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Kinston Public Services deploys smart meters to regulate utility usage.

2/27/2014 -

By Junious Smith III / Staff writer

Published: Friday, February 7, 2014 at 18:34 PM.

Kinston Public Services is making a technological push to help customers regulate their power bills and monitor utility use in real time. On Jan. 21 and 22, KPS worked on the first phase of the Smart Grid program, installing 35 electric meters across the city. Rhonda Barwick, director of KPS, said the meters will provide plenty of assistance for customers.

“Customers can gain information about their usage ahead of time,” Barwick said. “We’ll offer portals in their home they can query or they can go on the Internet and query usage. They’ll be able to see their consumption before their bill comes and have some insight in conserving energy before their next bill.” KPS Assistant Director Steve Miller said the first batch of meters has been set up around Morningside Drive, but the process is going to be slow and steady.

“Phase II of the pilot project will be in early April, where we plan on having 255 meters installed — 205 electric and 50 water meters,” Miller said. “Right now, we want to make sure the system is accurate and the customers get accurate results. We sent fliers in pilot areas and received 15 calls from customers. Of the 15, 13 said they were interested and two preferred not to have the meter at the time.”

Miller said the smart meters — which aren’t built any different from regular meters — also provide an additional service for customers, allowing customers to see their rates in a very timely manner.

“Historically, we read meters once a month,” Miller said. “Until then, we don’t know how much energy customers used until the bills come. Now, customers can read it at any time and see their consumption rates. In addition, they can go on a website and log into their own special account for meter readings. The readings are updated every 10 seconds.

“Also, if a customer was to do something like turn on the air conditioning, the intervals would change and show how much energy they’re using. Also, they can see what devices use the most electricity and find out what’s efficient and what isn’t.”

Barwick said there are many benefits for the city’s staff.

“We can read the meters from the computer, so we’ll have faster information about power outages and transformer loads,” Barwick said. “The system will be used to meet customer needs better.”

Sheri Williams, information and resource specialist for KPS, said five thermostats will be installed during Phase II, giving customers additional information when it comes to conserving energy.

“The customers can control the thermostats, change temperatures and see how much energy they use,” Williams said. “If they have problems, they can call us and we can see exactly what they’re seeing, allowing us to assist. It’s an educational tool for both the staff and customers.”

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 and Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

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