The state's largest electric company got a green light from regulators Thursday to continue installing new high-tech meters for customers throughout its Oklahoma service area. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. will spend up to $366 million by the end of 2012 to install smart meters to help customers reduce their electricity bills by managing energy use during times of peak demand. About $127 million of that tab will be covered by federal stimulus funds. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted Thursday to allow OG&E to expand its smart grid program beyond a test program in Norman. "This order affirms our strategy of applying the tools of technology to improve our service to customers by providing a framework for energy efficiency and demand response,” said Pete Delaney, CEO of OGE Energy Corp., OG&E's parent company. "Investing in smart grid today will enable us to provide additional information to customers and better options for them to manage their own energy usage. "What's more, all OG&E customers will benefit because it helps us pursue our goal to avoid the cost of additional fossil-fueled electric generation until at least 2020.” The smart grid technology is expected to help utility customers save money if they tailor their electricity use to avoid peak hours, when power is more expensive. It will cost the average residential customer about $1.57 a month over the next three and a half years, but officials noted that will be offset this year by a recently approved $10 a month reduction in fuel costs. Corporation Commission Chairman Bob Anthony said OG&E's smart grid plan garnered unprecedented support from agency staff, company stockholders and consumer advocates. "In my 20-plus years on the commission, I have seldom seen such support for a utility matter. This is obviously a win-win for all concerned, especially the consumer.” he said. "This starts the process of putting the tools into the hands of consumers that they can use to be more proactive in controlling their electric usage and cost. "We have taken a step toward giving people the opportunity to get away from a 'one size fits all' electric rate and choose something that will better fit their lifestyle and budget.” Anthony and Commissioner Jeff Cloud voted in favor of OG&E's smart grid expansion, while Commissioner Dana Murphy expressed reservations about the project. Murphy said she supports anything that can save money for consumers, but she was concerned about the lack of data from OG&E's smart grid pilot project in Norman. "I think it is reasonable to require OG&E to prove that each stage of the program has lived up to expectations before being allowed to collect ratepayer dollars for the next stage,” she said. "This is particularly important in light of the fact that there are other items looming in the near future which will impact ratepayers' bills, ranging from the priority projects recently approved by the Southwest Power Pool to federal mandates that may require costly environmental measures on the part of electric utilities.” Smart grid technology is expected to benefit customers by significantly lowering the company's operational costs, OG&E officials said. Other additions to the smart grid will make OG&E's power grid more reliable and efficient, the company said.Comments
Tracking the programOG&E completed installation of more than 42,000 smart meters in Norman last month. The company plans to install about 180,000 smart meters this year. The systemwide installation for nearly 780,000 smart meters is expected to be complete by the end of 2012. Spokesman Brian Alford said a Web portal designed to allow customers to track their electricity use will be available in January. "That's where customers can really see the technology at work,” he said.