Westar's smart meters still six weeks away from deployment

John Valdez installs Westar Energy's new SmartStar meters Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, at the Graystone Apartments in Lawrence.

John Valdez installs Westar Energy's new SmartStar meters Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, at the Graystone Apartments in Lawrence. by Mike Yoder

Lawrence residents will have to wait a little longer for smart meters as Westar Energy continues to toil with the technology meant to support them.

The schedule for deploying the smart meters has been pushed back another six weeks to mid or late September, said Hal Jensen, director of Westar’s SmartStar program.

When the program was announced in 2010, Westar had originally set late spring as the date to install more than 44,000 meters to all Westar customers in Lawrence. In May, the installation date was moved back to late July.

“What we are finding, we didn’t allow enough time to work through all the testing and quality assurance and integration type of efforts that had to happen,” Jensen said.

The $39 million SmartStar program that will bring the meters to Lawrence also includes an upgrade in computer and software technology needed to support Westar’s entire customer base. And the technology is intended to integrate data so it can flow between the company departments, such as billing and customer service.

When the meters are installed in Lawrence, Jensen said, the company wants to make sure customers have access to the online information the next day.

With the smart meters, customers will be able to go online and track their energy usage by the hour. The idea is that the information can help customers make better decisions on energy consumption. One day, the meter could provide the data needed to establish a new pricing structure in which energy is most expensive when demand is at its highest.

There are some folks in Lawrence who already have the smart meters.

In bone-chilling temperatures last January, Westar began installing smart meters in a pilot project area of the Deerfield Neighborhood. By the beginning of June, customers in that neighborhood could go online and find detailed information on their energy usage.

So far, Jensen said “there have been no issues with the meters” in the pilot project. However, Westar is still reading the meters manually for billing.

As of now, Westar hasn’t determined what neighborhoods will be the next to get meters. But Jensen said he’s confident that by the end of the year the vast majority will be installed.

Westar holds open house Thursday

Westar Energy will hold an open house from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Spring Hill Suites, 1 Riverfront Plaza. The open house will focus on the upgrades Westar Energy is making at its Sixth Street substation. The project, which costs more than $1 million, will replace eight cables leaving from the substation and should improve the reliability of the system.

Tagged: smart meters, Westar Energy

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nut_case 3 years, 7 months ago

Whats wrong? There is no way to micromanage your usage!

With a 'dumb' meter, you pay for the power you use over the month (seems too simple and easy, right?)

With a 'smart' meter, you can be charged a different rate all the time. Higher for peak times, 'lower' for 'off peak'. Though most likely this 'lower' rate will be about the rate you pay now for off peak times, and a higher rate for peak periods. So your bill goes up because a lot of things ...AC, heat, refrigerator lights, etc - you simply don't have the option to run in off peak times...you need them when you need them. Want to leave your AC off during the sweltering afternoon and run it only at night? Can't really turn the refrigerator off. Don't really need a lot of lighting during the day, etc. You can deffer some things to off peak times - you can get up at 3am to run a load of laundry, shower, or wash the dishes...who needs sleep for a job, right?!?!

The additional 'benefit' (to the util.co.) - as google, facebook, and others have found out, there is big money to be made in selling our personal information. A good smart meter can tell when the coffee pot goes on, when your toaster or oven runs, when the lights / TV are turned on/off. So you get your personal 'routine' data mined and the utility can then sell this info to other companies. Maybe advertising companies like to know when the TV's go on in a certain area. Maybe Folgers likes to know how many coffee pots are in use, maybe GE likes to know how many light bulbs are in use, etc.

Jonathan Kealing 3 years, 7 months ago

That's not exactly right. They only turn it off for 15 minutes of every hour. So, yes, while it would get hotter, you're certainly not going to roast. Plus, most homes in our area use natural gas heating, and this has no impact on gas heaters. Additionally, Westar's demand is so low in the winter, they don't ever even talk about using this in the winter, if someone did have a gas furnace.

Jonathan Kealing 3 years, 7 months ago

Yes, you're. Sorry, missed that part of his comment. Watt Saver is 100% voluntary. With SmartMeters, they don't control anything. Sorry for not being more clear in my response!

Jonathan Kealing 3 years, 7 months ago

You're correct there. I've been told the same thing.

nut_case 3 years, 7 months ago

Saying smart meters "don't control anything" is like saying pages of words in law books don't control anything. "Technically" you are correct, there is no direct link between meter and appliances just like there is no direct link between a law book and your brain.

But - there is a penalty incurred for using power in a 'peak' time - just like a penalty can be incurred from breaking the law. The downside is, we can choose to obey the law. When it's 105º / 80% humidity outside, the AC pretty much needs to go on regardless.

thelonious 3 years, 7 months ago

So you are just going to shill for Westar...how sad. Smart meters are a scam - sold to customers on the line that you can "manage your usage", but all they are really designed to do is allow the utilities to charge more during peak usage. One more example of big corporate America winning, average people (consumers) losing. And then the paper shills for this. Sad.

irvan moore 3 years, 7 months ago

and why do we want to install meters that are proven to be not working properly and prone to problems?

Kim Murphree 3 years, 7 months ago

Is it just me, or is this just another way for Westar to charge more to customers??? Seems like the "smart" meters will tell the company that when I need to use electricity is probably when every other working person needs to use it, which means those hours will be a high demand time, the very hours that Westar will charge more after using the smart meters? Am I correct in this??? And how does that benefit anyone but Westar? Can we refuse? Rebel? Just say NO???

Ken Harris 3 years, 7 months ago

They ALREADY replaced my meter with a digital one earlier this spring and I'm in the Prairie Meadows area. Surely they just mean that the online portion is not working yet and they can't read the meters remotely yet?

jayneway 3 years, 7 months ago

I have this meter as I live in the Deerfield neighborhood, but I don't see any where on SmartStar website to login to see my usage. I'm not sure that the part of the article that says we could see our usage "by the beginning of June" is correct.

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