Updated utility meters coming to Jasper

JASPER — A new metering system will soon usher Jasper's utilities into the era of smart technology.

Monday evening, the Jasper Utility Service Board approved a vendor to bring advanced metering infrastructure to the city. Once a final contract is reached and installation begins, that new system will give customers more insight into their bills — while also streamlining processes for utility employees.

Total, the conversion is estimated to cost about $2.5 million and will take place between 2021 and 2023. The board approved General Utilities Manager Bud Hauersperger to move forward on the project with Sensus, a company that provides smart technologies and services for water, gas, electric and lighting utilities.

The city's existing radio read system is almost 20 years old. After replacing the electric meters and the transmitter devices on the water and gas meters, the new system will store data on the cloud that can be accessed by technicians.

Customers will be able to view some of their own usage numbers, too.

“And so we can kind of have data on all that that can be accessed at any time,” Hauersperger said. “And that’s one of the key benefits. So we don’t have to go around and do meter reading every month. One day, we can just hit a button and it will download all the meters at one time and put them into the billing system.”

The benefits don’t stop there. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, AMI is an integrated system of smart meters, communications networks, and data management systems that enables two-way communication between utilities and customers.

“The systems provide a number of important functions that were not previously possible or had to be performed manually, such as the ability to automatically and remotely measure electricity use, connect and disconnect service, detect tampering, identify and isolate outages and monitor voltage,” reads a document on the department’s website.

In Jasper, that means abnormal usage numbers will be monitored and flagged — allowing issues to be corrected faster. Data is currently limited to monthly numbers.

“I think that extra data would help explain to people what happened related to their utility bill,” Hauersperger said. “Some of it will be available online to them. They can have an app and go to look at it online themselves.”

Jasper utilities aim to get the new network up and running before the end of the year. Meters will begin being installed after that. Once new meters are installed, Hauersperger said he hopes customer portals will become available to Jasper residents who have the new meters to tie into them.

While not the cheapest vendor, he told the board that Sensus was the best fit based on the way their network functioned and the way leadership foresees the city and utilities expanding. The AMI system will increase local utility operations, he said, because employees won’t have to make as many runs out to customer locations and can get real-time information from the readers from afar.

Huntingburg currently uses Sensus for its water utility. Dubois Rural Electric Cooperative uses a Sensus AMI system for its electric operations.

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