SVP MeterConnect FAQ

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What is an “advanced smart meter”?

An advanced meter offers accurate and detailed measurement of electricity usage that can be remotely read by the utility from its offices. Before long, customers will be able to monitor their personal usage either online or with a display in their home. The SVP Meter Connect ® advanced meters will, in time, be able to communicate with appliances in the home that are programmed by the owner to operate at maximum efficiency, thereby reducing energy usage and cost. The advanced meters will also allow SVP to quickly pinpoint power problems and outages, allowing faster response to trouble spots and confirmation when your power is restored.


Modern advanced meters are replacing first generation digital meters and antiquated mechanical meters that use 100-year-old technology. Neither of these older technologies allow customers to easily monitor or control their energy usage. Advanced meters from reputable manufacturers have been proven to be accurate, and over 300 million of these meters have been successfully installed worldwide in the last five years. Experts in the U.S. and abroad predict that there will be one billion smart meters in operation by 2016. The new technology is being adopted so quickly that meter manufacturers are rapidly abandoning mechanical meter production in order to produce more modern advanced or smart meters. PG&E has already converted all gas meters in Santa Clara to this new technology.

Will it mean higher bills later?

Energy rates are increasing primarily due to factors unrelated to meters, such as the rising cost of energy and the expense of bringing it to Santa Clara. Electric advanced meters will allow customers to monitor and adjust their electricity usage, which has been shown to lower electric bills for most customers. SVP expects rates to remain lower than almost all utilities in California for the foreseeable future.

What happens if I think my meter is faulty or I think you're charging me too much?

SVP will immediately respond to customer questions about their new meters, which are 10 times more accurate than mechanical meters. Accuracy will be confirmed if necessary, and an SVP staff member will personally answer any questions that arise from customer concerns. SVP will be testing your old meter and your new meter for accuracy. If your old meter was running slow (most likely) or fast we will notify you of the results before recycling it.

Will the meters from SVP be the same as PG&E's meters?

No. SVP Meter Connect® has chosen a different manufacturer, Elster Group, which has manufactured measuring devices for over 170 years and already provided over 7 million advanced meters to North American and overseas utilities. SVP and the manufacturer have a multi-level testing procedure to assure that the advanced meters installed in Santa Clara are accurate and reliable. One big difference between SVP’s advanced meters and those used by PG&E is that the SVP meters will use 75% less power than the PG&E meters to transmit information.

What is different about SVP's meter program (SVP MeterConnect) compared to other cities?

Since 2007, SVP has been testing the communications technology that connects meters and their readings to the utility and to the customer. The advanced smart meter technology has been successfully implemented at over 300 million businesses and homes worldwide. 

What do SVP customers think about advanced meters?

An independent survey of Silicon Valley Power customers found that more than two-thirds of SVP customers (68%) consider advanced metering a good idea. SVP is working hard to address all customer concerns about advanced metering, and will inform customers of plans to install advanced meters before meters are deployed. 

How do advanced meters help our community?

Climate change is directly impacted by how much energy we use and the type of appliances we choose. An advanced meter is just one part of the “smart grid” which will give utilities more insight into how electricity is sourced, distributed and delivered. At the local level, advanced meters will provide customers with more information. Using less electricity overall reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants released into the atmosphere – a benefit to everyone. Customers will have visibility into how energy is used from hour-to-hour and can adjust their usage to save electricity and money.

What is a “smart grid”?

The smart grid refers to the entire upgraded electrical system of the region, state or country. Advanced or “smart” meter technology is the foundation of the smart grid. The smart grid will help SVP better manage how energy is delivered to customers.

Is there radiation generated by the new advanced meters?

SVP is concerned about reports of EMF, or electromagnetic radiation, from advanced meters. Nearly every electrical device in your home generates some EMF.  A key feature of the advanced technology chosen by SVP Meter Connect® is that the new meters use one-fourth or less of the transmitting power of other smart meters and significantly less than everyday devices in homes. SVP and its supplier monitor the meter safety data resulting from testing performed by independent and government agencies and fully comply with the adopted standards.

Will advanced meters interfere with my wireless phone/baby monitor/alarm system?

SVP shares customer concerns about radio frequency interference (RFI) that may affect common household electronic devices. Unlike the smart meters used by PG&E and many other utilities, the advanced meters to be used by SVP transmit information less frequently, at a lower power, and on fewer frequencies that conflict with household devices. Nevertheless, SVP is closely monitoring the RFI testing carried out by independent consumer and government entities. Because SVP is taking a careful, slow approach to the deployment of advanced meters in our community, it will learn from the mistakes and experiences of other utilities and work to avoid or remedy the problems experienced in other communities.

Is the entire City getting new meters?

Yes. Eventually all Santa Clara residents and businesses will have advanced meters for both electricity and water services which are provided by the City, and PG&E has already installed smart meters for gas in Santa Clara. But SVP is using a slow, careful, phased approach that started with 100 meters, then 1,000 and soon 10,000 before moving across the entire City. This approach allows SVP to test and approve each phase before advanced meters are installed throughout Santa Clara. 

I have a digital meter now. Is it an advanced meter?

SVP has plans to install advanced meters Santa Clara in phases from late 2015 through 2016. About 7,000 residences do have simple digital meters with radio transmitters, which allow meter readers to collect usage data once a month without entering private property. New advanced meters, which use a fraction of the power to transmit and receive, will replace all of the older digital meters in the City.

Why do you say advanced meters will help me save money?

Numerous surveys and pilot programs show that people who can see their energy usage in a more immediate manner than a monthly bill become more aware of how they use energy and when there is energy waste.  Awareness leads consumers to change their habits to become more energy efficient and spend less on energy. For instance, if a customer sees that their energy usage remains high when their home is empty during the day, they may decide to turn off lights, unplug unused devices and lower their thermostat when out of the house.  Customers are often surprised at how much energy is used when they are not at home or sound asleep.

Will SVP MeterConnect complicate my life?

How much you interact with the new technology when the system is activated in 2016-2017 is up to you. SVP Meter Connect ® will eventually give you an opportunity to monitor your electricity usage and decide where you can save energy and money. In the future, “smart” appliances that are programmed by the owner to operate more efficiently will allow you to better control energy usage while maintaining or even improving the comfort of your home. These “smart appliances” will include air conditioners, refrigerators, pool pumps and more.

Will an advanced meter work with a home solar system?

Solar installations will not be affected by your advanced meter.

Will an advanced meter work with my electric car charging station?

Yes. In fact, electric car “smart” charging stations for use at your home are rapidly becoming popular. Your advanced meter may eventually work with your car charger as well as your appliances to use power more efficiently while saving energy and minimizing costs. 

Does SVP make a profit on advanced meters?

No.  SVP operates as a not-for-profit city utility and steers all benefits back to customers. This is one reason why SVP’s rates are 25-44% lower than the rates charged in neighboring communities.

So who pays for the meters?

There is no direct charge for this or other utility system upgrades. Meters, like other equipment upgrades made to the utility system, are already included in the capital expenses of the utility. Better management of how SVP supplies power and how customers consume power will lead to savings for all. SVP anticipates that, over time, the utility will save money to cover costs of the advanced meters. Any investment that saves money and keeps expenses and rates down is worthwhile, especially when SVP faces the rising price of purchasing electricity, its biggest expense.

How can SVP spend money installing new meters when the rest of the city is cutting programs and other expenses?

Capital expenditures are a continuous process at the electric utility in order to keep the equipment up to date and reliable.  This project has been underway for several years as we laid the foundation for the new meters. In order to reap the benefits of these investments, SVP must complete the communications network and the meter installations. SVP funding is collected separately through bills for electricity usage, whereas many city programs must rely on taxes and other revenue sources. SVP rates are expected to remain among the lowest in California.

Is it just for electricity?

Yes. Advanced meters from SVP only measure electricity.

What about water?

The technology investment being made for advanced electric meters has been carefully chosen in order to ensure that it will support remotely read water meters as well. As the requirements and capital projects of the water utility allow, the City of Santa Clara may be installing new water meters. SVP will not be funding water meter replacements, as these would be the responsibility of the water utility.  Like electricity, the more information on how water is used in homes or businesses gives customers the ability to achieve substantial savings.

What about gas?

PG&E is the natural gas supplier for Santa Clara residents, and PG&E is has already installed their SmartMeterTM technology on gas meters in Santa Clara. The City does not supply natural gas within Santa Clara.

How do you know advanced meters are accurate?

In contrast to some other California utilities that bought meters from a new manufacturer, SVP is purchasing advanced meters from a company that has more than 170 years of experience in manufacturing measurement devices, and which has installed millions of advanced meters with no reported accuracy problems, and with very few customer complaints. Meters are tested at the factory and again when they arrive in Santa Clara.

Who will read my meter?

Once all systems are completed, all electric and water meters will be read remotely. Customers eventually will also have access to their on-going energy usage either through a secure personal web site or on a display meter in their home. In other words, you will be able to read your meter and understand how you use energy every day.

How can I read my meter?

Immediately upon installation, you will see an easy-to-read digital display instead of the old-style dial indicators. Next year, you will have the option to register on a free secure web site to monitor your usage. You may also have an option to have a display installed in your home that will give you incremental readouts of your energy usage so you can see when you use the most or the least energy in real time. Further information about these alternatives will be provided as these capabilities are readied.

How do the meters communicate with SVP?

Advanced meters of SVP Meter Connect ® will communicate with SVP offices using a secure Wi-Fi system mounted on streetlights in the City of Santa Clara. This Wi-Fi system is also improving communications within other city services. City residents will also have free outdoor Wi-Fi internet service from this system. Although the same equipment will be used, very different security strategies will be engaged for meter information, which is encrypted from the meter and only decrypted once behind our secure firewalls.

What about my privacy?

Energy usage privacy is protected by law, just as your telephone usage privacy is protected by law.  SVP is taking great care to implement a state-of-the-art, secure advanced meter communications facility. The level of security in the SVP Meter Connect ® network is similar to the level of security used in the banking industry and sensitive government agencies.

Who safeguards all my usage information?

SVP protects your privacy as it has for over 100 years, and state law also protects your privacy

What is Time of Use?

Time of Use, or TOU, describes the different rates charged by some utilities for electricity at different times of the day. TOU is just one of the options made supported by advanced meter technology. SVP will consider all options for improving service and efficiency for customers before implementing any changes to its rate structure. SVP is not considering expansion of its TOU option at this time. SVP prefers to keep its rate structure simple and low-cost, with rates 25-44% lower than nearby utilities. The flexibility and reliability of modern advanced meter technology supports this simple approach, yet allows more options for our customers to better manage their utility expenses.

Will advanced meters replace SVP employees?

Meter readers will still be needed until the SVP MeterConnect system is completed and activated in 2016-2017 and all meter reading is automated. In preparation for the wireless system coming online, the City of Santa Clara Utilities Department has been hiring part-time staff to take the place of meter readers who retire or otherwise leave the department. Any remaining full time meter readers will be offered retraining for other utility jobs when the system is activated.


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