City Explores Automatic Meter Readers

The City Council is considering whether to install advanced utility meters for city utilities.

The city has an extensive report from West Monroe Partners on the costs and benefits installing an "advanced metering infrastructure" (AMI)

The issue was discussed at the Feb. 8 City Council study session and previously presented to the Public Utilities Advisory Board in December.

The project, if approved, would be implemented over multiple years and costs significant money.

A cost benefit analysis projects capital, operations and maintenance costs of $48 million with $68 million in benefits from lower staffing, improved metering, bad debt reduction and other benefits.

Download the executive summary or the full report.

Financial analysis was based on a 15-year time frame.

The city utility currently disconnects approximately 14,000 customers annually. The new system would allow utility services to remotely be connected and disconnected.

One option would include allowing customers to pre-pay their utility bills to avoid disconnections for failure to pay.

Other advantages be able to improve reliability by knowing when electric power was not available to a customer, particularly during more power outages. It would help detect water leaks.

No City Council decision has been made on whether to proceed and how to finance the project.

"A majority of utilities across the country and already doing this," said IPL director Leon Daggett. He cited examples of other area utilities who already installed smart meters.

Daggett said the project could be financed without a rate increase through bond financing.