Advanced Metering Infrastructure

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is commonly referred to as “smart meter/advanced meter” or “smart grid” technology. AMI utilizes radio and cell signal telecommunication channels to detect and transmit data from utility meters. The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) AMI project will replace old legacy electric meters with new advanced electric meters and retrofit existing water and gas meters with AMI radios.

The new and upgraded meters will be able to provide near-real time data on energy and water consumption and voltage information. When the AMI system becomes fully operational in 2024, residents and business will be able to monitor ongoing utility consumption data and make informed decisions about energy and water use based on what they observe, such as high consumption due to leaks or power usage from appliances. CPAU views this as a benefit to customers, and a way to provide more effective utility services.

 

About

What is advanced metering?

AMI is a foundational technology that is becoming a standard in the utilities industry and will improve the customer experience while enabling CPAU to operate more effectively. An AMI-based smart grid system will empower customers to more efficiently utilize utility supplies, better enable customer adoption of distributed energy resources (DER) such as solar photovoltaics, energy storage, and electric vehicles, and enable the timely detection of water leaks. AMI will also enable CPAU to optimize operations and improve reliability by reducing restoration time for outages. AMI will be a critical system to meet the community’s greenhouse gas reduction goals by enabling time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates, and encourage the use of electrical appliances and electric vehicle (EV) charging when electricity costs are low and the electric supply is greener (between 10am and 4pm when solar electricity production in the grid peaks).

Why are we installing advanced meters?

Improves Customer Experience:

  • Provides you with hourly/daily utility usage information to help you understand where and when energy and water are being consumed, so you can make informed decisions about your utility consumption.
  • Enables you to charge your electric vehicle at lower, time-of-use, electric rates.
  • Enables early detection of water leaks in your property, reducing unexpected high-water bills.

Better Customer Service by CPAU

  • No need to wait for a month to receive a bill and possible surprise at high costs if there has been a leak or other utility usage spike at your home.
  • Hassle-free transfer of service; eliminates the need for appointments to turn service on or off.
  • Enables enhanced responsiveness to maintain equipment which will result in higher levels of electric reliability.
  • Faster detection of electrical outages, causes, and shorter restoration time.

Reduces CPAU Operational Costs

  • Less home and business visits will eliminate manual meter readers, saving time, money, and meter reader injuries.
  • AMI data will allow CPAU to make better electric distribution system maintenance decisions.
  • Enables CPAU to better manage the distribution system, leading to greater reliability.
  •  Gas Meter Phasing out Phasing in.

 

How Does It Work?

The illustration below shows how the meter information is transmitted, stored and utilized to improve your utility service.

How an AMI System Works 

How AMI Works.

  • Upon replacement of legacy electric meters and retrofitting of water and gas meters with AMI radios, all three meters will transmit customer utility usage and voltage data via the AMI network
  • The back-bone of the AMI network consists of pole mounted antennas/collectors at five CPAU substation and well sites.
  • The data collected from the meter is stored in the meter head-end software (HES) system provided by Sensus, the AMI equipment and service provider.
  • This data is then verified and stored for use and analysis in the meter data management system (MDMS).
  • Information stored in the MDMS is transformed to aid various customer and utility application such as the display of daily/hourly utility usage information on the MyCPAU web portal, customer billing system, transformer loading analysis system, conservation voltage reduction systems, etc.

 

How and when will the program start?

If approved by Council in August 2021, the AMI Program will begin installing electric meters and retrofitting gas and water meters with AMI radios on a pilot basis in the summer of 2022. Upon successful testing of pilot meters and associated backend software and billing system, the full roll-out of meters are planned to begin in the summer of 2023 and will be completed in the fall of 2024.

What to Expect

During Implementation Stages of Project

During the pilot stages of the projects through the summer of 2023, fewer than 1,000 of the 25,000 total homes that will be impacted by the replacement of the meters. The locations for the 1,000 initial pilot homes will be determined by January 2022.

Most homes will receive new meters during the 18-month period starting the summer/fall of 2023.

  • Closer to your meter installation date, you will receive a notice in the mail and/or via email the week/month in which your neighborhood meters are projected to be replaced
  • On the day of your meter upgrade, a utility representative will reach out to inform you before work begins and leave a door hanger after the work is complete.
  • CPAU will be engaging Utility Partners of America (UPA) to manage the meter exchange beginning in the summer/fall of 2023
  • The UPA meter installers will be dressed in UPA uniform and will have UPA & CPAU signage on their vehicle and possess a valid photo identification badge.
  • You do not have to contact us in advance to schedule an appointment.
  • The electric upgrade will take approximately 15-minutes under normal conditions and may cause a brief interruption in service.
  • The gas meter radio retrofit will not be interrupting service, neither will the water meter radio retrofit. Your water meter lids will also be replaced
  • If you have an aging water meter in your home, (~40% of the homes have meters older than 20 years), it will be replaced with a new meter during the installation. Water meter replacement will result in up to an hour of service interruption.
  • If you are not present on the day of the meter upgrade, a door hanger will be left behind after our visit with information on the work performed.
  • If you prefer to opt-out from having an advance meter contact Customer Service at (650) 329-2161.

Upon Implementation of the Project, 2025+ period

  • You will have access to hourly/daily energy and water consumption information in your MyCPAU customer portal within a few days of your usage.
  • You will have access to time-of-use rate that could lower your electric rate to charge your electric vehicle
  • You will be able to detect water leaks in your property early

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How will I benefit from the AMI investment?

Improves Customer Experience:

  • Provides you with hourly/daily utility usage information to help you understand where and when energy and water are being consumed, so you can make informed decisions about your utility consumption.
  • Enables you to charge your electric vehicle at lower, time-of-use, electric rates.
  • Enables early detection of water leaks in your property, reducing unexpected high-water bills.

Better Customer Service by CPAU

  • No need to wait for a month to receive a bill and possible surprise at high costs if there has been a leak or other utility usage spike at your home.
  • Hassle-free transfer of service; eliminates the need for appointments to turn service on or off.
  • Enables enhanced responsiveness to maintain equipment which will result in higher levels of electric reliability.
  • Faster detection of electrical outages, causes, and shorter restoration time.

Reduces CPAU Operational Costs

  • Less home and business visits will eliminate manual meter readers, saving time, money, and meter reader injuries.
  • AMI data will allow CPAU to make better electric distribution system maintenance decisions.
  • Enables CPAU to better manage the distribution system, leading to greater reliability.

How does AMI work?

The illustration below shows how the meter information is transmitted, stored and utilized to improve your utility service.

How an AMI System Works 

How AMI Works.

  • Upon replacement of legacy electric meters and retrofitting of water and gas meters with AMI radios, all three meters will transmit customer utility usage and voltage data via the AMI network
  • The back-bone of the AMI network consists of pole mounted antennas/collectors at five CPAU substation and well sites.
  • The data collected from the meter is stored in the meter head-end software (HES) system provided by Sensus, the AMI equipment and service provider.
  • This data is then verified and stored for use and analysis in the meter data management system (MDMS).
  • Information stored in the MDMS is transformed to aid various customer and utility application such as the display of daily/hourly utility usage information on the MyCPAU web portal, customer billing system, transformer loading analysis system, conservation voltage reduction systems, etc.

Illustration of a Smart Home Enabled by Advanced Meters

AMI how it works.

 

What makes an advanced meter different from my old meter?

An advanced meter, like your old meter, registers how much electricity, natural gas and water you use. The main difference is that it will send your consumption information wirelessly back to the CPAU service center, eliminating the need for someone to visit your home or business to collect monthly meter readings. The advanced meters collect hourly and daily usage along with voltage information. Utility customers will be able to see how electricity, natural gas and water are used daily or hourly by logging into the MyCPAU online utility portal. While you will be receiving a new electric meter, most of the existing water and gas meters will be retrofitted with a communication radio to transmit consumption information wirelessly.

Are advanced meters accurate?

Because advanced meters are digital, they are often more accurate than mechanical meters, which tend to degrade and slow down as they age. Advanced meters are subjected to strict design standards when they are manufactured, and CPAU tests meters on a regular basis to confirm accurate operation.

Is the advanced meter a different size and where will it be located?

A electric advanced meter fits into the existing size and shape of the meter base currently at your location. Radios installed on existing gas and water meters will also be located next to existing meters. Meter location will not change.

How is CPAU paying for the advanced meter installations?

There is no direct charge to customers for the meters, just like other utility system upgrades. Meters, like other equipment upgrades made to the utility system, are part of CPAU’s capital expenditure and have been included in budget projections.

What will CPAU do with the old meters that are being replaced?

To the greatest extent possible, CPAU will recycle old meters in accordance with the City’s Zero Waste policy and Recycling and Composting Ordinance.

Will smart meters be installed on solar/net energy metering systems?

If your home or business has a solar/net energy metering system, your electric meter can be replaced with an advanced meter. It will not affect your current retail rate or energy export credit amounts.

I am an EV owner, how will advanced meters benefit me?

By opting to enroll in a time-of-use (TOU) rate and charging your electric vehicle (EV) during low cost periods (10am- 4pm and 10pm- 6am), you could potentially lower your utility bill. These TOU rates will become available in 2025.

I plan to switch my gas appliances to electric, how will advanced meters benefit me?

If you install timer controls on your heat pump units to operate during low cost periods, you could lower your bills by switching to time-of-use (TOU) rates. These TOU rates are expected to become available in 2025.

Should I be concerned about the wireless network that will be installed for the communication of these advanced meters?

Tens of millions of advanced meters have been installed in the US in the past 10 years. The annual RF emissions and human exposure from cell phone use is estimated at 1,000+ times of that from an advanced meter. Read some FAQs(PDF, 552KB) about ratio frequency and electromagnetic radiation related to advanced meters.

Research documents related to RF and advanced meters from the reputed Palo Alto based Electric Power Research InstituteFederal Communication Commission,  Environmental Defense Fund. You can also check out the California Council on Science and Technology, along with information from Sensus, the advanced meter equipment supplier.

What type of wireless network will be established for the AMI Project (from Sensus)?

The AMI network will be on a 900 megahertz (MHz) Federal Communication Commission (FCC) licensed radio band. A 2 Watt powered radio embedded in the meter is expected to transmit data on an hourly basis, but for ~0.1 second each time. 

What type of data will be collected from my meters and my home, and how securely will my data be stored?

Only your utility usage and voltage information will be collected from the meters. The suppliers of AMI equipment, software and cloud-based data hosting service are respected and reputable companies that meet all applicable national, California, and industry standards on personal information privacy and cyber-security controls.

If I do not want an advanced meter in my home, can I opt out?

Yes. The City Council will be deciding how long customers will be able to opt-out, without having to pay a fee to cover manual meter reading and processing costs incurred by CPAU.