LEBANON — Tiffany Flesher expects to see many advantages after the installation of a new smart electric meter at her Miss Anora’s Salon on River Drive.
“I’m excited,” Flesher said. “I think it’s going to help us in terms of productivity, and it’s going to be less intrusive not having a meter reader show up at any time. It’s also going to be safer for Pacific Power staff.”
Flesher said the unit will also allow her to monitor power usage on a daily basis and if there is a power outage in her area, reduce down time.
Some customers are concerned about potential health risks associated with the radio frequency that connects the smart meters with Pacific Power headquarters, but Flesher said she has no apprehensions about that.
“It’s easier and is going to save time and energy,” Flesher said.
Flesher works in her beauty shop along with four contractors.
Sawyer Schulze is employed by Aclara, which is contracting with Pacific Power to install nearly 590,000 smart meters statewide.
He has installed 2,000 to 3,000 so far. The job takes only a few minutes and is basically a “plug and play” process. Crews of 50 persons will install about 1,500 smart meters per day.
According to Pacific Power spokesman Ry Schwark, about 20,000 new meters will be installed in coming weeks in Lebanon, Sweet Home, Albany, Brownsville, Crabtree, Sodaville, Foster, Crawfordsville, Cascadia and rural homes.
The new meters are being installed without additional cost to customers, Schwark said, and if the customer prefers, he or she can opt to pay a monthly fee to have a meter read manually. There will be a one-time fee of $137 and a monthly fee of $36 to retain the old system.
Pacific Power plans to complete the more than $100 million statewide project by November 2019.
Schwark said the company has told its 100 or so meter readers for the last 10 years that most of those positions would be eliminated in time.
“We announced this plan in 2016 and about 25 of 100 meter readers have moved into other jobs,” Schwark said. “This is definitely not a surprise to anyone.”
Schwark said smart meters have been used internationally for years and more than 70 million are already in use in the United States.
The ability to gather information nearly instantly will provide Pacific Power with greater efficiency in terms of meeting production demands, the company said.
Customers will have the ability to track their power usage hourly on their personal computers, so they can choose to reduce peak demand hour usage if they wish.
Just like the old meters, a smart meter measures the amount of electricity a home or business uses.
But instead of being read only once a month, now information can be observed at any time of the day or night by the customer.
Smart meters use low frequency radio waves to transmit that information to Pacific Power headquarters.
Not every customer has been as happy as Flesher about the switch to smart meters.
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office recently was called about an angry customer who did not want the Alcara service person on his property. Another customer voiced concerns about her health and safety during a recent Sweet Home City Council meeting.
But Schwark said the amount of radiation emitted from a smart meter is less than that of a cellphone.
And, it is transmitting only about 1 percent of the time, so any contact with members of the household is minute.
But there are those who believe smart meters create issues with their sleep patterns; increase their stress and anxiety levels; and cause them to experience headaches, ringing in their ears and even cardiac symptoms.
The allegations have not been confirmed scientifically.
In the mid-valley, installations in the Sweet Home area began this week. Albany installations will begin about March 26, and installations in Corvallis will begin about April 23.
To learn more about smart meters, visit www.pacificpower.net/smartmeter, or call 1-866-869-8520.