CenterPoint EnergyElectric Transmission and Distribution
Frequently Asked Questions
CenterPoint Energy has installed 2.2 million smart electric meters across Houston
  1. What is Energy InSight?
  2. Why is it called Energy InSight?
  3. What smart technologies are you deploying?
  4. Why have you installed smart meters?
  5. What are the benefits of smart meters?
  6. What makes "smart" meters smart?
  7. How do smart meters work?
  8. Do smart meters have other benefits? 
  9. Do smart meters benefit the environment?
  10. Can smart meters help me save money?
  11. Exactly how much money will I save with the new Smart Meters?
  12. How much will this cost?
  13. Why do consumers have to pay for CenterPoint's technology upgrade?
  14. How much do Smart Meters cost non-residential customers?
  15. Won’t the savings on meter readers pay for the new meters?
  16. I'm concerned about privacy. Will smart meters let you see when I watch TV or run my appliances? Who else can see my electricity usage? 
  17. What is the Smart Grid Investment Grant?
  18. What can I do with my smart meter?
  19. What other new products and services do smart meters make possible?
  20. Is it true that smart meters pose a health risk by emitting radio signals?
  21. Are you going to install smart gas meters?
  22. I am interested in installing solar panels at my home. Do I need to talk to CenterPoint?
  23. I don't use electronics in my home. Do I still need a smart meter? How can I get the full benefit of smart meters if I am not computer literate?
  24. Will smart meters help you stop people from stealing electricity? 
  25. Can the meters be able to detect when power is being fueled by natural gas-powered generators following power outages?
  26. How will electricians know if a meter is truly shut off before they begin work?
  27. Who authorized CenterPoint Energy to install smart meters? Are the proceedings at the PUC authorizing smart meters available to the public for inspection?
  28. My bill went up after I got a smart meter. Is there a connection
  29. Are smart meters accurate?
  30. Is it true smart meters can cause fires or damage appliances?
  31. Who else can see my usage? Are you going to share my information with marketers?

Intelligent Grid Questions

  1. What is the Intelligent Grid? 
  2. What is the difference between a Smart Grid and an Intelligent Grid? 
  3. Will we be able to get our lights back on sooner now that we have smart meters?
  4. How will this help CenterPoint Energy respond to hurricane outages?
  5. How long will it take to restore power, once you have your entire Smart Grid built out?
  6. When will the self-healing capabilities be turned on? 
  7. What can you tell me about the new electric vehicles?

 

Smart Meter Questions

  1. Are you installing smart meters in new homes? 
  2. What happens to the old meters?
  3. Why did I have to get a smart meter?
  4. Are smart meters accurate?
  5. What did the PUC test for? Is there a +/- variation on the meter readings?
  6. Will the meter reader stop coming to my house?
  7. If I move, can I take the smart meter with me? 
  8. If I move, can I take the smart meter with me?
  9. In the event of a fire or other emergency, will the Smart Meter communicate to the grid to shut off power to that location? 
  10. What will happen if the telecommunications system goes down? Will electric service be disrupted? 
  11. Do smart meters interfere with my security systems, pacemaker, cell phone or other electronics? 
  12. If the meter malfunctions or gets damaged, will I have to pay for the meter to be replaced myself?
  13. How do you perform communications in areas with underground power lines? 
  14. Do the meters still work when there is a storm? How will the weather affect the equipment? What happens if lighting strikes the radio antennae or cell relays? 
  15. Are there problems with the digital displays fading from direct sunlight? 
  16. Will IDR (Interval Data Recorder) meters be replaced with AMS meters?
  17. How long do the meters last? 
  18. How often will communications equipment need to be updated or replaced? 
  19. How do I read the meter? 
  20. Will meters be installed on new construction? 
  21. Will eliminating electric meter readers raise the cost of reading natural gas meters?
  22. Does Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certify smart meters? 
  23. How do I disconnect service, so an electrician can work near the smart meter?

Retail Electric Market Questions

  1. My smart meter has been installed - what happens now?
  2. What is the Smart Meter Texas portal?
  3. Will I be able to buy variable rate (time of use) electricity now that my smart meter is installed?
  4. What new products and services do smart meters make possible?  
  5. What is the significance of 15-minute usage data? 
  6. Can a customer manually turn on the meter if their service has been disconnected for not paying 
  7. What is demand response? Will CenterPoint Energy or my retail provider be able to turn my appliances off? I'm worried that my power could be cut off if someone thinks I'm using too much electricity.  
  8. Will this be used for rolling outages if demand gets too high? With this new smart meter, will you be able to specifically turn off my power at my house if you happen to have rolling outages? Are you going to target me specifically to turn off my power?
  9. Will "Time of use rates" raise the price during peak times?
  10. What good is the Smart Meter Texas portal if it shows how much electricity I was using yesterday? I thought it was "near real-time." 
  11. Will I get fewer estimated bills with a smart meter? 
  12. Will there still be meter reconnect fees with this system?  Will you do remote reconnects on nights and weekends? 
  13. R14. How do you know that the usage you send to my retail electric provider for billing is mine and not my neighbors?  
  14. Won't the savings from not sending someone in a truck to connect or disconnect service offset the cost of installing smart meters?
  15. If you're connecting and disconnecting electric service remotely with smart meters without sending a truck, will the charge to connect or disconnect service be reduced?

Home Area Network and related questions

  1. What is a Home Area Network (HAN)? 
  2. What is ZigBee?
  3. What is an in-home display?
  4. Where do I get an in-home display?
  5. How much do they cost?
  6. What can I do with my smart meter?
  7. Do I need special appliances to use the remote functionality that the smart meters will provide? 
  8. When are smart appliances going to be available?

If you have a question you don't see answered here or elsewhere at www.CenterPointEnergy.com/energyinsight, e-mail energyinsight@centerpointenergy.com.

What is Energy InSight?SM
Energy InSight is what we call our new system of "smart" electricity technologies, which include smart electric meters and grid monitoring devices, remote switches and other electric distribution equipment, which we call the intelligent grid.

Why is it called Energy InSight?SM
We call our smart technologies "Energy InSight" because they are designed to give consumers greater insight into their consumption habits to promote more informed energy choices as well as give CenterPoint Energy insight into the health of the electric grid so we can improve power reliability and restoration.

What smart technologies are you deploying
We have installed more than 2. 2 million smart meters across Houston and have begun developing an intelligent grid. Smart meters automate meter reading and service connection and disconnection as well as give consumers more frequent, detailed information on their electricity use. The intelligent grid is designed to improve electric reliability and monitor grid health which will reduce the number and shorten the length of power outages, among other benefits.

Why have you installed smart meters?
To help consumers take control of their energy use and to modernize the electric grid. It's time for electricity to enter the Internet age. Imagine filling up your gas tank without knowing how much gas you bought or how much you spent until getting a bill weeks later. Smart meters can help show consumers how much electricity they are using and how much they are spending on it as they use it, which can encourage them to save energy, which is also good for the environment. Smart meters will also notify CenterPoint Energy automatically when your power goes out, which along with an "intelligent grid" could help us restore power sooner.

What are the benefits of smart meters
Smart meters encourage consumers to conserve electricity by giving them the ability to better monitor and manage their electric use more frequently and in greater detail. Smart meters make possible a new energy future:

  • Remote meter reading - CenterPoint Energy can read smart meters remotely, which means more privacy for residents, fewer estimated meter reads, and easy on-demand reads.
  •  Remote service connection/disconnection - Faster service, lower cost to consumers to move or switch Retail Electric Providers (REPs). No more fees for starting or switching services.
  •  Automated outage notification - Smart meters will automatically notify CenterPoint Energy about power outages to help us restore power more quickly.
  •  Energy efficiency and savings – Consumers can see their electric usage history at www.smartmetertexas.com to better manage energy costs by making small changes such as adjusting the thermostat, turning off lights, changing to CFL, light bulbs and unplugging items.
  •  New products and services - Retail Electric Providers (REPs), who sell electricity, can now offer new services such as pre-paid service, "time-of-use" rates, or energy analysis tools.
  •  Home Area Networks (HAN) – Smart meters can interact with ZigBee -compatible HAN devices such as thermostats or other electric appliances so consumers can better manage their electricity use.

What makes "smart" meters smart?
Smart meters transmit electric usage data via a wireless two-way communication system that enables consumers to track energy consumption down to 15-minute intervals. The meters can also be read, connected, and disconnected remotely and will notify us when a customer's power goes out, which means we can begin restoring power that much sooner.

How do smart meters work?
Smart meters securely transmit electric usage data by radio to cell relays, which are wireless devices installed on power distribution poles. Cell relays transmit the data to a radio tower "Take out Point" (TOP). TOPs collect data from cell relays within a several-mile radius and deliver it via microwave and/or fiber optic cable to CenterPoint Energy's data center, where computing systems gather and process 96 daily reads per meter plus connect and disconnect electric service as needed electronically without sending a truck.

Do smart meters have other benefits?
Smart meters provide more privacy through remote meter reading, faster and cheaper electric service connection and disconnection, automatic outage notification and the potential for savings if more frequent, detailed information on their electricity consumption leads consumers to conserve energy.

Do smart meters benefit the environment?
Yes, by reducing the use of fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. These benefits come from reduced CenterPoint Energy service vehicle use and through potential electricity conservation by consumers. In fact, more than five million remotely conducted service orders to date have avoided over 4,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to emissions from powering 375 average homes with electricity from coal-fired power plants.

Can smart meters help me save money?
Yes. Smart meters can provide consumers more frequent, detailed information regarding their energy usage. If you choose to use that information to lower your energy consumption, you could save money. One consumer in our In-Home Display pilot says he is saving 25 percent on his bill as a result of changes he’s made since getting the device. Another woman says she is saving $100 per month. Watch a video of consumers sharing their experiences with In-Home Displays at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cS7QYACmug.

The winners of the 2011 and 2012 Biggest Energy Saver contests (biggestenergysaver.com) reduced their electric consumption by 36 and 37 percent respectively with the help of information from their smart meter, the Smart Meter Texas website, and other tools. See how at youtube.com/centerpointenergyvid.

Of course, individual results will vary: smart meters, the Smart Meter Texas website and In-Home Displays give you information that you must translate into changes in energy consumption if you are to save money.

Also, as a result of efficiencies from smart meters, the common electric service fees listed below were discontinued on Sept. 1, 2012:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: how much a customer paid to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: how much a customer paid to have new electric service connected at aresidence within 48 hours (was $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: how much a customer paid to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads for the purpose of switching electrical providers: how much a customer paid when an off-schedule meter read was needed for the last bill with a provider when switching to a new provider (was up to $5)

Exactly how much money will I save with the new smart meters?
That depends on several factors including wholesale electricity prices, retail electric service offerings, and your energy consumption. Smart meters make more information about your energy use available to you. If you choose to use that information to lower your energy consumption, you could save money.

One consumer in CenterPoint Energy’s In-Home Display pilot says he is saving 25 percent on his bill as a result of changes he’s made since getting the device. Another woman says she is saving $100 per month. The winners of the 2011 and 2012 Biggest Energy Saver contests (http://www.biggestenergysaver.com), reduced their electric consumption by 36 and 37 percent respectively. Of course, individual results will vary: smart meters, the Smart Meter Texas website and In-Home Displays give you information that you must translate into changes in energy consumption if you are to save money.

Watch a video of consumers sharing their experiences with In-Home Displays at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cS7QYACmug. Get tips from the Biggest Energy Savers at http://www.youtube.com/centerpointenergyvid.

Also, as a result of efficiencies from smart meters, the common electric service fees listed below were discontinued on Sept. 1, 2012:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: how much a customer paid to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: how much a customer paid to have new electric service connected at a
    residence within 48 hours (was $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: how much a customer paid to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads for the purpose of switching electrical providers: how much a customer paid when an off-schedule meter read was needed for the last bill with a provider when switching to a new provider (was up to $5)

How much will this cost?
The Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) authorized utilities to assess Retail Electric Providers (REPs) a surcharge to recover the cost of advanced metering system deployment (which includes smart meters, communications infrastructure and computing systems). The surcharge, which was to have been spread over a 12-year period, was $3.24 per month for each residential consumer for the first 24 months, beginning in February 2009. In 2011, the surcharge was reduced to $3.05 per month. CenterPoint Energy’s receipt of a U.S. Department of Energy Smart Grid Investment Grant has reduced the duration of this surcharge from 12 years to six years (now ending in 2014), saving consumers millions of dollars.

The total cost of a limited Intelligent Grid deployment, scheduled for completion in 2014, which will serve more than half a million people, is $138 million: $50 million will come from the federal grant.

Why do consumers have to pay for CenterPoint's technology upgrade?
As with any business, the costs of improving CenterPoint Energy’s equipment and services come from revenues we receive from consumers. As a regulated utility, our rates are subject to review and approval by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), which authorized CenterPoint Energy to recover the costs of upgrading our metering system through a “reasonable” and “appropriate” surcharge to Retail Electric Providers, who may pass that charge on to end-use consumers. The surcharge takes into account the savings associated with reduced meter reading expenses as well as the increased costs for the smart meters, communications infrastructure, and computing systems.

How much do Smart Meters cost non-residential customers? 

Charges to the retailers for non-residential premises are $3.14 to $3.16 per month. CenterPoint Energy’s award of a Smart Grid Investment Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will shorten the duration of the surcharge

Won't the savings on meter readers pay for the new meters?
No. There are operational savings for CenterPoint Energy, but the surcharge approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which covers not only smart meters but also the costs associated with the communications infrastructure and computing systems, takes predicted operational savings into account. Operational savings are less than the cost of the system.

I'm concerned about privacy. Will smart meters let you see when I watch TV or run my appliances?
No, smart meters do not reveal when you watch TV or run appliances. CenterPoint Energy's smart meters measure the amount of electricity you use and send that information to the company by secure wireless radio three times a day, transmitting for very short periods. The myth about smart meters revealing your TV-viewing habits derives from one foreign "study" that presumes electricity usage is delivered to the utility in two-second slices. In fact, CenterPoint Energy's smart meters deliver usage in 15-minute increments.

The usage data delivered by smart meters is not categorized by appliance. In the future, IF YOU CHOOSE, you may be able to connect up to five electric appliances in an optional Home Area Network (HAN) that will allow YOU to see your energy use by appliance.

In another respect, smart meters will increase your privacy, since we will no longer send a meter reader to your property to read your electric meter. CenterPoint Energy is installing remote read devices on natural gas meters as well, so eventually meter readers won't have to visit your property to read gas meters either.

What is the Smart Grid Investment Grant?
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) order in December 2008 authorizing CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric (CEHE) to install an Advanced Metering System (AMS) required that “CEHE shall pursue funding for AMS available under the Energy Independence & Security Act . . . .” In October 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced CenterPoint Energy as one of six utilities to receive the maximum Smart Grid Investment Grant of $200 million.

The company has already received and put to use the full amount. We used $150 million of these funds to accelerate completion of our Advanced Metering System from 2014 as originally planned to mid-2012. The remaining $50 million is being used to help fund installation of an intelligent, “self-healing” grid in central Houston, which we plan to extend across Houston in the future.

What can I do with my smart meter
With a smart meter, you can get detailed information on your electric usage up to 24 hours ago down to 15-minute intervals by registering at www.smartmetertexas.com. To register, you will need your meter number and ESI ID (electric service identifier), which are on your bill. At Smart Meter Texas, you can see in graphs what time of year, month, or day you use the most electricity and identify usage spikes or trends that may encourage you to make energy-saving changes. This data will also be helpful if your Retail Electric Provider (REP) offers “time-of-use” pricing. Smart meters also allow REPs to offer new services such as pre-paid service, free nights, energy analysis tools etc.

CenterPoint Energy has also piloted In-Home Displays (IHDs) which are small devices that ”talk” to the smart meter to show your electric usage up to the minute. IHDs may provide other useful information such as the total estimated electric bill based on usage for the month to date.
Today, about 12,000 Texans have IHDs. One company selling IHDs (for $50 to $100) directly to consumers is Southwest Energy Smarts (swesmarts.com). The Rainforest EMU, EMU2, and RAVEn devices have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters. The EAGLE gateway device has not yet completed testing. You can also ask your Retail Electric Provider if they have or are planning programs involving these in-home devices.
As demand for smart energy products grows, we will likely see the creation of new apps for smart phones, tablets, and the web that will make use of smart meter data to help consumers manage their electricity use.
In the future, you will be able to create a Home Area Network (HAN) using the smart meter to let you remotely monitor and control up to five smart devices, such as a smart thermostat and smart appliances, which a number of manufacturers are developing or making available. For example, you could program appliances to run when prices drop below a certain level. Ask your REP if they have plans to offer time-of-use rates or other smart meter-enabled products and services.

What other new products and services do smart meters make possible?
Remember, CenterPoint Energy does not sell electricity but delivers it on behalf of scores of Retail Electric Providers (REPs). With smart meters, REPs can now offer pre-paid service, time-of-use rates, energy analysis tools, and other products and services. Check with your REP about their smart-meter enabled service offerings.

Is it true that smart meters pose a health risk by emitting radio signals
Safety is a paramount concern at CenterPoint Energy. CenterPoint Energy’s digital meters transmit electric usage information through radio frequency (RF) signals three times per day for very short periods. The radio technology employed by digital meters is similar to that used in a variety of devices that are in widespread use in homes, businesses, and public facilities. Exposure to RF emissions from digital meters is considerably less than exposure from other commercial radio devices in widespread use including:

  • Televisions and remote controls
  • Cellular telephones
  • Bluetooth earpieces and USB dongles
  • Cordless telephones
  • Laptop computers
  • WiFi routers and base stations
  • Wireless smoke detectors
  • Microwave ovens
  • Remote garage door openers
  • Remote keyless automobile systems
  • Motion detectors
  • Hair dryers
  • Wireless baby monitors
Visit www.youtube.com/centerpointenergyvid (under Favorites) to view a video on Smart Meters and Radio Frequency made by another utility.

Are you going to install smart gas meters?
In January 2011, CenterPoint Energy began a project to deploy an Automated Meter Reading system consisting of 1.2 million gas Encoder Receiver Transmitters (ERTs) in the Houston and Texas Coast area over a three year period through 2013. Once installed, the meters will be read utilizing a mobile drive-by solution.

I am interested in installing solar equipment at my home. Do I need to talk to someone at CenterPoint?
Yes. One advantage of smart meters is their ability to integrate so-called "distributed generation" sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. Our smart meters use multi-channel metering to measure surplus electricity generated as well as electricity received, eliminating the need for installation of expensive specialized distributed generation metering. Distributed generation can help reduce the need for new fossil-fuel power plants, now and in the future, and can therefore benefit the environment. 

For consumers with distributed generation, CenterPoint Energy sends the amount of electricity consumed and generated to Retail Electric Providers (REPs), who may compensate customers for surplus generation. Ask your REP about their policy on solar or wind power and compensation for surplus distributed generation.

If you are interested in connecting a distributed generation source to your residence, visit www.centerpointenergy.com/solarwind and click on "Required Steps." You may also call 713-945-4155.

I don't use electronics in my home. How can I get the full benefit of smart meters if I am not computer literate?

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) authorized CenterPoint Energy to install smart meters for all consumers in our electric service area. CenterPoint Energy has tested several battery-operated in-home displays (IHD) with a variety of options in a range of prices that show your electricity usage up to the minute so that you don’t have to wait for your monthly bill to see how much electricity you are using. Seventy-one percent of participants in our IHD pilot report making energy-saving changes during the pilot. One man says he has reduced his bill by 25 percent, and another woman says she is saving $100 per month.

Check with your Retail Electric Provider to see if they will make your electric consumption information available to you in a non-electronic format.

The automated capabilities of smart meters, such as remote reading, connection and disconnection, and automatic outage notification, do not require the consumer to have any electronic device or expertise other than the smart meter. Also, as a result of efficiencies from smart meters, the common electric service fees listed below were discontinued on Sept. 1, 2012:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: how much a customer paid to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: how much a customer paid to have new electric service connected at a residence within 48 hours (was $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: how much a customer paid to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads for the purpose of switching electrical providers: how much a customer paid when an off-schedule meter read was needed for the last bill with a provider when switching to a new provider (was up to $5)

Will smart meters help you stop people from stealing electricity?
Yes. In addition to their other features, smart meters automatically alert CenterPoint Energy when tampering occurs. CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric investigates numerous electric diversion (theft) cases every year throughout the Houston area. Electricity diversion is not only illegal; it is also dangerous. Meter tampering can result in death or injury by electrocution and may also present a fire hazard. If you suspect someone of diverting electricity, you can call our hotline at 1-877-570-5770 or complete an online form at www.centerpointenergy.com/metertheft/ 

Can the meters be able to detect when power is being fueled by natural gas-powered generators following power outages?
Yes. A properly installed generator will have a rollover switch. Smart meters should also alert CenterPoint if voltage is sent back up the line to the transformer (so-called "back feed"), which could injure or kill a lineman working on the line to restore power. To minimize this risk, you should turn off your main breaker when connecting a generator. For generator safety tips, visit www.CenterPointEnergy.com/stormcenter and click on Safety tips on using portable generators.

How will electricians know if a meter is truly shut off before they begin work?
Before beginning work, electricians must obtain a permit. CenterPoint Energy will send a technician to the site to physically disconnect the meter and tag it as disconnected. CenterPoint Energy will not use the remote disconnect capability of smart meters to de-energize power before work is done by an electrician. Upon completion of the work, the electrician should call CenterPoint Energy to re-energize the meter. Electrician can see the procedure for requesting meter disconnection at centerpointelectric.com/cehe/support/.

Who authorized CenterPoint Energy to install smart meters? Are the proceedings at the PUC authorizing smart meters available to the public for inspection?
A Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) report to the 81st Texas Legislature regarding Advanced Metering concluded that installation of smart meters “is a critical component of the evolving Texas Electric Market.”  In 2008, CenterPoint Energy made a filing with the PUC. Various groups including consumer advocates, cities, Retail Electric Providers and other interested parties worked together to present a plan (called a settlement) to the PUC requesting an Order to deploy smart meters to every customer. The PUC unanimously approved this plan authorizing deployment of smart meters across CenterPoint Energy’s electric service territory. The final order authorizing installation of smart meters, as well as monthly reports to the PUCT by CenterPoint Energy on the status of the project, can be found at www.centerpointelelectric.com/cehe/smartmeters/pucreports.

The following cities signed the agreement supporting CenterPoint Energy's installation of smart meters:

Alvin

Baytown

Clute

Dickinson

Friendswood

Houston

Kemah

Lake Jackson

La Marque

Morgan's Point

Pearland

Rosenberg

Santa Fe

Seabrook

Shore Acres

Sugar Land

Taylor Lake Village

Texas City

Wharton

 

 

My bill went up after a got a smart meter. Is there a connection? 
No. Remember, CenterPoint Energy does not sell electricity. You can direct questions about your bill to your Retail Electric Provider, who sells you the electricity we deliver. However, here are some factors that can contribute to increased consumption and high bills: 

  • Temperature extremes – in summer, air conditioning can account for two-thirds or more of your electricity usage. Electric heaters may contribute to high winter bills.
  • Holiday lighting and other seasonal usage (e.g. pool pumps) can create spikes in usage.
  • Vacation periods, with more people at home during the day, can be times of high usage.
  • Electronics, such as computers, LCD and plasma TVs, and gaming systems comprise an increasing percentage of home electricity consumption.
  • A higher electric rate can also result in a higher bill even if you reduce consumption. Rates can be either fixed at a given price every month or variable, in which case they can fluctuate significantly. Check with your Retail Electric Provider about their rate plans.

Our smart meters can help you better monitor your consumption of electricity. With an in-home display, new smart applications, or at www.smartmetertexas.com, you'll no longer have to wait for your monthly electric bill to find out how much electricity you are using, which can take the surprise out or your bill and prompt you to conserve energy.

For energy-saving tips like us on Facebook at , or visit www.CenterPointElectric.com/cehe/res/save. For energy efficiency programs, visit www.centerpointefficiency.com.

Are smart meters accurate?
Yes. We understand that your trust in us depends on accurate meter readings. That's why we, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, and other Texas utilities engaged an independent technology firm, Navigant Consulting, Inc., to test smart meters installed throughout the state. Here are some of the key results: 

  • Of thousands of CenterPoint smart meters tested, NONE were found to be inaccurate according to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.
  • In side-by-side testing, smart meters were MORE accurate than traditional electromechanical meters.
  • Navigant found no statistically significant difference in electricity usage on average between customers with smart meters and those with electromechanical meters that can be attributed to the installation and use of smart meters.
  • Navigant concluded that "the vast majority of the higher electricity bills observed appear to be due primarily to significant changes in the weather and electricity usage ..."

You can see Navigant's entire report at www.CenterPointEnergy.com/EnergyInSight under Resources. You can also view a video demonstration of the test procedure for installed meters at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BatrKmKxyIU. To request a test of the accuracy of your specific smart meter, you may contact CenterPoint Energy at 713-207-2222 or 1-800-332-7143.

Is it true that smart meters can cause fires. 

CenterPoint Energy has installed more than 2.2 million advanced meters, and we are not aware of any fires in Houston-area homes or businesses caused by the installation of smart meters. In rare instances, the removal and/or replacement of a meter (including old electromechanical “dial” meters as well as smart meters) can cause electrical discharge and/or “arcing,” (i.e. sparks) which may damage the meter and associated components.

A month or two before each smart meter was installed our crews visited the property to look for potential safety hazards or other obstacles to installing a smart meter. These inspections allowed us to identify and remediate hazardous conditions of which we might not otherwise have been aware.

You can also perform a visual inspection of your meter. If your service is fed from underground power lines, you should look at the conduit (the tube that surrounds and protects the wires) where it enters the meter can, and if the conduit is pulled away from the meter and you can see the wires, you should contact a qualified electrician to perform an inspection. If the conduit is pulled away from the can, it does not necessarily mean there is a problem with the service, but it is something that you should get checked out to make sure everything is in proper working condition.

Who else can see my usage? Are you going to share my information with marketers?
CenterPoint Energy understands your concern about privacy. By Texas law energy usage data belongs to the consumer and can be shared only when authorized in writing by the consumer or authorized by regulatory authorities as necessary to conduct business, such as for billing.

As with any service, we must measure energy consumption for accurate billing. CenterPoint Energy measures your electric consumption just like your cell phone provider measures your cell phone use to bill you. Smart meters merely allow utilities to automatically perform an otherwise manual process while giving you more frequent and detailed information on your energy use patterns, which can help you save energy and money. 

Fifteen-minute interval usage data is delivered electronically to the Smart Meter Texas web portal, where your Retail Electric Provider (REP) can access it for billing. Unless you make an inquiry, billing department personnel generally do not view your usage data. Note that personal customer information such as name, address, and social security number is not stored on or transmitted by smart meters.

The Smart Meter Texas portal (http://www.smartmetertexas.com) allows you to view your electric usage history in 13-month, 30-day, or 24-hour snapshots down to 15-minute intervals. More than 600,000 Texans now get more frequent, detailed information on their electricity use from the Smart Meter Texas portal, either directly themselves or indirectly, for example in an email from their REP. Many consumers have already used that information to make behavior changes or home improvements that are saving them energy and money. The portal allows you to make your information available to third parties such as friends and family IF YOU CHOOSE.

Smart Meter Questions

Are you installing smart meters in new homes? Yes. All new meters now being installed are smart meters. Our meter deployment plan, which was approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), requires smart meters to be installed in newly constructed homes.

What happens to the old meters? Meters that were replaced by the new smart meters are being dismantled, and all their components – such as aluminum, copper, glass et cetera – are being recycled.

Why did I have to get a smart meter?The old analog meters, many of which are no longer manufactured, cannot provide the level of service available today. Smart meters are read remotely, which gives consumers more privacy, and they allow electric service to be connected or disconnected remotely: faster, cheaper, and cleaner since 98 percent of the time CenterPoint Energy will no longer need to send a truck to conduct service orders for meters with remote connect/disconnect capability. Thus far, CenterPoint Energy has executed more than 5 million service orders remotely, saving consumers about $24 million in 2012 alone in eliminated fees for standard and priority move-ins, meter re-reads, and off-cycle reads, not to mention avoidance of over 4,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. 

Smart meters also have the ability to automatically notify CenterPoint Energy about individual power outages to help us respond to outages more quickly. In the future, with smart meter technology, customers will no longer need to call CenterPoint Energy to report outages. The old meters do not have this capability. Now, we often must rely on phone calls from multiple customers to determine the nature of an outage.

Smart meters can also provide customers with more information on their electric consumption, which many customers are already using to make home improvements or behavior changes to help them save energy and money. More than 600,000 Texans now get more frequent, detailed information on their electricity use from the Smart Meter Texas portal, either directly themselves or indirectly, for example in an email from their Retail Electric Provider. Seventy-four percent of surveyed consumers who receive such information say they have already used that information to make behavior changes or home improvements that are saving them energy and money. You can watch videos of Houston-area consumers sharing their experience with smart meters and offering energy-saving tips at www.youtube.com/centerpointenergyvid.

In 2008, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) authorized CenterPoint Energy to install smart meters throughout the company's electric service territory. One reason for installing smart meters throughout the territory is that the benefits are most apparent when all consumers have them. In order for consumers and society at large to see the full benefits of smart meters—including timely information on usage, quicker outage notification and response, and environmental benefits from fewer CenterPoint Energy trucks on the road for example —deployment needs to be widespread, not patchwork.

Moreover, a mix of smart meters and analog meters would create a chaotic and costly system to operate. If some consumers had analog meters that were unable to communicate wirelessly, they would require special services at additional cost, such as a continued need for meter readers dedicated to just one or a few customers and the requirement for a service call to start new service, thus eliminating the system-wide efficiencies and reduced costs.

Are smart meters accurate?

Yes. CenterPoint Energy takes the accuracy of its meters very seriously, which is why we have a rigorous testing and quality assurance process, including comparison testing of smart meters versus traditional meters, third party accuracy tests, and independent meter software reviews. Itron, the manufacturer of CenterPoint Energy’s smart meter, tests all meters shipped to CenterPoint Energy plus sample tests meters after manufacture. CenterPoint Energy also randomly tests meters according to American National Standards Institute guidelines before they are installed.

In July, 2010, Navigant Consulting, an independent firm hired by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to test smart meters, reported their results to the PUCT. The results indicate that CenterPoint Energy’s meters are accurate, which confirms the testing performed regularly by CenterPoint Energy and Itron, the manufacturer of our smart meter. In fact, none of the thousands of CenterPoint Energy smart meters tested by Navigant were found to be inaccurate according to American National Standards Institute standards. Navigant’s report can be found online at www.CenterPointEnergy.com/EnergyInSight under Resources.


What did the PUC test for? Is there a +/- variation on the meter readings? At the request of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, Navigant Consulting performed the following tests for CenterPoint Energy and other Texas utilities during four months of investigation from February to June 2010:

  • Independent testing of the accuracy of smart meters being deployed in Texas
  • Investigation of customer meter and billing complaints regarding smart meters
  • Analysis of historical electricity use of customers with smart vs. traditional meters
  • Evaluation of smart meter testing, deployment and provisioning processes and controls
  • Evaluation of advanced metering infrastructure including controls to ensure that electricity usage is accurately communicated from the meter through billing

None of thousands of CenterPoint Energy meters were found to be inaccurate according to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards of +/- 2%. One meter failed to meet CenterPoint Energy's more rigorous standard of +/- 0.5%.

Will the meter reader stop coming to my house? Yes. CenterPoint Energy will read your smart electric meter remotely. Electric service can also be connected and disconnected remotely for most homes, but CenterPoint Energy will continue to dispatch crews as needed to make on-site repairs.

Will meter readers lose their jobs? As of March, 2012, CenterPoint Energy's smart meter and intelligent grid projects had created or retained about 550 jobs, from the manufacture, installation, and maintenance of meters and other equipment; to the construction and maintenance of communications infrastructure; to computer hardware and software. Smart meters create new opportunities for CenterPoint Energy employees, from metering, to telecommunications, to information technology, to business analysis. Meter readers and other employees, to whom CenterPoint Energy offers educational assistance, can apply for new positions. You can read about Brian Andrews, a former meter reader who is now enjoying a more rewarding job as a Field Service Representative – Home Area Network in the June 2011 issue of our InSights newsletter at www.CenterPointEnergy.com/insightsnews.

If I move, can I take the smart meter with me? No, but smart meters will be installed in newly constructed homes and businesses in CenterPoint Energy's service territory.

In the event of a fire or other emergency, will the Smart Meter communicate to the grid to shut off power to that location? No, the smart meter will not detect emergency situations and automatically shut off. However, in the future, when power is lost to a home or business, the smart meter will automatically report the outage to CenterPoint Energy to help us restore power more quickly.

What will happen if the telecommunications system goes down? Will electric service be disrupted? No. Smart meters communicate wirelessly with cell relays, devices installed on power distribution poles, which transmit usage data to radio towers and on to CenterPoint Energy. If a cell relay goes down, the meter will search for another cell relay with which to communicate. Service to the home will not be interrupted because it is the communication device that is experiencing problems, not the electric distribution system.

Do smart meters interfere with my security systems, pacemaker, cell phone or other electronics? No. According to Itron, the manufacturer of CenterPoint Energy's smart meter, "The transmitting devices operate in compliance with 47 CFR Part 15 regulations, which require coexistence with other Part 15 certified devices. Within the 902-298 MHz frequency band, operation is limited to frequency hopping, direct sequence spread spectrum and digital modulation intentional radiators. This rule facilitates multiple devices operating in the same location. This includes devices such as security systems, cordless phones and pacemakers. The meter's transmit signal is of very short duration, which further decreases the potential to interfere with other devices."


If the meter malfunctions or gets damaged, will I have to pay for the meter to be replaced myself? CenterPoint Energy will replace meters that malfunction free of charge. If a meter is damaged, CenterPoint Energy will investigate the cause of the damage, replace the meter if necessary, and address funding of the replacement in a manner befitting the cause of the damage.

Do the meters still work when there is a storm? How will the weather affect the equipment? What happens if lighting strikes the radio antennae or cell relays? Advanced meter communications equipment is built to withstand 100 mph winds. If one cell relay goes down, the meters talking to that cell relay will immediately start talking to another cell relay. Monitors on the system will alert CenterPoint Energy that the cell relay has been interrupted so that it can be restored to service and repaired if necessary.
The advanced metering communications network is designed with many redundant components to continue to provide network communications in the event of any one component failure. In addition, processes and procedures have been put in place to dispatch repair crews 24 x 7 to repair the communications network if necessary.

Are there problems with the digital displays fading from direct sunlight? No. The liquid crystal display (LCD) of CenterPoint Energy's smart meters has a UV (ultraviolet) inhibitor, and we have thus far encountered no issues with fading displays.

Will IDR (Interval Data Recorder) meters be replaced with smart meters? Yes. IDR meters, which record usage for larger commercial and industrial consumers, will be replaced with new digital meters that provide detailed usage information to help businesses, factories et cetera to manage their energy consumption.

 I have a chronic medical condition that requires electric-powered medical equipment. What arrangements will you make for the installation of my smart meter? Registered "Critical Care Customers" will be contacted to schedule a mutually convenient time for the meter replacement. The installation will take about 10 minutes, during which you will experience a power outage. If you feel you should be registered as a Critical Care Customer, you may contact your Retail Electric Provider to apply for Critical Care status by submitting documentation required by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, signed by your doctor.


How long do the meters last? According to Itron, the manufacturer of CenterPoint Energy's smart meter, the meters are designed to last 20 to 25 years.


How often will communications equipment need to be updated or replaced? It is anticipated that software upgrades will be made to system components as technology advances over the years. It is anticipated that the equipment will last many, many years. Currently there is no plan to replace or upgrade the communications network hardware.


How do I read the meter? Smart meters display six different sets of information at three-second intervals, 24 hours a day (1) usage in kilowatt hours (2) electric demand in kilovolt amperes for commercial customers (3) surplus electricity generated by solar panels, wind mills etc (4) a check to ensure the characters are displaying correctly (5) whether the meter is registered with the communications network (6) and whether the meter is synchronized with the network.
Most consumers will be most interested in their usage in kilowatt hours (kWh). Look for the characters 01H at the top left of the display, then read the numbers that appear from left to right, which show a current reading of electricity used to date since the installation of the smart meter. To see how much electricity you've used in, for example, one week, write down this number at the beginning of the week then subtract it from the number displayed at the end of the week.

Full, instructions for reading the meter can be found at www.centerpointenergy.com/energyinsight under Resources, or you can watch a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u21YAMOIV1k.
However, in-home displays and other applications will be available that will provide more detailed and helpful information about your electric usage than does simply reading the meter, and you can view your detailed electric usage up to 24 hours before the current time at www.smartmetertexas.com.


Will meters be installed on new construction? Yes. Smart meters will be installed in newly constructed homes even outside the areas scheduled for deployment at a given time.


Will eliminating electric meter readers raise the cost of reading natural gas meters? 
Yes, with the installation of advanced electric meters, the joint meter reading subsidy that Houston-area natural gas customers have enjoyed for more than 10 years will no longer be justified and gas customers will bear their full share of meter reading costs going forward. The subsidy resulted from the 1997 merger between the parent companies of the former Houston Lighting & Power (electricity) and Entex (natural gas), which created an opportunity for Houston-area customers to benefit from joint electric and gas meter reading.   However, the cost of meter reading for electric customers has decreased as new smart electric meters have been deployed, so customers now enjoy that benefit. 

Approximately 60 to 70 percent of a gas customer's bill is to recover the cost of natural gas supplies purchased by the utility.  The remaining 30 to 40 percent covers the operation of the gas utility's distribution system of which a small portion, about $1 per month, is associated with meter reading expense.

Does Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certify smart meters? Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certifies consumer appliances such as toasters for safe use in the home. UL is not the appropriate authority for certification of industrial infrastructure such as electric power lines, transformers, or meters. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has testing authority over smart meters. The smart meters used by CenterPoint Energy have been tested by the manufacturer, CenterPoint Energy, and an independent third party and found to be within ANSI standards.

How do I disconnect service, so an electrician can work near the smart meter? You will need to schedule either a lock band install/removal or temporary service disconnect. 

How the process works:

  • The electrician will inform the customer as to which service order to request.
  • The customer must call and request the correct disconnect procedure.
  • The Electrician must wait until CenterPoint Energy has completed the service order before beginning work.
  • CenterPoint Energy will send a technician to the site to physically disconnect the meter and tag it as disconnected.

Upon completion of the work, the electrician should call CenterPoint Energy to re-energize the meter.

Read more about Requesting Meter Disconnects

Retail Electric Market Questions
My smart meter has been installed - what happens now? With your smart meter, you can get detailed information on your historical electric usage up to 24 hours ago by registering at www.SmartMeterTexas.com. To register, you will need your meter number and ESI ID (electric service identifier), which are on your bill. If you need assistance, you may contact the Smart Meter Texas help desk at 1-888-616-5859.


What is the Smart Meter Texas portal?
The Smart Meter Texas website was designed by IBM on behalf of a consortium of electric transmission and distribution utilities, including CenterPoint Energy, Oncor, and American Electric Power, to give customers with smart meters in the service territories of these utilities more control over their electricity use.
Consumers can register at www.SmartMeterTexas.com to access detailed views of their electric usage history in 13-month, 30-day, or 24-hour snapshots down to 15-minute intervals including usage data up to 24 hours before the current day. More than 600,000 Texans now get more frequent, detailed information on their electricity use from the Smart Meter Texas portal, either directly themselves or indirectly, for example in an email from their Retail Electric Provider (REP). Seventy-four percent of surveyed consumers who receive such information say they have already used that information to make behavior changes or home improvements that are saving them energy and money.
The Smart Meter Texas portal also allows REPs to access their smart meter customers' usage information to support retail offerings such as energy analysis tools, time-of-use rates, and pre-paid service. Through the portal, consumers and REPs can also connect Home Area Network devices to smart meters to help consumers better manage their electricity use by remotely controlling smart electric appliances and thermostats, which are under development by a number of manufacturers.
For more information, or to register your meter, visit www.SmartMeterTexas.com or call the Smart Meter Texas Help Desk at 1-888-616-5859. 


Will I be able to buy variable rate (time of use) electricity now that my smart meter has been installed? CenterPoint Energy does not sell electricity but delivers it on behalf of scores of Retail Electric Providers (REPs). Retail programs designed to take advantage of smart meters are becoming increasingly available. Check with your REP about their smart-meter enabled service offerings.

What new products and services do smart meters make possible? CenterPoint Energy does not sell electricity but delivers it on behalf of scores of Retail Electric Providers (REPs). With smart meters, REPs can now offer pre-paid service, time-of-use rates, energy analysis tools, and other products and services. Check with your REP about their smart-meter enabled service offerings.

As demand for smart energy products grows, we will likely see the creation of new apps for smart phones, tablets, and the web that will make use of smart meter data to help consumers manage their electricity use.


What is the significance of 15-minute usage data? One of the significant features of the 15-minute interval data is for consumers to visually see their usage in a graph to know when the electricity was used and how much was used so that they can make informed energy choices. This data will be particularly helpful to help you determine if "time-of-use" pricing is right for you.

Can a customer manually turn on the meter if their service has been disconnected for not paying? No, customers do not have the ability to reconnect their own service. You will still need to make arrangements with your Retail Electric Provider (REP) to have a reconnect order sent from the REP to CenterPoint Energy so that we can send the signal to the meter to restore service. With the remote connect feature of smart meters, reconnection of service will be much faster than in the past.

Will my billing date change? That will be up to your Retail Electric Provider (REP). While we will continue to obtain and send monthly usage to REPs, they may decide to use 15-minute interval data or daily reads to bill customers according to a different schedule.

What is demand response? Will CenterPoint Energy or my retail provider be able to turn my appliances off? Are you going to shut my power off if the government thinks I'm using too much electricity? "Demand response" programs encourage consumers to reduce or shift their electricity use (e.g. from afternoon to evening) in response to price signals or to reduce the possibility of overloading the electric grid in times of high demand.  Such programs, now available to commercial and industrial customers, could be extended to residential and small business customers with smart meters.  Through such optional programs, utilities could offer price incentives, payments or rebates to consumers for shifting or reducing their electricity consumption. Under such demand response programs, with customer authorization, utilities can cycle off air conditioners equipped with remote switches or adjust programmable communicating thermostats when demand for electric service exceeds available supply.

 
Will this be used for rolling outages if demand gets too high? With this new smart meter, will you be able to specifically turn off my power at my house if you happen to have rolling outages? When the demand for electricity exceeds supply, it is necessary to curtail usage, or the entire electrical grid is subject to collapsing. When there is a shortfall of available power generation supply to meet demand or when a supply shortfall is anticipated, ERCOT (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the electric grid across most of Texas) issues an emergency requirement to begin cutting back electric load through "rolling outages." 
Rolling outages are systematic, temporary interruptions of electrical service. They are the last step in a progressive series of emergency procedures that ERCOT follows when it detects that there is a shortage of power generation within the Texas electric grid. ERCOT will direct electric transmission and distribution utilities, such as CenterPoint Energy, to begin controlled, rolling outages to bring the supply and demand for electricity back into balance. They generally last 15-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood to spread the effect of the outage among consumers, which would be the case whether outages are coordinated at the circuit level or individual meter level. Without this safety valve, power generating units could overload and begin shutting down and risk causing a domino effect of a statewide, lengthy outage.
With smart meters, CenterPoint Energy is proposing to add a process prior to shutting down whole circuits to conduct a mass turn off of individual meters with 200 amps or less (i.e. residential and small commercial consumers) for 15 or 30 minutes, rotating consumers impacted during that outage as well as possible future outages.
There are several benefits to consumers of this proposed process.  By isolating non-critical service accounts ("critical" accounts include hospitals, police stations, water treatment facilities etc.) and spreading "load shed" to a wider distribution, critical accounts that happen to share the same circuit with non-critical accounts will be less affected in the event of an emergency.  Curtailment of other important public safety devices and services such as traffic signals, police and fire stations, and water pumps and sewer lifts may also be avoided.


Will "Time of use rates" raise the price during peak times? CenterPoint Energy does not sell electricity but delivers it on behalf of scores of Retail Electric Providers (REPs). With smart meters, REPs can now offer time-of-use rates and other new products or services. As with cell phones or other time-based services, rates could indeed rise at some times (i.e. peak) and fall at others (i.e. off-peak).

Before the introduction of smart meters, retail consumers have been insulated from the price volatility of the open wholesale electric market. Retail Electric Providers charge you one price for electricity used at any time of day, even though they may pay more for electricity purchased on the wholesale market during times of peak usage when wholesale prices are higher because older, less-efficient, more costly so-called "peaking" power plants are brought online to meet the extra demand. If time-of-use rates encourage consumers to shift their usage from peak to off-peak periods (i.e. afternoon to night), wholesale prices could drop, and if competing retailers pass those price reductions on to their customers, everybody could save money – even if you didn't change your own consumption patterns!

Check with your REP about their smart-meter enabled service offerings.

What good is the Smart Meter Texas portal if it shows how much electricity I was using yesterday? I thought it was "near real-time." With smart meters, you can register at www.smartmetertexas.com to view your electric usage down to 15-minute intervals. The information on this website is indeed 24 hours old. While this data is not "up to the minute," you will no longer have to wait a month for your bill to see how much electricity you are using. Studies suggest that giving consumers more frequent, detailed information on their electric usage encourages them to save energy.
CenterPoint Energy has also piloted in-home displays with a variety of options in a range of prices that use wireless data feeds from the smart meter to show electric usage in near real-time (i.e. seconds) and may provide other useful information such as the total estimated electric bill based on usage to date.
Many consumers have saved energy and money through consumption changes or home improvements made after learning more about their electricity usage via the Smart Meter Texas website or in-home displays. You can hear some of their stories at www.youtube.com/centerpointenergyvid.


Will I get fewer estimated bills with a smart meter? Yes. Since CenterPoint Energy can read smart meters remotely, fewer estimated readings will be necessary because of accessibility issues. In a recent month for example, 1.5% of CenterPoint Energy's traditional electromechanical meters required estimated readings, while only 0.3% of smart meters required estimated readings, an 80% reduction.

Will there still be meter reconnect fees with this system?  Will you do remote reconnects on nights and weekends? Yes. As a result of smart meters, CenterPoint Energy now performs remote service reconnections for customers with smart meters at night (until 9 p.m.) and on weekends, according to a Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) ruling that went into effect in July 2010. The ruling lowers the reconnect fee that CenterPoint Energy assesses Retail Electric Providers. Ask your Retail Electric Provider for their policy on such fees.

How do you know that the usage you send to my retail electric provider for billing is mine and not my neighbors? Data collected from a meter and transmitted wirelessly contains specific, unique identifiers associated with the customer's meter number and service address. These fields are validated numerous times to ensure accuracy before the data is used for billing. This process has been independently validated by Navigant Consulting, Inc.

 Won't the savings from not sending someone in a truck to connect or disconnect service offset the cost of installing smart meters?

No. Anticipated operational savings to CenterPoint Energy were subtracted from the surcharge through which CenterPoint Energy is recovering the cost of smart meter installations. In fact, execution of service orders is a discretionary service charge to Retail Electric Providers passed on to customers when service is connected or disconnected and is not part of CenterPoint Energy’s base rates.  Nonetheless, as of September 1, 2012, the common electric service fees listed below were discontinued:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: how much a customer paid to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: how much a customer paid to have new electric service connected at a
    residence within 48 hours (previously $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: how much a customer paid to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads for the purpose of switching electrical providers: how much a customer paid when an off-schedule meter read was needed for the last bill with a provider when switching to a new provider (previously up to $5)



If you're connecting and disconnecting electric service remotely with smart meters without sending a truck, will the charge to connect or disconnect service be reduced?? Yes. In fact it already has. As smart meters have been installed around the Houston area, the charge to connect and disconnect electric service (a fee which CenterPoint Energy assesses to Retail Electric Providers who sell electricity and which is then passed on to consumers) has been reduced from $16 to $0 for most meters. As of September 1, 2012, the common electric service fees listed below were discontinued:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: how much a customer paid to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: how much a customer paid to have new electric service connected at a
    residence within 48 hours (previously $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: how much a customer paid to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads for the purpose of switching electrical providers: how much a customer paid when an off-schedule meter read was needed for the last bill with a provider when switching to a new provider (previously up to $5)
    For meters with remote connect/disconnect capability, CenterPoint Energy is now able to conduct about 98 percent of service orders remotely: faster, cheaper, and cleaner.

 

Home Area Network and related questions

What is a Home Area Network (HAN)? Smart meters will be able to interact with up to five ZigBee-compatible devices, such as smart appliances and thermostats. So-called Home Area Networks (HANs) will allow consumers to monitor and control the networked devices remotely. Several appliance manufacturers have announced that they are adding HAN capabilities to smart appliances, and CenterPoint Energy is in the process of testing many of these. We expect HAN technology and related products to grow as smart meters are deployed in large numbers across the country.

What is ZigBee? ZigBee is an alliance of companies working to enable wirelessly networked monitoring and control products for appliances and other devices based on an open global standard to make sure they are compatible. The ZigBee protocol, much like Bluetooth, allows wireless communication among various devices.

What is an in-home display? In-home displays (IHDs) are small devices, about the size of a digital camera, that "talk" to smart meters to show consumers their electric usage up to the minute. IHDs may provide other useful information such as the total estimated electric bill based on consumption to that date. Watch a video of consumers sharing their experiences with In-Home Displays at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cS7QYACmug.

Where do I get an in-home display? 

About 15,000 Texans have IHD energy monitors today and, consumers should have access to a variety of devices in a range of prices as demand grows. Since regulatory restrictions currently prevent CenterPoint Energy from offering displays for sale, you can ask your Retail Electric Provider if they have or are planning programs involving these in-home devices.

How much do they cost?

In-home displays will be available in a range of prices from about $50 to several hundred dollars.

What can I do with my smart meter?

With your smart meter, you can get detailed information on your historical electric usage up to 24 hours ago down to 15-minute intervals by registering at www.smartmetertexas.com. For usage before the installation of your smart meter, contact your Retail Electric Provider (REP). CenterPoint Energy has piloted in-home displays (IHDs) that will be available with a variety of options in a range of prices that use wireless data feeds from the smart meter to show electric usage up to the minute. IHDs may provide other useful information such as the total estimated electric bill based on usage for the month to date. As demand for smart energy products grows, we will likely see the creation of new apps for smart phones, tablets, and the web that will make use of smart meter data to help consumers manage their electricity use. In the future, you will be able to create a Home Area Network (HAN) to let you remotely monitor and control up to five smart devices such as a smart thermostat and smart appliances, which are available or under development from a number of manufacturers. For example, you could program appliances to run when prices drop below a certain level. Ask your Retail Electric Provider if they have plans to offer time-of-use rates or other smart meter-enabled products and services.

Do I need special appliances to use the remote functionality that the smart meters will provide? 

No, not necessarily. CenterPoint Energy can read, connect, and disconnect smart electric meters remotely without your having to purchase any additional equipment. In the future, you will be able to create a Home Area Network which "talks" to the smart meter so you can remotely monitor and control up to five ZigBee-compatible devices, such as smart thermostats and appliances. There are also devices that can be connected to existing appliances allowing you to control these appliances, such as devices plugged into wall outlets for connecting and monitoring usage of window air conditioning units.


When are smart appliances going to be available?  

Several appliance manufacturers, are developing smart appliances. As part of the Biggest Energy Saver campaign and contest, a CenterPoint Energy customer, Sally Andrews, won a full kitchen suite of GE Profile smart appliances enabled with Brillion ™ technology, and another customer, Phillip Newsum won a GE Profile Front Load washer/electric dryer. You can watch Sally as well as Phillip and his wife Lisa talk about the contest and their prizes at http://www.youtube.com/centerpointenergyvid. CenterPoint Energy expects Home Area Network (HAN) technology and related products to grow as smart meters are deployed in large numbers across the country.

Intelligent Grid Questions

What is the Intelligent Grid?

CenterPoint Energy has begun building an “Intelligent Grid” with power line monitoring equipment , remote switches, and other automated equipment that will locate power line outages as they occur. This can speed recovery since repair crews won’t have to search for the source of an outage and can begin repairs much sooner. In fact, in 2012 when there was an opportunity to use Intelligent Grid automation to re-route and restore power, it saved more than 611,000 customer minutes over 20 outages. This is about a 21 percent improvement in outage response, with about 70 percent of affected customers experiencing an outage of just a few minutes rather than at least a half hour. So far in 2013, in 21 outages, over 1.2 million outage minutes were avoided, an improvement of more than 30 percent.p>

Phase 1 of the Intelligent Grid inside Loop 610, around the ship channel, and in some areas of north Houston will be completed in 2014. We plan to extend the Intelligent Grid to the rest of the Houston area in later phases.

What is the difference between a Smart Grid and an Intelligent Grid?

As CenterPoint Energy defines the terms, the Intelligent Grid is a component of the Smart Grid. The Smart Grid is composed of the Advanced Metering System (smart meters), Intelligent Grid (power line sensors, remote switches, and other automated equipment to improve power restoration), telecommunications systems supporting both smart meters and the intelligent grid, and all of the back-office computer systems and interfaces that enable all these systems to communicate and work together.

Will we be able to get our lights back on sooner now that we have smart meters? 

Smart meters have the ability to automatically notify CenterPoint Energy when your power goes out, which could help us restore power more quickly as well as find out whether the problem requires an electrician to perform work in your home without having to send a CenterPoint crew to your home. CenterPoint Energy is one of the first utilities to use smart meters to report outages, and we continue to test the system. For now, you should continue to call us to report power outages. However, in the near future, you’ll be able to sign up to be notified by phone, text, or email when your power goes out and when it has been restored. CenterPoint Energy has also begun building an “Intelligent Grid” with power line monitoring equipment that will locate power line outages as they occur. This should speed recovery since repair crews won’t have to search for the source of an outage and can begin repairs much sooner. In fact, in 2012 when there was an opportunity to use Intelligent Grid automation to re-route and restore power, it saved more than 611,000 customer minutes over 20 outages. This is about a 21 percent improvement in outage response, which means that about 70 percent of the affected customers experienced an outage of just a few minutes rather than an outage of at least a half hour. Phase 1 of the Intelligent Grid inside Loop 610, around the ship channel, and in some areas of north Houston will be completed in 2014. We plan to extend the Intelligent Grid to the rest of the Houston area in later phases.

How will this help CenterPoint Energy respond to hurricane outages? 

With the completion of installation of smart meters in 2012 and Phase 1 of the Intelligent Grid in 2014, smart meters, power line sensors, remote switches, and other automated equipment and computing systems will allow the Intelligent Grid to “self-heal” in the event of a major storm to restore power to as much of the system as possible. Then the damage to the system as a whole will be diagnosed and restored according to current practices. In many cases, the time to restore power through the Intelligent Grid could be significantly reduced.

How long will it take to restore power, once you have your entire Smart Grid built out?

In the future, the Intelligent Grid’s substation and distribution line monitoring equipment will be able to locate many power outages as they occur. This in turn could speed recovery since repair crews won’t have to search for the location of an outage and can begin repairs much sooner. In many cases,the time to restore power through the Intelligent Grid could be significantly reduced.

When will the “self-healing” capabilities be turned on? 

The Advanced Distributed Management System, the computer system which will be the Intelligent Grid’s “brain,” will be completed in 2014, so “self healing” is still a few years away.

What can you tell me about electric vehicles?

Another advantage of smart grid technology is that it creates a platform to facilitate the growth of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and fully electric vehicles (EVs). PHEVs and EVs are now commercially available from several major automakers. To prepare for the coming of these vehicles, CenterPoint Energy took part in a nationwide industry group that studied (PH)EVs to help ensure compatibility with electricity infrastructure. For more information, visit www.centerpointelectric.com/cehe/smartmeters/plugin.