Portland General Electric Co. has received approval from the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) to install more than 850,000 next-generation electrical meters to help the utility and its customers manage energy use, enhance customer service and reduce operating expenses. The advanced metering infrastructure, more commonly referred to as smart meters, will be installed in a two-year process slated for completion by the end of 2010.

“We're pleased the OPUC agreed that smart meters deliver long-term benefits for our customers," said Peggy Fowler, CEO and president of PGE. “This technology is a key part of the foundation we’re laying to meet Oregon's future energy needs."

The mechanical meters currently in place measure electricity use and must be read manually — basic technology in use for decades. The new smart meters’ technology will provide PGE with two-way communications to its residential and commercial meters, enabling many benefits, including new billing options such as customer-selected bill due date and remote activation and de-activation for customers who are moving their home or business.

Other anticipated benefits include quicker and more accurate outage and restoration response, as well as lower labor costs due to the use of wireless data transfer rather than manual meter reading.

Upon roll out, smart meters will provide immediate environmental benefits. “With this innovative technology, PGE will take 114 cars and trucks off the road, saving approximately 80,000 gallons of gas each year and reducing emissions of about 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide,” Fowler added.

The new system is also expected to support the future development of demand response and direct load control programs that will improve energy efficiency and reduce the need for new power plants.

Eventually, smart meters will enable PGE to provide customers with access to their daily energy use information via the Web. PGE believes demand-response programs could help reduce peak demand and shift customer usage to off-peak periods of the day when power costs less.

The capital cost of the project is expected to be $130-135 million, with annual operating savings projected to be $18 million as of 2011, the first full year of operation of the new system. PGE signed contracts in September 2007 to purchase and install the new meters. Installation will begin with systems testing this summer, which should be completed in late 2008. The utility will then proceed with large-scale installation of the new meters in 2009 and 2010.

Beginning June 1, 2008, the smart meter project costs will be reflected in customers’ bills, resulting in an increase of less than one percent. An income tax refund to customers previously announced by PGE, which also begins in June, will offset this increase resulting in a net zero increase to customers.