District Manager Ricky Turner welcomed everyone, saying he was very proud of the company’s facilities and was glad they could get a look at them. He said Wheeler would be telling them all about the meters, which he said were comparable to the old meters in the way that a Mercedes is comparable to a Volkswagen. The meters were all installed in Trigg County homes by the end of last summer.
Wheeler said that the new meter system was the biggest technological change for Pennyrile Electric since it began in 1942. He said that Pennyrile gets a bill each month from the Tennessee Valley Authority for exactly how much electricity was used in that time. When people lied about their meter reading, Pennyrile would undercharge them, but TVA doesn’t care who lies. They simply collect the money they are owed, Wheeler said.
The difference between what TVA charges and the meter reading are know as “losses,” and Wheeler said they were typically between 5.2 and 5.5 percent before the new meters were installed. They have now dropped to about 3.6 percent, he said. Pennyrile buys about 100 million kilowatt hours from TVA each year and sells about 95 million. Wheeler said that in a year’s time, the new meters would save about one million dollars.
The new system is known as “TWACS,” which stands for “two-way automated communication system,” Wheeler said. The meters send a signal to substations, which send them to the offices via the Internet. One side benefit of this system is that if a signal has trouble getting through, Pennyrile can find out which power lines are “trouble areas,” Wheeler said. He said that their utility workers probably set a record for their speed in installing the meters when they finished in nine months. This was a hard task to complete, in part because 23 substations had to be reequipped with the new technology.
“When it was over, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief,” Wheeler said.
That isn’t to say that everything went perfectly. Wheeler said that one thing they learned was that summer is a bad time to start installing new meters. Because of the gap in the meter readings, people would sometimes get bills for about 45 days. With all the energy costs that come along with the season, many people were quite angry when they got their bills.
Still, Wheeler said the industry technology is moving steadily into the future, and that is something he celebrates. He compared it video technology, saying it had become advanced and would continue to do so.
Read about the Chamber of Commerce in the new Cadiz Record.