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NG Utilities requests tariff for customers who refuse new meters
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MADISON - New Glarus Utilities wants to charge customers who do not convert to electronic meters about $15 a month but to date no one has refused having the new meters installed, an official said.

This year the village began converting its 1,200 aging analogue electric and water meters to electronic ones that eliminate having to send a meter reader to each location.

"That can take five of us two days every month, three days depending on the weather," said Scott Jelle, director of public works.

To date, about 200 electronic meters have been installed. Jelle plans on it taking his three-person crew another four or five years to convert the rest of the village.

"There's new power to a car wash going in, the water technician is working on street projects; the meters are installed when there's time," he said of his work schedule.

The village has distributed information to customers about converting the water and electric meters in their residence or business to electronic ones, and customers have called to schedule installation appointments.

"Everybody seems pretty receptive to it, no one yet has refused. There have been some meetings, some people want more information but we're seeing it as a big issue yet. Maybe in a few more years as it involves more people we may get some refusals," Jelle said.

If a customer refuses installation of the electronic meter the utility wants a tariff in place to allow them to bill the meter reading cost in addition to the regular $10 monthly meter charge.

"It's not an incentive to get more compliance but it passes on the costs to the customer," said Beth Carlson, WPPI's energy services representative for New Glarus. "(The tariff) is based on the cost of sending someone to read the meter and enter the data."

Many other municipalities have requested similar tariffs after switching to automated meters, said Carlson. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission is expected to act on New Glarus' tariff request by the end of the year.

New Glarus is a member of WPPI, a municipally owned electric power wholesaler.

The electronic meters, WPPI calls them Smart Meters, replace a customer's electric and water meters, said Jelle.

The new water meter sends consumption data to the new electric meter which transmits data by radio frequency to the village's electric substation. An electronic collector at the substation sends the usage data to WPPI for billing, Jelle said.

If an electronic meter is not located close enough to the substation, it can send its data to another customer's meter and "piggyback" on the data that meter transmits to the substation, Jelle said.

About $177,000 has been budgeted for the first approximately 300 electronic meters, said Jelle, who would not know how until later how much the entire meter conversion project would ultimately cost.

"It's pretty open right now but by the end of the year we'll have a better idea," he said .

This year the utility has spent $21,594 on new meters and anticipates spending $341,638 during the next five years to acquire all the needed meters, Beth Heller, of New Glarus Utilities wrote in an email.

The funding will come from existing utility revenues, Jelle said.

In addition to saving the utility the cost of reading meters, the electronic devices send alerts when water usage is excessive, which can signal a leak.

"A leak may not be noticed in a home that's not used full time. The next meter reading may show 30,000 gallons of water had been used but that could be due to a broken pipe," he said.

The electronic device alerts the utility to an excessive consumption situation which the utility can relay to the customer and prevent further water loss, possible structural damage and a higher water bill.