Starting Monday, the Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) will begin its advance metering program to install the first set of digital meters for its customers.

"These meters are absolutely fantastic in terms of helping the utility with operational efficiencies, as well as improved reliability of our electrical system." Director of Customer Service Andy Wendell said.

Additionally, the meters will allow the PUD to offer its 50,000 customers a web portal that will be accessible with personal devices such as cell phones, tablets and home computers.

"They will be able to see a lot more about their energy consumption, they'll be able to see profiles throughout a 24-hour period, or a week or a month of their energy consumption, which is really a fantastic benefit for customers:" Wendell said.

And when the power goes out, the new meters will communicate back to the PUD's operation center, signaling an outage at a particular home, complex or area.

"That's a huge benefit for the utility because we can deploy somebody to that actual location and restore power much quicker and more proactively than waiting for the customer to call us."

Notifications will go out to each customer starting Monday before PUD crews arrive to complete the install. They will receive a 60-day notification and then another three-to-four-week notification.

"And we'll be hanging door hangers on customers' homes after we've replaced those meters. In most cases, the power would be out for no more than about three minutes." Wendell added. "Lot of folks won't even know we've been there to get those meters replaced."

Wendell says the cost for the materials, labor, software applications, and the network devices to propagate the communication back and forth to the operation center will cost around $10 million. Overall, the price tag reaches $15 million when adding administrative costs and software and technology integrations into the PUD's enterprise systems.

"There is a positive return on that investment. It's about a 12-year ROI (Return On Investment). But we know that we will improve our operational efficiencies that bring a positive return on this investment to our customers." Wendell said.

Wendell says customers are not being asked to pay for the meters and/or pay higher rates. The replacements are part of the PUD's capital improvement projects.

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