Cass County Electric Cooperative and its members have grown in many ways since the Cooperative was born in 1937. Not only has the size of the Cooperative and the membership grown, but the way things are done have changed drastically. Innovation has given way to efficiency in the way employees do their jobs and in how members use electricity.
Meter technology, from mechanical to electronic
When John Nelson, apparatus supervisor, started working at CCEC in 1985, the Cooperative was just getting into using meters that could record electric use. “It was a mechanical meter with an electronic register that was added on to it that did the recording,” he remembered.
There are about 1,000 of the recordable mechanical meters still in use. In five years, CCEC’s meters will be all electronic. Prior to 1985, all the meters were the mechanical type that had been used since CCEC began.
The mechanical meters are the type where one can see the disc turning as it measures the voltage and the amount of current going through the meter to calculate how many kilowatt hours (kWh) are used.
“When I first started all [residential] meters were consumer read. The only meters we read were commercial three-phase meters. When people read their own meters, the timing wasn’t consistent. A bill cycle may be 50 days, the next 10 because they didn’t send their statement back right away. It was difficult to help someone with a high-use complaint because the billing cycles varied. Now, with AMI (advanced metering infrastructure), members [who have the new meters] can see their exact usage,” said Nelson.
With the implementation of AMI meters, members can visit their account online and not only conveniently pay their bill, but also view how they are using their electricity. SmartHub, available soon to members, is an application members will be able to access from their computer, smart phone or other hand-held device, like an i-Pad. SmartHub will allow members to manage all aspects of their utility account. Members will be able to view and pay their bill, check usage data, report service issues and explore other tools on any mobile device. As CCEC continues to implement new meters throughout the service territory, more members will be able to access their information. The goal is to have the new meters installed within the next five years.
Not only have the mechanics of meters changed since Nelson started, but he’s noticed a great change in the way people use energy now. He’s noticed a difference in “the size of services from what they were to what they are now. A 200 amp service on a house when I started was a big service, now I see houses with 800 amp service,” he said.
“With AMI, customers can have access to their meter reading information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with their smart phones, their lap tops,” said Nelson. “It’s going to put more people in touch with their usage, hopefully it will make people more energy conscious and help people understand where their energy goes.”
Read the rest of this article in the December issue of Highline Notes.