LEWISTON — Power company representatives are expected to begin visiting homes in the Twin Cities in the fall, replacing old mechanical electric meters with new smart meters.
Stephen Daniels, manager of sales for Central Maine Power Co., outlined for city councilors the work contractors would be doing.
All told, the company hopes to replace 19,000 meters in Lewiston and 12,000 in Auburn. Daniels said the company already has installed 64 smart meters in newly constructed or remodeled buildings in Lewiston. So far, 17 customers in Lewiston have chosen to opt out and not have smart meters installed.
CMP has contracted with VSI Meter Services to do the work, which is expected to be finished in February 2012.
"What's going to happen, a person will be coming to your door and telling you that they need to replace your meter," Daniels said. "You can have them do it right there, or you can call to schedule a time later on."
If nobody is home and the meter is easily accessible, the contractor will go ahead and replace the meter and leave a note on the front door.
The installation takes about 15 minutes and requires all power to the home or business to be shut down. The effect will be similar to a short power interruption.
The meters will let the company keep better track of power use, logging the actual time power was used.
"You can go onto our website and see when you are using most of your electricity and what the price is at that time," Daniels said. "Then, you can adjust the way you use power, using some appliances when prices are lower."
When the conversion is complete, the meters will be networked via radio waves with neighboring meters. The network will forward meter logs to CMP's computers. The conversion means the company will eliminate up to 148 meter-reading positions statewide.
Daniels downplayed health concerns from the meters, saying the amount of radiation from a cell phone is 12,667 times greater then a smart meter puts out.
Even so, residents can choose to opt out — for now — and not have their old meter replaced with a smart meter. The question of opting out for good is being considered by the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the state Legislature.
"But this is something both the federal and the state government required us to do," Daniels said. "So, if that changes, it will be up to them and not us. We will abide by whatever they decide."