Midwest Energy is replacing all electric and natural gas meters with automated meters. Installation began in 2016, and was completed in 2019.
Automated meters look similar to your current electric or gas meter, and they measure electric or gas usage the same way your current meter does. But they're "automated" in that they contain a small radio transmitter that sends your usage information back to our offices every four hours. Automated electric meters also provide data on voltage, as well as any disruptions that occur on the power lines. Midwest Energy will deploy automated meters for all electric and natural gas meters now in service.
Automated meters will help control operating costs, improve reliability, speed outage response, enable new and convenient payment options, increase energy efficiency opportunities and improve employee safety.
Installation began in Hays in 2016, when about 500 electric and 700 gas modules were deployed for testing. Customers who only take gas service from Midwest Energy in southwest and northern Kansas were updated in 2016; customers in the Hays District were completed in mid-2017, and the Colby District was completed late in 2018, and the Great Bend District was completed in the summer of 2019 (see map below).
Access your energy information, anytime, anywhere. Your new meter gives you control over information on your energy usage. Customers will be able to log in to their Midwest Energy account and see their energy use for the past day, week, or month. No more surprises when the bill comes: After full deployment, you'll be able to set up text or e-mail alerts, notifying you when your usage reaches a chosen level, enabling you to budget more effectively and use energy more efficiently. This feature was scheduled to be available in late 2019, but due to competing software projects and the pandemic, should be available in mid-2021.
New technology means improved reliability and new services. Your automated meter sends us consumption information, measured in hourly increments, once every four hours. Automated electric meters send additional information, such as readings on voltage. During an outage, it will send us a signal when it loses power, so we can identify outage boundaries sooner and restore power more quickly. In time, you will also have the option to pre-pay for electricity. Pre-paying for electricity whenever it’s convenient for you makes budgeting simple, and eliminates the need for new customers to make security deposits. Utilities nationwide are finding that pre-pay programs can result in double-digit energy savings.
Automation helps control costs. Automated meters help your cooperative control costs, keeping rates affordable. These meters are expected to save our customers more than $1 million per year through improved utility operations. Most of the savings are related to meter reading and “meter operations” activities (re-reading meters, electric disconnection/reconnections, etc.).
Automation brings safety, convenience and environmental benefits. Meter readers and servicemen drive thousands of miles each month, and their work exposes them to animal bites, insect stings and other hazards. Automated meters allow for routine functions like monthly meter reading, readings to start or stop service, and some disconnections/re-connections to be done remotely. This takes dozens of meter and service trucks off the road, eliminates thousands of trips and reduces the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.
Q: How do "automated meters" work?
A: Automated meters are similar to the mechanical or digital meter currently on your home or business, in that both measure total consumption.
Our automated electric meters and natural gas modules have a 2-watt transmitter, allowing them to send encrypted digital readings back to Midwest Energy once every four hours, through a network of more than 50 radio towers. Automated electric meters also provide data on voltage, as well as any disruptions that occur on the power lines. This helps us improve reliability by locating trouble spots earlier. These transmissions take just a fraction of a second. These offer us more accurate readings in a more timely fashion, and allow you to go online and see your current energy consumption anytime you wish.
Q: What will the new meter cost me?
A: Automated meters were installed at no additional charge to all Midwest Energy electric and gas customers. All electric meters were replaced; a new automated module was added to all gas meters. When your new electric meter was installed, your meter housing was inspected for defects. Where defects are found inside the meter housing, Midwest Energy arranged for repairs. If an unsafe condition is found with wiring leading from the meter housing to the breaker box, homeowners were responsible for repairs.
Q: What was the deployment schedule?
A: In 2016 we installed about 500 electric meters and 700 gas modules in the Hays area to test the functionality of the system. Next, we installed automated meter modules in the Scott City, Phillipsburg, Hays and Colby districts. The Great Bend district was the last to receive the meters, completed in the summer of 2019.
Q: Are automated meters safe and secure?
A: More than 70 million automated meters have been installed nationwide, measuring electric, natural gas and water consumption. Dozens more companies and cities, like Midwest Energy, install more each year. Midwest Energy is installing Sensus iConA Gen4 electric meters on residential properties, which are the first automated meters to pass Underwriters Laboratory (UL) standards. Residential meters transmit data back to Midwest Energy once every four hours, using 256 bit encryption to protect your privacy.
Our Sensus meters are "point to point," meaning that the communicate directly with nearby radio towers on a dedicated frequency, unlike "mesh" technologies where meters send data back and forth with meters at nearby locations.
Automated meters give off the same kinds of radiofrequency (RF) waves as cell phones and Wi-Fi devices. Our meters use a 2-watt transmitter that operates in the 900MHz range. For perspective, many cell phones and garage door openers use 1- to 2-watt transmitters, and many CB radios utilize 4-watt transmitters. Given their small transmitters, and because the "duty cycle" of these meters is just a few seconds, six times a day, exposure to RF is significantly less than that of a typical cell phone, or a Wi-Fi router that continuously transmits a signal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates RF emissions, and the meters Midwest Energy is installing fall well below the FCC's Power Density Exposure Limit.
The American Cancer Society has reviewed several studies regarding automated meters, and concluded, "Because the amount of RF radiation you could be exposed to from a smart meter is much less than what you could be exposed to from a cell phone, it is very unlikely that living in a house with a smart meter increases risk of cancer.”
From: American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/smart-meters.html, accessed Sept. 5, 2019.
Q: If my meter will read itself, what happens to my meter reader?
A: In December 2015, Midwest Energy had 14 employees working as full-time meter readers. The company communicated with employees about the automated meters project beginning in 2013, and worked with our meter readers on how they could transition into other positions in the company as they became available.
Q: When will I be able to access my energy data on your website?
A: We are currently testing and verifying the data that we're receiving from installed meters. We will have our customer portal, allowing you to access your energy information, fully operational in mid-2021.
Q: Could I just “opt out” and keep my old analog meter?
A: Midwest Energy does not have an “opt out” policy. To receive full benefits of the meters, Midwest Energy must install them on all premises where we have meters.
Q: Where can I learn more?
A: Customers with questions or concerns on automated meters can contact Mike Morley at 1-800-222-3121. We will meet with individuals on a case-by-case basis to discuss meters, if desired.
This page last updated March 26, 2021