Smart meters already extensively used in Independence

A version of a “smart meter” is already extensively deployed in Independence by Spire - the natural gas company which serves Independence.

Here’s a description of the meter from their website.

“An Automated Meter Reading (AMR) device, which is installed on most gas meters, reads your meter. Spire automatically receives regular readings of your gas usage from the AMR device. This is the safest, most efficient way to measure the amount of gas used. In some service areas, our technicians manually collect readings each month.”

AMR is one-way meter-to-utility communication while AMI involves two-way communication capability between utilities and customers.

Here’s a more detailed explanation from Lowell Krofft who lives in Independence and knowledgeable about technology behind the proposed “smart meters” - also known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) which would be utilized if the city proceeds with new electric and separate water meters for the city-owned utilities.

Kroftt writes:

“The AMR device on the gas meters only transmit when sent a "wake-up" signal from the radio in the data gathering vehicle as it drives by.  But the receiver in the AMR device that is listening for that wake-up signal uses an oscillator in its circuit that continually produces a weak RF signal emission.

“The system implemented was produced by Itron and can be programmed to continuously transmit pulses of data (bubble-up mode) or transmit when polled (wake-up mode).  The data is then captured by a tech driving around using a GPS-based route loaded into a laptop and connected to a receiver that picks up the data being transmitted by the radios in the meters.”

Spire is an investor-owned utility and regulated by the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) and not subject to approval by the City Council.

Spire, formerly Laclede Gas, has nearly 700,000 meters which it reads monthly.

in 2017, Spire purchased the meters - which it had been leasing - for $16.6 million. Spire’s decision to purchase the existing meters saved customers about $1 million annually and also significantly reduced its meter reading costs.

PSC filings indicate Spire will be replacing the existing meters with a new system in 2020 and have the project completed by 2024.