FAQs Advanced Metering Infrastructure Project
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Frequently Asked Questions
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (including Smart Meters)

Updated April 2021



Introduction: The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities will begin the installation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure in the coming months. Below are some basic responses to frequently asked questions (FAQ). For more detailed information, or if you have questions not addressed in the FAQ please contact the County’s Customer Care Center at (505) 662-8333 or at [email protected].

Q. What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure?

A. Advanced Metering Infrastructure or “AMI” is a method of using electronic communication technology to read meters remotely without having to physically access the meters located in meter boxes or in the ground.

Q. Is the Department of Public Utilities installing AMI and does that include smart meters?

A. Yes. DPU will be installing AMI which includes replacing all electric meters with electric smart meters and attaching communication modules or smart points to the existing gas and water meters. The smart meters and the modules will send consumption reads through a point to multi-point radio frequency network.

Q. When will this work begin?

A.Installation will start in White Rock and is expected to begin in March 2021. Contract crews will start in Pajarito Acres and adhere to COVID-safe practices as established by the New Mexico Department of Health and Governor’s offices. The crews will then proceed to La Senda and then finish up the rest of White Rock. From there crews will move to the townsite. It could take up to six months to have the entire county upgraded to the new AMI.

Q. Will you be replacing the smart meters already installed in North and Barranca Mesas?

A. Yes. The electric smart meters that were installed during the demonstration smart grid project with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology and Development Organization are not compatible with the new AMI architecture. The most cost-effective project plan requires those meters be replaced.  

Q. Does that mean I won’t have someone in my yard reading my meter?

A. Eventually that will be the case. However, the county moved to a new Enterprise Resource Planning software system which includes a new utility billing system. This means it may take a few months to get the two new systems to interface smoothly. We will continue to have some meters read manually until we are certain that the two systems will be billing correctly.

Q. Can I access my readings online? 

A. Yes. Once the AMI is fully implemented, customers can access electric, gas, and water consumption data online and in near-real time through a customer portal. This information of when and how much is being consumed can assist customers in reducing bills. Rather than waiting for a meter technician to read a meter every thirty days, customers have the ability to check their consumption throughout the month. This allows them, if they choose, to change habits that could result in lower bills. Information on how to log into your account to access your consumption data will be provided to you after the AMI is installed and the new customer portal is established.

Q. Can the AMI alert me to service problems? 

A. Yes. The AMI will be able to alert the DPU and the customer of service problems, such as a water leak. Customers can also set up alerts to notify them if consumption levels are approaching certain thresholds to avoid the surprise of high bills. 

Q. Does the AMI interfere with other electronics? 

A. No. The AMI network meets federal standards to operate without interfering with other devices. 

Q. Are the new smart meters and communication modules safe?

A. Yes. The AMI (including smart meters and the communication modules) transmit at a lower radio frequency power than a baby monitor, cell phone or garage door opener.
1) The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted radio frequency (RF) exposure limits that ensure safety for the public and workers, and the actual RF emissions from smart meters are a fraction of the limit allowed.
2) Radio frequency emissions from a smart meter has been shown to be 125 to 1,250 times below that of a cell phone.

Q. Is the AMI a cyber security risk?

A. While any electronic communications system is theoretically subject to hacking, the AMI architecture has inherent security features built in to keep information private and secure.
1) Any data sent over the AMI network uses industry-proven encryption combined with a proprietary protocol.
2) The smart meters and communication modules are password protected.
3) The AMI architecture contains intelligence technology to alert a highly secure data center of any suspicious activity.

Q. Will my utility bill go up? 

A. The AMI will not raise or change your utility costs. Some customers, however, may see increased bills as older, worn out, and less accurate mechanical meters are replaced with newer and more accurate meters. By charging customers for their actual consumption reduces expenses that are levelized to all customers for unaccounted for water or gas resulting from less accurate mechanical meters. 

Q. Is my consumption data private?

A. No. DPU is a county-owned utility, which means that we fall under New Mexico sunshine laws and provisions. Under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), the public or members of the media may request to inspect public records, of which a customer’s consumption data may be considered a public record. Presently, DPU would provide this information in monthly (30-day) increments, however, once the AMI is implemented this information would be available in 15- to 60-minute increments.

Q. Is there an opt-out provision for the AMI? 

A. Yes. The Board of Public Utilities approved General Rule GR-16 on Advanced Metering Infrastructure. Section GR-16.03 of this Rule provides customers the ability to opt out without any additional fees. You can inform us of your desire to opt out by visiting our website and filling out the online form at: http://ladpu.com/DPU-OptOut or by contacting us at (505) 662-8333 or [email protected]. A copy of the complete rule is available on our website at: http://ladpu.com/Rule-GR16 

For those customers who opt out, DPU will disable the wireless transmitting technology on the newly installed electric smart meters and communication modules so that information is not transmitted electronically. DPU’s meter technicians will continue to read the electric, gas and water meters monthly.