If you live between the weigh station south of Eagle River and the Princess Lodge above Talkeetna, chances are a representative from Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) will be visiting soon.
MEA has committed to a phase-out of outdated meters.
The meters are found on all MEA members’ homes and businesses, and track electrical usage. MEA is visiting every member to replace older meters with a newer device.
Currently, there are three types of meters within the MEA service area. The oldest type requires a meter reader to be physically present to read the usage and to conduct any needed service. This kind will be completely phased out by the end of the summer.
Another type also being phased out can send one pulse of information to MEA per day. While these are more advanced, they only provide usage data, and still require additional information and work in order for MEA to diagnose outages or other problems.
The newest meter – the Aclara Smart Energy Meter – will soon be the sole meter throughout the service area. This meter is capable of two-way communication between the meter and MEA. The new meters can send a range of data to MEA. Regular usage information will be collected but the new meters also notify MEA when there is power outage. This enables MEA to locate and diagnose outages quickly and determine how to resolve them.
MEA will be working through next year to replace the older meters. Currently, they are on schedule to have completed the change-over throughout Eagle River and parts of Chugiak, Peters Creek and Eklutna by the end of the summer. The remaining older meters will be out by the end of next year.
As the time for the meter change on each home approaches, the member will be notified by postal mail as well as by phone. When an MEA worker arrives at a member’s home they will be clearly identified and will come to the door to let the member know that the home’s power will be out momentarily.
The meter change only takes a few minutes, and the member will only be inconvenienced by needing to reset the clocks.
If the member is not home when MEA comes by, the worker will change out the meter and leave a door hanger as notification. If there is an obstruction, like a locked gate or guard dog, MEA will leave notification that they were unable to conduct the change out.
MEA is changing meters by substation, or the feeder from which each particular residence or business receives its power. The change out may happen at a different time for neighbors if their power is fed by different substations.
This meter change will not result in any rate changes, but it can lower costs for both MEA and the member. For MEA, the new meters allow for a great deal of streamlining. Problems can be resolved much more quickly, and it eliminates the need for meter readers to physically visit meters for reading and maintenance.
For members, the meters provide opportunities for greater empowerment over personal power usage and spending. Currently, members can log on to mea.smarthub.coop and view their monthly power usage. With the new meters, members will have access to their daily usage. With this detailed information, members can track changes in usage to help them make decisions that may lower their usage and cost. For example, a member may want to experiment with shutting down their computer for a day or unplugging the extra fridge in the garage to see how those small changes affect usage. The ability to determine exactly where extra money is going can lead to big long-term savings.
Additionally, the new meters will allow members to choose to pre-pay for their power. Paying weekly or every other week may be easier for some members to manage, and these will now be options.
Some members may be concerned with the consequences of extra high tech gadgets on their homes. Many individuals are concerned with additional electromagnetic fields (EMF) near their families. MEA states these meters do not emit a cloud – like Wifi does – but only send pulses along the line. Other members may be worried about loss of privacy with the additional information sent between the meter and MEA. MEA assures members that data is not collected on individual members, but is aggregated at the substations.
MEA has other projects this summer, including the clearing of their right of way down Eagle River Road. MEA power lines are in place along easements of private property, and these areas must be cleared of brush and other overgrowth to minimize outages and improve access. These easements are cleared on six to seven year cycles, with upkeep and mowing on the between years. Homeowners living near these areas need to be sure to keep the easements clear of personal items. If any issues arise, MEA is happy to work with their members to resolve them.
If any members have questions regarding the timing or the process of the meter change out or the right of way clearance, they are welcome to call MEA at (907) 696-9300 or visit the Eagle River MEA office located at 11623 Aurora Street.
Sara Kennedy is a special education teacher in the Anchorage School District and a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She likes to swim, bike and run around Alaska, and camp and fish with her family.