced. For natural gas meters, a new component is installed, but the meter is not replaced.