CenterPoint EnergyElectric Transmission and Distribution
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is Energy InSight?
  2. Why is it called Energy InSight?
  3. What smart technologies are you installing?
  4. What are the benefits of smart meters?
  5. What makes "smart" meters smart?
  6. How do smart meters work?
  7. Do smart meters have other benefits? 
  8. Do smart meters benefit the environment?
  9. Can smart meters help me save money?
  10. Exactly how much money will I save with the new Smart Meters?
  11. 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? 
  12. What can I do with my smart meter?
  13. What other new products and services do smart meters make possible?
  14. I’m worried that smart meters could pose a health risk by emitting radio signals.
  15. Are you going to install smart gas meters?
  16. I am interested in installing solar panels at my home. Do I need to talk to CenterPoint?
  17. 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 savvy?
  18. Will smart meters help you s#top people from stealing electricity? 
  19. Can the meters detect when power is being fueled by natural gas-powered generators following power outages?
  20. How will electricians know if a meter is truly shut off before they begin work?
  21. Who authorized CenterPoint Energy to install smart meters? Are the proceedings at the PUC authorizing smart meters available to the public for inspection?
  22. My bill went up after I got a smart meter. Is there a connection?
  23. Are smart meters accurate?
  24. I’m worried that smart meters could cause fires.
  25. 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. Do smart meters help with power restoration?
  4. How much faster can you restore power with smart meters and the intelligent grid?

Power Alert Service Questions

  1. What is Power Alert Service?
  2. How do I enroll in Power Alert Service?
  3. Can I request power notifications for more than one property?
  4. Can I sign up to receive more than one type of notification?
  5. What should I do if I registered to receive text message notifications but never received my text confirmation message?
  6. How do I change my notification preferences?
  7. How do I cancel my enrollment?
  8. Where can I find my ESI ID number?
  9. Where can I find my meter number?
  10. Is there a fee for this service?
  11. Will notifications be delivered for all power outages?
  12. Will notifications, such as phone calls, be delivered in the middle of the night?
  13. What should I do if I receive a notification that my problem has been resolved but my lights are still off?
  14. What should I do if I receive a notification for a power problem at or near my address but my lights are still on?

Smart Meter Questions

  1. Why did I have to get a smart meter?
  2. What happened to the old meters?
  3. Are you installing smart meters in new homes?
  4. Are smart meters accurate?
  5. What did the PUC test for? Is there a +/- variation on the meter readings? 
  6. If I move, can I take the smart meter with me?
  7. In the event of a fire or other emergency, will the Smart Meter communicate to the grid to shut off power to that location? 
  8. What will happen if the telecommunications system goes down? Will electric service be disrupted? 
  9. Do smart meters interfere with my security systems, pacemaker, cell phone or other electronics? 
  10. If the meter malfunctions or gets damaged, will I have to pay for the meter to be replaced?
  11. How do you perform communications in areas with underground power lines? 
  12. 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? 
  13. Are there problems with the digital displays fading from direct sunlight? 
  14. How long do the meters last? 
  15. How often will communications equipment need to be updated or replaced? 
  16. How do I read the meter? 
  17. Does Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certify smart meters? 

Smart Meter Opt Out Questions

  1. Can I opt out of having a smart meter?
  2. What is the cost of opting out of a smart meter?
  3. Why do I have to pay to opt out?
  4. How do I opt out?
  5. Do I have to pay the one-time fee all at once?
  6. What if I change my mind? Can I opt back in?

Retail Electric Market Questions

  1. What can I do with a smart meter?
  2. What is the Smart Meter Texas portal?
  3. What new products and services do smart meters make possible?  
  4. Can a customer manually turn on the meter if their service has been disconnected for not paying? 
  5. 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.  
  6. Will this be used for rolling outages if demand gets too high?
  7. 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." 
  8. Will I get fewer estimated bills with a smart meter? 
  9. Will there still be meter reconnect fees with this system?  Will you do remote reconnects on nights and weekends? 
  10. How do you know that the usage you send to my retail electric provider for billing is mine and not my neighbors?  
  11. Since you're connecting and disconnecting electric service remotely with smart meters without sending a truck, has the charge to connect or disconnect service been 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?

 Security Questions

  1. Are you taking measures to guard the security of customer data tansmitted by smart meters? 
  2. I'm concerned about privacy. Will smart meters let you see when I watch TV or run my appliances?
  3. Who else can see my usage? Are you going to share my information with marketers?

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 installing?
We have installed more than 2.3 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.

What are the benefits of smart meters
Smart meters give consumers 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 reads 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. Customers (including those with analog meters) can sign up to receive text/email/phone alerts when their power goes out along with an estimated time of restoration.
  •  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, "free nights and weekends", 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. View a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DchmCCJsYKU.

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 nine million remotely conducted service orders to date have avoided over 8,100 metric tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to emissions from powering 675 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 Biggest Energy Saver contests (biggestenergysaver.com) reduced their electric consumption by 36 to 50 percent 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 have been discontinued:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: to have new electric service connected at aresidence within 48 hours (was $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads to switch Retail Electric Providers: 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 Biggest Energy Saver contests (http://www.biggestenergysaver.com), reduced their electric consumption by 36 to 50 percent. 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 have been discontinued:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: to have new electric service connected at a
    residence within 48 hours (was $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads to switch Retail Electric Providers: 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)

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. As the home energy management market grows, 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 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 (i.e. free nights and weekends). Smart meters also allow REPs to offer new services such as pre-paid service, free nights and weekends, 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, over 10,000 Texans have IHDs. The following companies sell IHDs and related devices that have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters:

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.

As the home energy management market grows, 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, free nights and weekends, energy analysis tools, and other products and services. Check with your REP about their smart-meter enabled service offerings.

I’m worried 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
  • Lap#top 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?
CenterPoint Energy will complete a project to deploy an Automated Meter Reading system consisting of gas Encoder Receiver Transmitters (ERTs) in all six states of its natural gas service area by 2015, which uses a mobile drive-by solution to read 10,000 meters per day per vehicle as opposed to 500 meters per person.

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 savvy?
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 have been discontinued:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: to have new electric service connected at a residence within 48 hours (was $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads to switch Retail Electric Providers: 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 s#top 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 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. Electricians 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, can be found at www.centerpointelelectric.com/cehe/smartmeters/ under Quick Links.

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 Quick Links. 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.

I'm worried that smart meters could cause fires. 
CenterPoint Energy has completed the installation of more than 2.3 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.

You can 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.

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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, since 2011 we have used Intelligent Grid automation to re-route and restore power in nearly 1,000 outage events, saving customers more than 88 million minutes of outage time.

We will continue construction of the Intelligent Grid throughout our territory in the years ahead.

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.

Do smart meters help with power restoration? 
Smart meters can 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 you can now sign up to be notified by phone, text, or email when your power goes out and when it has been restored (even if you don’t have a smart meter). More than 420,000 customers are already enrolled in CenterPoint Energy's Power Alert Service.

How much faster can you restore power with smart meters and the intelligent grid? 
Smart meters are the early detection system for power outages. When service is interrupted, they transmit a Power Off Notification to CenterPoint Energy. During storms, they help our Distribution Control center pinpoint outages and dispatch crews more effectively than ever before.

Before smart meters, when a customer called CenterPoint Energy to report a power outage, we didn’t know whether there were other customers without power until they called – which could take an hour or more during weekdays or overnight. Now, if an outage affects multiple customers, we get multiple Power Off Notifications (PONs), which helps us determine the level of equipment impacted by an outage. This is referred to as localization. Previously, average time to localize outages could take up to 75 minutes. PONs have reduced the average time to localize outage cases to as low as 10 minutes or less. Smart meters help us send the right crew to the right place to respond to outages faster.

In addition, since 2011 we have used Intelligent Grid automation to re-route and restore power in nearly 1,000 outage events, saving customers more than 88 million minutes of outage time.

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Power Alert Service Questions

What is Power Alert Service? 
CenterPoint Energy’s Power Alert Service delivers email, text, and/or phone call notifications to customers whose electricity is delivered by CenterPoint Energy when their power goes out.

Thanks to our investments in smart grid technology, this new, FREE service:

  • Automatically sends a notification if you have a power outage lasting several minutes or more in your area that cannot be resolved quickly by our smart grid technology
  • Gives you peace of mind knowing that we are addressing the problem
  • Provides an estimated time that the problem will be fixed and an estimate of the number of customers affected by the problem
  • Sends a new estimated repair time to you as soon as it’s available if a repair takes longer than originally estimated
  • Notifies you when the problem has been resolved and tells you what caused the problem
  • Allows you to choose any combination of email, text and/or phone call notifications
  • Lets you opt-out at any time

How do I enroll in Power Alert Service? 
Enrollment is easy, you may call us at 713-207-2222 or fill out the form at http://www.centerpointelectric.com/cehe/outage/alerts/.

Can I request power notifications for more than one property? 
Yes, you can enroll to receive notifications for multiple properties. You will need to create separate enrollments for each property address (ESID).

Can I sign up to receive more than one type of notification? 
Yes, you can select to receive notifications by email, by phone and/or by text (SMS). Just check the box for the notification type(s) that you would like to receive.

What should I do if I registered to receive text message notifications but never received my text confirmation message? 

  • Check with your cell phone provider and make sure that your cell phone is currently capable of receiving “premium” text messages
  • Check with your cell phone provider and ask them to make sure that you can receive text messages from Short Codes 386-71 and 821-04 and confirm that these are not blocked numbers
  • Make sure that you have not entered a Google voice number – at this time Power Alert Service notifications are not currently available via Google voice
  • Make sure a landline number was not inadvertently entered
  • Make sure that your device is capable of receiving text messages – check your device type

How do I change my notification preferences?
Follow the prompts using the form at http://www.centerpointelectric.com/cehe/outage/alerts/. Enter your address or ESI number/meter number and address information, and then modify your notification preferences.

How do I cancel my enrollment?
Follow the prompts using the form at http://www.centerpointelectric.com/cehe/outage/alerts/. Enter your address or ESI number/meter number and address information, then cancel your notifications by unchecking the box next to the notification type(s).

How do I find my ESID?
Your ESI ID can be found on your provider’s electric bill. An Internet search of the term “ESID Lookup” will also link to many sites that can assist in locating your ESID.

Where can I find my meter number?
Your meter number can be found on your provider’s electric bill or on your electric meter below the display screen.

Is there a fee for this service?
There is no fee for this service. However, if you select SMS/text messaging notifications, then standard text messaging fees charged by your carrier may apply.

Will notifications be delivered for all power outages?
No. In order not to disturb you with notifications about momentary blinks in power, we will only notify you about problems lasting several minutes or more that cannot be resolved quickly by our smart grid technology. If you arrive home from work and find that your clocks are flashing on/off (or that your clocks are a few minutes behind the correct time) but you did not receive a Power Alert Service notification, this means that you had a power blink that lasted only a few minutes or less.

Will notifications, such as phone calls, be delivered in the middle of the night?
Phone call notifications will not be delivered between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. so you can get a good night’s sleep. Since the phone call notification system will be off during this time: (1) phone call notifications for outages between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. will not be delivered, and (2) phone call updates about the previous night’s outages will not be issued. However, text message and email notifications will continue to be delivered 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. To ensure that you stay fully informed about late night outages and other problems, we recommend that customers who choose phone call notifications also elect to receive at least one other type of notification (e.g., text messages and/or emails).

What should I do if I receive a notification that my problem has been resolved but my lights are still off?
Your feedback is valued and will help us improve the future operation of the Power Alert Service. If you receive a notification stating that the problem has been resolved but your power is still off, first check your circuit breakers. If that does not resolve the problem, please call the CenterPoint Energy customer service team at (713) 207-2222.

What should I do if I receive a notification for a power problem at or near my address but my lights are still on?
You may disregard the alert; this problem may not apply to your specific address. Do, however, complete a follow-up survey if you receive one.

Where can I get more information or report a problem?
You can email PowerAlertService@CenterPointEnergy.com.

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Smart Meter Questions

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 99 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 nine million service orders remotely, saving consumers about $24 million each year in eliminated fees for standard and priority move-ins, meter re-reads, and off-cycle reads, not to mention avoidance of over 8,100 metric tons of CO2 emissions, equal to the emissions associated with powering 675 homes for a year with electricity generated from coal. 

Smart meters can also automatically notify CenterPoint Energy about individual power outages to help us respond to outages more quickly. The old meters do not have this capability. Now, customers may sign up for our Power Alert Service, which delivers email, text and/or phone call notifications to customers whose electricity is delivered by CenterPoint Energy when their power goes out (even if they don’t have smart meter). Smart meters help us send the right crew to the right place to respond to outages faster.

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.

The standard metering service used by utilities like CenterPoint Energy is the advanced (smart) meter. Customers who choose nonstandard meters are required to pay the incremental costs to provide the nonstandard service, which include costs to manually read meters and perform other services through nonstandard processes that would otherwise not be required.

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

Are you installing smart meters in new homes?
Yes. The standard metering service used by utilities like CenterPoint Energy is the advanced (smart) meter. Customers who choose nonstandard meters are required to pay the incremental costs to provide the nonstandard service, which include costs to manually read meters and perform other services through nonstandard processes that would otherwise not be required.

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 Quick Links.

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%.

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? 
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.

How do you perform communications in areas with underground power lines?
The meters connect to each other through a wireless mesh network. The meters join together in this mesh network and find a path back to a cell relay. The location of the cell relay is important, and in areas where there is no power line pole, it can be mounted on a street light.

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.

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 Quick Links, or you can watch a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u21YAMOIV1k.

However, in-home displays and other applications are available that will provide more detailed and helpful information about your electric usage than does simply reading the meter.

The following companies sell IHDs and related devices that have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters:

You may also ask your Retail Electric Provider if they have or are planning programs involving these in-home devices.

You can view your detailed electric usage up to 24 hours before the current time at www.smartmetertexas.com.

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.

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Smart Meter Opt Out Questions

Can I opt out of having a smart meter?
Yes. The Public Utility Commission has adopted the Non-standard Metering Service rule, which allows a customer to choose a non-standard meter as an alternative to the standard advanced meter, by replacing the existing meter with (1) an advanced meter with the communications technology disabled (2) a digital, non-communicating meter, or (3) an analog meter, subject to commercial availability.

What is the cost of opting out of a smart meter?
Customers who opt-out of an advanced meter in favor of a non-standard meter are charged a monthly fee of $32.80 for meter reading as well as a one-time fee of the following: (1) $174 for an advanced meter with the communications technology disabled (2) $201 for a digital, non-communicating meter, or (3) $171 for a new analog meter, subject to commercial availability.

Why do I have to pay to opt out?
The standard metering service used by utilities like CenterPoint Energy is the advanced (smart) meter. Customers who choose non-standard meters are required to pay the incremental costs to provide the non-standard service, which include costs to manually read meters and perform other services through non-standard processes that would otherwise not be required.

How do I opt out?
Customers opting for a non-standard meter must sign a document provided by CenterPoint Energy (Opt-Out form), indicating the desired non-standard option, and return it along with payment of the one-time service fee by cashier’s check or money order payable to CenterPoint Energy to EMO-CREDIT CNPT 6, CENTERPOINT ENERGY, PO BOX 1700, HOUSTON TX 77251-9857.

The request will be completed within 30 days of receipt of the signed document and payment. Customers wishing to be notified of the planned installation date of the non-standard meter should include their phone number on the form. Questions, including requests for the Opt-Out form, may be directed to 713-207-2222.

Do I have to pay the one-time fee all at once?
Yes. CenterPoint Energy will not install a non-standard meter until payment has been made of the one-time fee, which covers the material and labor costs of the non-standard meter installation.

What if I change my mind? Can I opt back in?
Yes. Customers may request replacement of a non-standard meter with an advanced meter at any time. One-time fees for installation of non-standard meters will not be refunded in such cases, but recurring monthly fees will be discontinued following installation of the standard, advanced meter.

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Retail Electric Market Questions

What can I do with a 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 increments by registering at 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.

You can also get real-time (seven-second delay) information on your electricity use from an In-Home Display (IHD) which is small device that ”talks” to the smart meter. IHDs may provide other useful information such as the total estimated electric bill based on usage for the month to date. Today, over 10,000 Texans have IHDs.

The following companies sell IHDs and related devices that have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters:

You can also ask your Retail Electric Provider if they have or are planning programs involving these in-home devices.

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 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, free nights and weekends, 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 SmartMeterTexas.com or call the Smart Meter Texas Help Desk at 1-888-616-5859. 

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 (e.g. "free nights and weekends"), 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.

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.

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 someone 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? 
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.

At present, CenterPoint Energy has no plans to interrupt service at the individual meter level in the unlikely event of rolling outages.

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 (IHDs) 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.

The following companies sell IHDs and related devices that have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters:

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 typical month for example, only 0.3% of smart meters require 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 which lowered 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.

Since you're connecting and disconnecting electric service remotely with smart meters without sending a truck, has the charge to connect or disconnect service been reduced?
Yes, it has. The charge to connect and disconnect electric service (a fee which CenterPoint Energy assesses to Retail Electric Providers who sell electricity and which was then passed on to consumers) has been reduced from $16 to $0 for most meters. The common electric service fees listed below have been discontinued:

  • Standard Move-In Fee: to have electric service connected at a residence (previously $6)
  • Priority Move-in Fee: to have new electric service connected at a
    residence within 48 hours (previously $14)
  • Meter Re-reads: to request a re-read of their meter to verify accuracy (previously up to $5)
  • Out-of-cycle meter reads to switch Retail Electric Providers: 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 99 percent of service orders remotely: faster, cheaper, and cleaner.

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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? 
Over 10,000 Texans have IHD energy monitors today. The following companies sell IHDs and related devices that have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters:

You can also ask your Retail Electric Provider if they have or are planning programs involving IHDs.

How much do they cost?
In-home displays are available in a range of prices from $50 and above. The following companies sell IHDs and related devices that have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters:

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.

CenterPoint Energy has piloted in-home displays (IHDs) 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. Over 10,000 Texans have IHD energy monitors today.

The following companies sell IHDs and related devices that have been successfully tested for use with CenterPoint Energy smart meters:

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.

As the home energy management market grows, 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 (e.g. "free nights and weekends") 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. As the home energy management market grows, 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.

Security Questions

Are you taking measures to guard the security of customer data transmitted by smart meters?

Yes. Security is of paramount concern to CenterPoint Energy. We maintain a comprehensive cyber security and risk mitigation program. Security protocols for CenterPoint Energy’s smart meters are adapted from other industries such as the banking and defense sectors to ensure the highest level of security for our smart meters and mesh network.

The data stored on smart meters includes consumption data that is collected by CenterPoint Energy and securely provided to the consumer and their Retail Electric Provider via the Smart Meter Texas portal and meter diagnostics that allow CenterPoint Energy to monitor meter performance. No personal customer information is stored on the meter or is transmitted by the meter. All information transmitted between the meters and the network is encrypted utilizing the latest approved industry standards, which are frequently reviewed for possible enhancements or mitigations to external threats.

Are you taking measures to guard the security of customer data transmitted by smart meters?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. As the home energy management market grows, 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 increase your privacy, since we 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.

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 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 can access it for billing. Unless you make an inquiry, billing department personnel generally do not view your usage data. Note that no personal customer information is stored on the meter or is transmitted by the meter.

The Smart Meter Texas portal (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 Retail Electric Provider (REP).

Seventy 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 portal allows you to make your information available to third parties such as friends and family IF YOU CHOOSE.

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