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MLGW News Release
Moving Forward with Smart Meters
May 30, 2013

The Greater Memphis Chamber and Memphis Light, Gas and Water have a great working relationship. When the Chamber is recruiting new business to Memphis, MLGW is usually a role player, helping to create an attractive utility package. Our low utility rates, the lowest in the nation I might add, help keep overhead costs down. Among other factors, powering a new office building, manufacturing plant or warehouse can have a major impact on a company’s bottom line.

The cost-analysis of start-up or relocation to Memphis is pretty straightforward. But, what about the intangibles? There are “quality-of-life” considerations that also influence decision-making. One is the innovative character of a city. I’d argue with everything being equal, City A will win out over City B every time because of A’s reputation for being progressive. Whether you’re talking about green initiatives, education, health or technology, leaders want to take advantage of the synergies incubated in a city that’s ahead of the pack. You may be thinking at this point, what does being a progressive city have to do with this blog’s title and smart meters? A lot. And Memphis is playing catch up—read on.

First, what is a smart meter? Smart meters are measurement devices. They measure energy consumption. Because they have built-in communication, they can provide on-demand feedback about usage and will allow MLGW to automate many services such as meter reading, connection and reconnection. Reduced labor (through attrition) and transportation costs will mean reduced fees — up to 50 percent depending on the service — for our ratepayers.

The savings on fees are significant, but the real “bang for your buck” is the information the smart meters can provide. Utilizing an intricate and secure mesh network, MLGW will be able to empower customers to make informed decisions about their energy use. Instead of waiting until the end of the month for a bill, individual and corporate customers will be able to review their usage daily and adjust their energy use if they so choose. Will they? Findings from our 1,000 participant electric smart meter pilot program indicate customers will choose to save. On average, customers reduced their electric usage by 2.3 percent. Participants on voluntary time-of-use rates saved more than double that figure at 5.62 percent, equated to $82.68 annual monetary savings.

Right now, MLGW has more than 1.1 million antiquated analog meters in service. (Meter manufactures no longer make analog meters.) A 2.5 percent reduction of consumption at full smart meter deployment could collectively save MLGW customers $10 million annually. A 2010 Younger and Associates Economic Impact Study reported $10 million in utility savings among customers would create 152 jobs through increased discretionary spending in the community.

Across the United States, there are 37 million smart meters installed in households today. Full deployment would move us forward in comparison to other utilities in Tennessee and neighboring states:

  • Electric Power Board, Chattanooga, TN, 170,000 smart meters, 100% of total meters
  • Gibson County Electric, Gibson County, TN, 35,000, 100% of total meters
  • CDE Electric, Clarksville, TN, 31,000+, 100% of total meters
  • Bolivar Energy Authority, Bolivar, TN, 11,000+, 100% of total meters
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative, Polk County, TN, 112,000 meters, 99% of total meters
  • North Georgia E.M.C., 99,000 meters, 99% of total meters
  • Nashville Electric Service, Nashville, TN, 30,000 smart meters
  • Knoxville Utilities Board, Knoxville, TN, 4,200 smart meters
MLGW, which services Tennessee’s largest county, has a mere 1,200 smart meters or 0.2 percent deployment. Customers with smart meters are experiencing enhanced services including automated outage notification, increased security (they no longer have to keep their gates unlocked on meter reading day) and the option to prepay for their utilities.

It’s time for Memphis to move forward with smart meters—it’s about empowerment, jobs, new business, energy efficiency, and progress.

--Jerry Collins Jr., President and CEO, Memphis Light, Gas and Water