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May 15th, 2008
San Marcos to Install 'Smart Meters'

The San Marcos City Council has approved a $4.8 million “smart” utility metering system that will read meters electronically, improve billing accuracy and allow customers to keep track of their water and electric use during the month.

The Council has awarded a contract to EKA Systems of Germantown, Md., in April to install an “advanced metering infrastructure” (AMI) system that will electronically read electric and water meters and relay the information every hour back to the utility office.

San Marcos water and electric customers will be able to monitor their own use throughout the month on the Internet. The utility can notify customers if the readings signal unusual consumption patterns that could mean leaky pipes or other problems.

“The AMI system will bring many benefits to our utility system and our customers,” said Laurie Anderson, Assistant City Manager. “We will minimize utility personnel working on private property and be able to catch problems early and address them more quickly.”

Project benefits include:

* Replacing old meters with modern technology
* More accurate and “on demand” meter readings
* Quicker connects and disconnects
* “Time of Use” capability for customers to know most economical time to run appliances
* Knowing when and where service outages occur before customers call
* Improved safety for employees
* Better tracking of customer demand and system loads

The AMI system will consist of new electric and water meters with imbedded interface units. These devices will transfer reads to neighborhood “gateways” that hold the data until it is transferred to software system in the Utility Department where it will be processed and analyzed by the staff. In the final stages of the project, the information will be available for web presentation to customers.

The project will be implemented in two phases.

Phase I will include three pilot locations to test the system. The first pilot site will include 50 electric and water meters in the downtown area to test the network and software conductivity. Subsequent installations will include up to 500 meters that will include an apartment area and a site to test water meters in an area served by another electric system. Phase I should take about four months. Phase II will provide the full installation of the AMI system citywide, expected to be completed in 2009.

San Marcos has a community-owned water/ wastewater and electric system with 9,800 water customers and 19,500 residential, commercial and institutional electric customers.

The new system includes only those metered services supported by the City’s Electric Utility and the Water Utility. It does not include electric services provided by Pedernales Electric Cooperative and Bluebonnet Electric Coop or private water systems.

“Eka Systems was chosen for the contract based on its high quality, two-way communications network that supports multiple types of water and electric meters, as well as their ability to expand the network for future applications,” said Dale Pennington, with Utiliworks, the City’s consultant advising the city on the project.

By MELISSA MILLECAM
Communications Director – City of San Marcos

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