CenterPoint Energy, Inc.’s electric transmission and distribution subsidiary has selected GE Digital Energy as its provider of wireless communications to support the electric utility’s advanced metering system (AMS) that is designed to give Houston-area electric consumers the ability to better monitor and manage electric use and cost in near real-time.

GE Digital Energy’s MDS Mercury 3650 radios along with engineering services, network design, project management, and support services, will support the transmission of electric utility meter data over the AMS network from consumers’ homes and businesses to CenterPoint Energy’s data center.

“The Advanced Metering System is our first step in developing a smart grid – comprised of technology, automation and electrical infrastructure integration,” said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of Advanced Metering Deployment, CenterPoint Energy.

In March 2009, CenterPoint Energy began replacing existing electric meters with smart meters. More than 145,000 smart meters will be installed across the Houston area by the end of 2009. The AMS will be deployed during the next five years to over 2.4 million consumers within a 5,000 square mile service area around metropolitan Houston.

Once the AMS, including the communications infrastructure, is installed retail electric providers (REPs) would be able to offer new products and services to their consumers, such as giving consumers the ability to monitor their energy usage and energy prices in real time from computer screens in their homes. Consumers could know how much electricity their appliances are using as well as what electricity rates they are paying at any given time. Additionally, consumers could be able to remotely control their appliances via the Internet. For example, consumers on vacation would now be able to turn on their lights at night or adjust the air conditioner while they are away.