CustomerConnect Pilot FAQ's
Pilot Program Objectives
1. What is the objective of the pilot program?
Numerous customers over the past few years have requested advanced utility meters to better monitor their utility usage and reduce their consumption. The objective of the CustomerConnect program is to:
Gauge customer interest, experience and satisfaction using advanced meters (that provide hourly consumption data for customers electricity, natural gas and water use) and associated informational tools;
Quantify the change in customer energy use;
Quantify customer bill impact; Evaluate the impact of the programs on utility costs and revenues;
Gain insight into the costs and benefits of implementing full-scale smart meter-based residential customer services; and
Provide time-of-use (TOU) electric rates for customers who could shift their loads to night time (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and enjoy lower electric rates for that usage.
2. How can I best make use of the hourly usage information? You will be able to track usage at different points in the day, and depending on what equipment and appliances are in use, and by whom. You may be able to manage your usage by avoiding waste, which would lead to a reduction in your utility costs. If you choose to be on a time-of-use rate, you could reduce your electric bill by shifting your consumption to late night hours (e.g. electric vehicle charging between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.).
3. Is there a fee to register or participate in the program? No, there is no fee associated with participating in the pilot, but we will seek your active participation in managing your energy and water use and providing us feedback about your experience in participating in the program.
4. What is the benefit of TOU rates? TOU rates offer discounted electric rates for electricity consumed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., but electricity consumed during day time will be billed at a higher charge. To learn more about this rate and evaluate if it will be beneficial to you, see #13 below.
5. If I have already registered, when will I know if I am selected for the pilot program or not? We have informed all customers who register for the CustomerConnect pilot program regarding their status. Approximately 300 customers will be accepted. Some customers are on a standby list.
6. If I sign-up when will I get the meters and when can I start tracking my consumption over the web? The City installed meters and a communication network between March and June of 2013 and made hourly consumption data and related informational tools available to each of the 300 participating customers during the summer of 2013. (Note: for selected group of customers who requested TOU rate early on, a TOU electric meter was deployed in early January 2013, but was be swapped out for an advanced meter in the spring).
7. What is my responsibility if I am selected to participate in the pilot? Your utility appreciates your participation in the pilot program and would like to learn from your experience. We would like you to actively utilize the information and benefits provided by the pilot and provide feedback to us by responding to one or two surveys that will be sent out to pilot participants. Also, please feel free to email or call if you have questions or comments.
8. Will I be able to access my electric usage data instantaneously? Yes, as part of the pilot, we will loan out In-Home-Display (IHD) units to interested participants at no cost. An IHD unit is a portable device that can plug into any outlet in your home and will display your instantaneous electric usage (in watts). More details on how to borrow the IHD units will follow.
9. What is the duration of the pilot? We are seeking your input on this pilot over a 2 to 3 year span, through the end of 2017. Web-based informational tools will be on a continuous basis.
10. At the end of the pilot, will CPAU swap out the advanced meters and re-install our original meters? When the pilot phase comes to an end in December 2017, the City anticipates providing a similar service to all or a larger group of its utility customers, but the final decision on this has not been made yet. If the pilot determines that Palo Alto residents and businesses can benefit from advanced metering technology, the pilot phase may be extended and expanded in 2018.
Selection of Participants and Participation Mechanics
11.When the City replaces my meter, how long will my utility service be interrupted? Your electric service will be interrupted for less than 30 seconds. In the event we have to replace your natural gas or water meter, the service disruption will last a few minutes.
12. If my home receives underground utility service, will I be eligible to participate in the pilot Yes. However, if your meter is in your basement or some other similar location and the meter is unable to communicate to the network, City may have to take additional steps to ensure that you can participate in the pilot program.
13. How are the electric rates under the Time-of-Use (TOU) rate different from the standard residential E-1 rates? TOU electric rates provide customers who can shift much of their electric loads to late night hours the ability to reduce their electric bills. For example, an electric vehicle owner charging a car at night may be able to save about $4 per month on the home electric bill. The standard and TOU electric rates and potential impact on your bill using an example is shown below. For more information, please click here
Description of Time-of-Use Electric Rates for Palo Alto – January 2013
E-1 Rate (Existing base rate)
Tier 1: 9.5 ¢/kWh
Tier 2: 13.0 ¢/kWh
Tier 3: 17.4 ¢/kWh
Tier 1: 10 kWh/day
Tier 2: Next 10 kWh/day
Tier 3: All additional consumption
New E-1 TOU (Rate adjustment from E-1 Rate)
Peak (premium): +5.8 ¢/kWh
Mid-peak (premium): +0 ¢/kWh
Off-peak (discount): -1.9 ¢/kWh
Mid-peak (premium): +0.4 ¢/kWh
Off-peak (discount): -1.3 ¢/kWh
noon-6 pm, weekdays
11 pm - 6 am every night, year round
All other hours
Potential Customer Concerns
14. For the Customer Connect pilot, are the advanced meters similar to the smart meters deployed by PG&E? Will they have the same problem experienced by PG&E? The function of the meters being installed by Palo Alto’s Customer Connect pilot and the meters provided by PG&E are similar, but Palo Alto has been able to benefit from advances in meter technology during the past few years, as well as a significant reduction in costs. In addition, the program rollout is very different. Completely different from PG&E, Palo Alto’s program will start with a pilot phase with customers who volunteer to participate; all meters will be tested for accuracy before installation. Palo Alto expects to install one low-powered meshed radio network to read all 300 volunteer customer electric, gas and water meters, while PG&E has deployed two different networks to read its customer electric and gas meters. Palo Alto expects to avoid the problems faced by PG&E during its implementation a few years ago.
15. Are there potential adverse effects from the radio frequency used by the advanced meters? No. Besides advanced utility meters, other devices with RF emissions include cell phones, cordless phones and baby monitors. The RF emissions from advanced electric meters are a very small fraction of those emitted by common household appliances, and these emissions have been studied by reputable organizations such as the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) right here in Palo Alto. To date, we have not seen any scientific study that has demonstrated negative health impacts from these devices. Although we believe there is no cause for concern about the RF emissions from our advanced meters, we do realize that a small percentage of Palo Alto customers may still feel worried and have taken the following steps:
1. Selected an experienced and reputable meter and network equipment vendor (Elster)2. Verified that the equipment being used meets all RF related FCC* (Federal Communications Commission) standards.3. Implementing meter use on a trial basis through a pilot program with just 300 customers so we can monitor and learn from their experience.
The wireless communications for the advanced meters use the 900 MHz frequency range, which is common to many household devices. There are instances noted in other areas where it was suspected that the RF emissions from the electric meter were interfering with customer’s equipment; this was only with equipment that operated in the same frequency range. Home Wi-Fi networks and newer wireless phones are typically in the 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz range, so they should not be affected. Issues such as this are what we are trying to reveal with this pilot program, so that we can address them properly.
Shown below is a link to the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative which has information on the smart grid and advanced meters.
16. Will the hourly consumption data collected from my home be accessible by others other than me? Your utility usage data can be accessed over the web using your unique username and password. The only others with access to your information will be Palo Alto Utilities staff (for analysis) and the staff of our service provider. Palo Alto Utilities has implemented rigorous review of information security and privacy controls on our service providers to ensure your data is secured to meet industry standards and made available to only you. If you have any additional questions, please contact Utility Marketing Services at (650) 329-2241.
Last Updated: April 7, 2016