Alliant representatives have given several reasons why the utility is switching Fairfield to smart meters in early 2019. They are:
1) Reduced cost from no longer needing to send employees to read each meter.
2) Location of power outages can be known instantly because a smart meter sends a signal when it is without power. Now, Alliant only knows of power outages when customers call them in, and it does not always know the extent of the outage.
3) Alliant key account manager David Vollmar said industries have been lobbying Alliant to switch to smart meters, not just to reduce outage time but also to know in real-time how much energy they?re using. Now, Alliant can only give companies energy usage data that is a month old, whereas with smart meters it can supply the data much sooner.
4) A smart meter contains a sensor that alerts the utility when it?s overheating, which Alliant representatives argued makes it safer than traditional meters with no ability to communicate temperature extremes.
Alternatives to smart meters
Some residents at Thursday?s meeting expressed a desire to keep their old analog meters. Alliant made it clear that will not be possible. Alliant spokeswoman Annemarie Newman said the utility will update all its meters to either smart meters or non-communicating digital meters at the customer?s request. However, opting for a digital meter will incur a fee. All fees are subject to approval by the Iowa Utilities Board.
Here are the options for those who wish to opt out of smart meters:
1) Smart meter trial: Alliant will install a smart meter at your residence for a three-month trial period. If you decide you don?t want it in that period, Alliant will disable the signal, and you will have to submit a monthly usage report (see No. 4 below).
2) Smart meter relocation: For a fee, Alliant will move the smart meter to a different location on your property. Alliant engineers will visit your property to provide an estimate of the cost, but will not pay for an electrician to do the work.
3) Read your own digital meter: You can elect to have a digital meter and submit monthly reports on its usage during a two-day bill calculation window. This will incur a one-time sign-up fee of between $100-$125, and a monthly fee of between $15-$25 to cover the expense to Alliant of manually inputting the data.
4) Read your own non-signalling smart meter: Alliant will install a smart meter at your residence but disable its signal, so you will have to read it monthly and submit the usage data to Alliant in a two-day bill calculation window just as in No. 3. You will have to pay $15-$25 per month, but will avoid the upfront cost of installing a digital meter like those who choose No. 3.
How to opt out
Newman said some Fairfield residents who approached her were under the mistaken impression they could only opt out of smart meters by sending a certified letter to the utility. That is false. Instead, Alliant asks those who wish to opt out to call 800-255-4268 (the last seven digits spell ?ALLIANT? on your phone).
After you call Alliant requesting to opt out, the utility will send you a postcard in the spring once manual alternatives and costs have been finalized. The utility also will send out information about when to choose your manual alternative.
Alliant will send a second postcard as it nears completion of the project in early 2019. At that time, you must call the utility and inform it as to which manual option you wish to pursue.