When does the project begin?

The project will be done in phases.  The first phase of the project will consist of changing out the natural gas meter equipment.  This phase is scheduled to begin October 12, 2020.  In most cases, you do not need to be home for this install. 

The second phase will consist of changing out the water meter equipment.  This phase of the project will require the installer to access your premises.  Appointments will be made directly between you and our contracted installer, SCOPE Services, Inc.

The third and final phase of the project will change out the electric meter equipment.  There will be a brief power outage during this phase.  

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Who is the contractor doing the equipment change?

OPU has partnered with ITRON Utility Services and SCOPE Services Inc..  SCOPE Services, Inc. will be the contractor installing the equipment.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)?

Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI, is a technology solution that allows two-way communication between customers’ electric, water and natural gas meters and OPU’s billing, distribution and control systems. For years, OPU has read meters via radio reads providing a single direction of information flow – from the meter to the utility.  With AMI, OPU and its customers will have the ability to share information about usage in real time and, as a result, boost efficiency.

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What is an Advanced Meter?

An Advanced meter allows for two-way communication on an Advanced Metering network.  The meter collects usage data in increments.  OPU will configure the meters to collect usage in 15-minute or hourly increments depending on the commodity.

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Is Advanced Metering new Technology?

No, Advanced Metering has been around for many years in both Owatonna and around the country.  Advanced Metering is already used for collecting utility readings.

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Reason for the Upgrade of Equipment?

The upgraded equipment will allow OPU to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively, which lowers and reduces pressures on rates.  Our ability to have two-way communication with the meters will give us precise information about the timing and location of outages, making some power restoration efforts more efficient.  Customers will be able to monitor their usages in daily measurements via SmartHub, helping customers be better informed allowing them to make better decisions about their usage behaviors and patterns.

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When will the upgraded equipment be installed in my home or business?

The upgraded equipment will begin being changed the middle of October beginning with the gas meters.  Water and electric meters will follow as the project progresses.

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Will I be notified prior to any meter installations at my home or business?

Yes.  A postcard will be sent to customers letting them know when someone will be in their neighborhood approximately two weeks prior to any planned work.  Of course, things can change, so flexibility and patience from our customers will be greatly appreciated.  On the day of installation, a SCOPE Services installer will be on your property to change out the equipment.  A typical change out takes approximately 15-20 minutes.  Each SCOPE Services installer will have proper identification, as well as a SCOPE Services logoed vehicle.

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Do I need to be home for this equipment change?

The answer to this question is “it depends”. The first phase of the project will be changing out equipment on your gas meter.  If your gas meter is obstructed by a locked fence, physical structure or an animal is present, you will need to make an appointment for SCOPE Services to install the equipment.  Otherwise no, you do not need to be present. 

As the project progresses and installation of new equipment is required on the water meter, then yes, access will need to be gained to the premises.  Appointments will be scheduled with SCOPE Services for a mutually convenient time.

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Will my service be interrupted during installation?

Again, the answer is…it depends.  During the installation of the gas equipment, there will not be an interruption to your service.  During the installation of the electric equipment, there could be a brief outage while the equipment is changed.  During the installation of the water equipment, there could be a brief outage while the equipment is changed. 

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What do I do if I have questions about the AMI equipment change, or need to schedule an appointment?

  • You may call SCOPE Services, Inc. at 1-844-487-7266 Monday – Friday 7am – 7pm CST; Saturday 7am – 4pm CST
  • You may email OPU by clicking on the “Contact Us” button at the top of this page.
  • SCOPE Services, Inc. will be handling the scheduling of all appointments related to the equipment change.

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Will OPU be able to control anything in my home or business?

No.  OPU’s access stops at the meter.  If, in the future, it makes sense to offer programs for certain devices in your home, they would be on a voluntary basis by each individual customer.

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Will the new Advanced Metering Equipment fit in my existing electric meter socket?

Yes, the advanced electric meters will fit your existing meter socket.  The swap is very easy and quick.  

As part of the electric meter equipment change, SCOPE Services, Inc. installers will carefully inspect your meter socket for damage.  If it is determined the meter socket is in need of repair, SCOPE Services, Inc. alert OPU of the needed repairs, and an OPU serviceworker will schedule and perform the needed repairs.

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Will the appearance of my electric, gas or water meters be different?

The electric and water meters will look the same, with the exception that the usage read-outs will be digital with Advanced Metering.  The gas meter will be the same, with the exception of a small gray box added just behind the meter dials.

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How does Advanced Metering benefit me?

At a high level, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) will provide you with better information to utilize your utility resources more efficiently.  As the system is developed, you will have access to more detailed information about your energy and water usage via SmartHub, OPU’s customer web portal.  Additionally, when the power at your home is interrupted, OPU will be automatically notified.

With Advanced Metering, OPU will be able to provide a higher level of customer service; offer better electric, gas and water reliability; and keep our operating costs low.  The additional, and timelier, information available through AMI will enable us to better address customer questions and issues.  That same information will give OPU a view of what is happening throughout the various distribution systems, thus enabling us to be more proactive and avoid outages or other system issues.  Many functions that require sending crews out to the field today will be performed remotely with AMI, thus saving labor, fuel and vehicle costs, in addition to being more environmentally friendly.

Below is a short list of benefits related to Advanced Metering:

  • Outage Notification
  • Customer portal — usage data
  • Reduction of vehicle emissions 
  • Identification of theft (keeps costs low)
  • Identification of water leaks or trouble shooting excessive usage

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What will Advanced Metering cost me?

There will be no additional customer bill charges for this new technology.  The project is being funded out of normal operating budgets.  

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Will I have access to my meter data?

Yes.  As the system is developed, you will have access to more detailed information about your energy, water and natural gas via “SmartHub,” the OPU’s customer web portal.  Additional functionality will be added as we continually improve the system.  This functionality will enable you to make better choices about how you use your utility resources.

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Will I still need to call when my power is out?

Initially, we are asking customers to still call in (507-451-1616) to report outages, even with an Advanced Electric Meter installed at their home or business.  As we deploy the Advanced Metering system, we will be testing many aspects to ensure the communication is flowing efficiently and effectively, as it relates to outage notification.  Once we are assured all is working as it should, we will notify customers that calling to report an outage is optional.

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How does all of this work?

Water and gas meters communicate with nearby electric meters.  The electric meters can communicate with other nearby electric meters and ultimately with a collection point, which creates what is called a mesh network.  The mesh network is very redundant, resilient, and self-healing.  Water and gas meters will transmit data to the electric meters 3 times per day.  Electric meters transmit their data every eight hours back to the database.

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How much radio frequency emissions does the new equipment transmit?

The advanced meter equipment being installed for this project, transmit very small amounts of radio-frequency (RF) energy. The equipment uses wireless communications to transmit data on usage, report outages and enable connection and disconnection of service. Radio-frequency exposure levels from the new equipment, even at a close range, fall substantially below the guidelines set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the general public.
The new equipment is programmed to transmit data once every four hours for a fraction of a second with a power of two watts resulting in RF energy that is less than what results from typical cell phone use.

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Are the electromagnetic fields produced by the new equipment harmful to my health?

The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP Report No. 86) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE C95.1 1991) are two entities referenced by the Federal Communications Commission in setting their radio-frequency energy exposure limits. NCRP and IEEE have extensively reviewed the biological and health literature related to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) and have concluded there are no confirmed effects below heating thresholds. Like many of the wireless communication devices we enjoy every day, the new equipment OPU is deploying operates in a frequency band and at a power level that does not begin to approach the energy needed to produce tissue heating. So short of heating effects which occur with some types of EMF generating devices (microwave ovens for example), there are no confirmed biological effects in humans.

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Will a meter serviceworker still come to my house?

OPU has been remotely collecting meter data for years, eliminating the need to manually read meters.  If an issue arises with the metering equipment, then an OPU meter serviceworker will be dispatched to your residence to troubleshoot the issue.

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Can I choose to not have the upgraded equipment?

All customer homes and businesses need to be upgraded to the new equipment. The efficiency of our billing, technology and operations systems depend upon the instantaneous exchange of information.  Leaving any existing meters in place would create “holes” in our system which would hurt efficiencies and drive up costs.

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