Aspenites can get smart about water, electricity consumption | AspenTimes.com

Aspenites can get smart about water, electricity consumption

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Care to know how much electricity you’ve used before you get the jaw-dropping bill?

If you are a customer of the city of Aspen’s utility, Aspen Electric or Aspen Water, now you can.

The city has taken its first steps toward implementing a smart grid – delivering electricity using digital technology to save energy, reduce costs and increase reliability.

“We recently purchased about 150 new electric smart meters that can communicate information about how much energy a person is using and when,” said Lee Ledesma, utility operations manager. “Your usage can be managed before the bill goes out.”

More than 200 meters have been installed, most of which have been at Burlingame Ranch, an affordable housing development off Highway 82 across from Buttermilk.

The meters eventually will be tied to an Internet interface where customers can log on and see their usage in real time. Right now, they can call the utility billing department for a report if they have a smart meter installed.

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“This is really the first step in transitioning to a smart grid system, which will increase response time for outages in addition to clueing customers and the city into energy and water consumption histories,” Ledesma said, adding that the city also has about 100 smart meters available to gauge water usage.

The smart meters are designed to help customers understand their utility bills better, narrow down discrepancies and point out places for conservation.

“Sometimes we’ll get phone calls asking how the customer could have possibly used 250,000 gallons of water. With a smart meter, we can look at the history and say, ‘On July 18 and 19 you used 200,000 gallons of water,'” Ledesma said. “Sometimes just knowing the date can help narrow down where that usage is coming from.”

Smart meters are just a start for Aspen’s utilities. The city is currently in the process of applying for a variety of federal stimulus dollars that if granted, will provide more resources toward Aspen’s transition to smart grid technology.

“The minimum grant amount is $300,000,” Ledesma said, adding that money can go a long way in connecting customers directly to their usage data via the Internet, which can only occur with more funding.

“Without having a full customer interface, we aren’t seeing the full benefit,” she said.

The federal stimulus money also could buy more meters for the 2,800 electric and 3,700 water customers, which cost $400 and $100 a piece, respectively.

The meters read electricity consumption every hour and transmits that data to the utility department. Water consumption is transmitted every six hours.

Ledesma said the city wants to gauge people’s interest in the meters. Anyone interested in having a smart meter at their home and are a customer of Aspen Electric or Aspen Water, e-mail utilities@ci.aspen.co.us.

“If you can monitor your daily usage before you get your bill, you can modify your behavior,” she said.

csack@aspentimes.com

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