Estimated bills for NIPSCO customers could soon be a thing of the past, as the utility announced it will begin upgrading the way it reads natural gas and electric meters through the installation of an Automated Meter Reading (AMR) System.
The new AMR meters will allow NIPSCO to gather monthly readings through a receiver mounted in a NIPSCO vehicle, rather than walking door to door to read more than 900,000 meters each month.
Adopted by many utilities across the country, AMR meters differ from “smart meters,” which transmit information through a wireless communication network. The AMR receivers collect only meter readings; personal account information is not collected.
“The use of AMR is one of many efforts to improve service for our customers,” said NIPSCO Chief Operating Office Mike Finissi. “The new technology will help avoid inconvenience and intrusions associated with entering customers’ yards or homes. 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.”
NIPSCO has selected Metadigm, a leading national utility services company specializing in metering services, to complete the installations. NIPSCO and Metadigm have elected to partner with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 697 to supply the workforce of approximately 60 technicians needed for the project.
"The long-standing relationship between NIPSCO and the building trades unions led to this first-time partnership between the IBEW construction branch and the vendor, Metadigm," said IBEW representative Ray Kasmark. "The arrangement is a win-win for all parties involved. 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."
The new technology will be installed on all meters across NIPSCO’s service area by 2016. Installations will begin late February in South Haven, Ind. The schedule for the remainder of the rollout has yet to be determined.
Customers will receive a letter in advance of the meter change. The installation process will be done at no charge to the customer and takes approximately 20 minutes or less. NIPSCO Electric Customers may notice a brief service interruption during the installation.
The technicians will carry photo identification, wear uniforms, and drive marked vehicles.
At the present time, NIPSCO meter readers can collect roughly 300 meter readings every four hours. In that same time frame, a vehicle equipped with an AMR receiver can collect 6,300 readings.
No job loss will occur as a result of this upgrade.