If you dread seeing your Entergy bill each month, you’ll soon get a little help in your effort to curb your electricity use.
Entergy New Orleans began installing devices on homes and businesses Monday that will allow customers to track their electricity use online every 15 minutes, instead of every month when they get their bill.
The new devices, dubbed “advanced meters,” are connected to online portals people can access on computers or smart phones to see how much power they are using and how much it costs in real-time.
The utility said the devices, which will be available to all New Orleans customers by the end of 2020 and to all Entergy Louisiana customers by the following year, are part of a broader effort to modernize its electricity grid and help customers save money.
“We are pretty excited about the capabilities that advanced meters are going to provide to our customers,” said Lauren Kenney, vice president of grid modernization and strategy for Entergy Corp.
Crews installed the first meter, also known as a “smart meter,” in New Orleans on Monday and plan to get started in Hammond later this month. Entergy said the meters are being being used by most utility companies in the U.S.
The move has been embraced by the City Council as vital to its quest to transform New Orleans into “smart city,” which uses data collection to inform decisions on energy, public safety, transit.
The Louisiana Public Service Commission, which regulates Entergy Louisiana, also has approved the push to install meters across dozens of parishes in the state by 2021.
The City Council asked Entergy to install its meters a year ahead of other Louisiana parishes, an expedited timeline that added $4.4 million to the original $75 million price tag.
Though customers would see a slight increase on their bills for the meters in the short term, experts have estimated that the program could result in a net benefit for New Orleans customers of at least $85 million over the long haul.
Elsewhere in the state, Entergy Louisiana will spend about $384 million to deploy the new equipment, though those costs will be offset by an expected $574 million in customer benefits.
Officials said technology for the new devices has grown by leaps and bounds since a pilot program for low-income customers in New Orleans was launched and shelved almost a decade ago.
The latest generation of the advanced meters allows customers to view their electricity use in 15-minute increments throughout the day, via the online portal connected to the new devices.
Gas customers will be able to see one-hour intervals of use. Customers also can set energy-use goals for themselves and receive billing notifications via email or text when the goals have been met, Kenney said.
“We anticipate this will be able to help customers forecast what their bill will be, show customers comparisons with their energy use and that of similar nearby homes, and show customers their use during hot versus cold weather months,” she said.
In addition to giving customers more information, Entergy said the devices will drastically improve the utility's response to power outages during storms and allow its representatives to answer customer billing questions more accurately.
But the modernization does mean that the days of the meter reader in Louisiana are numbered. Because Entergy will soon be able to price residents’ electricity from its offices, there will be no need to send out a crew to log that use or to flip the power switch when someone moves out of or into a home.
Though Kenney did not say how many employees would lose their jobs as a result of the plan, she did say that most of meter reading jobs were contracted and that other affected employees will be invited to apply for new jobs within the company.
Customers will be notified by Entergy before the new meters are installed, a process that causes a loss of power for about 15 minutes. Gas customers in most cases will receive upgrades to their existing meters.
Customers can opt out of the new meters if they choose, but for a fee: $14.35 a month for Entergy Louisiana ratepayers and a one-time fee of at least $131.00, plus a $12.42 monthly fee for New Orleans ratepayers.
The fee is intended to pay the costs associated with the operation and maintenance of manual meter readings, Kenney said.
The new meters do not affect existing programs to help customers reduce their electricity costs, such as Energy Smart New Orleans.