Smart Meter Questions and Answers

The term “smart grid” refers to the use of technologies and tools that help electric utilities better meet consumers’ needs reliably and affordably by more effectively monitoring power usage demand and system conditions on a near real-time basis. The smart grid combines digital devices, software applications and two-way communications that allow utilities to track the flow of electricity with great precision, pinpoint outages, identify voltages out of allowed ranges, and transmit messages to transformers, capacitors, circuit breakers and other distribution equipment to initiate diagnostic or corrective (self-healing) actions. It can also let utilities record consumer electric use in various time intervals and provide consumers with hourly energy usage data. The U.S. Department of Energy lists seven functions of a smart grid: enabling informed participation by consumers; accommodating all generation and energy storage options; creating new products, services and markets; delivering power quality for the range of needs in the 21st century; optimizing asset utilization and operating efficiency; addressing disturbances—automated outage prevention, containment and restoration; and operating resiliently against physical and cyber-attacks and natural disasters. Across the nation, utilities are modernizing electric distribution systems by deploying advanced communications and automation technologies—including smart meters—to improve reliability, increase efficiency and help control electricity costs for consumers.
Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is a comprehensive set of technologies and software applications that combines two-way communications with smart meters to provide electric utilities—using frequent meter reads—with near real-time oversight of system operations. It allows them to remotely collect kilowatt-hour use (and in some cases, electric usage demand) information and transfer it to a central database for billing and/or analyzing purposes. Electric usage can be gathered and sent via drive-by or walk-by readings, as well as radio frequency (RF), power line carrier, telephone lines, cellular or other wireless systems. Coweta-Fayette EMC uses Aclara-TWACS (Two-Way Automatic Communication System) Advanced Metering Infrastructure and our power lines as the carrier.
A smart meter is an advanced digital electric meter that records energy consumption in time intervals. It then uses two-way communications to transmit the information back to a local utility for power-quality monitoring and billing purposes.
No. Smart meters can be read using different communication mediums. Communication mediums can be radio frequency (RF), power line carrier, telephone lines, cellular or other wireless systems.
Coweta-Fayette EMC installed TWACS as our smart meter solution. It utilizes our existing distribution lines to communicate with the meter and transmit usage data. This is not a radio-based system, so no wireless RF signals are transmitted.
Communication between the electric meter and Coweta-Fayette EMC is accomplished via the existing power lines using a method to send secure data. TWACS is not a broadband power line solution. TWACS modules are installed in solid-state electric meters and only communicate on a schedule determined by Coweta-Fayette EMC. Each communication with the cooperative takes less than 8 seconds. TWACS automates the meter-reading process; only electric meter data is securely collected, no user or account information is transmitted. Data collected via TWACS is the same data currently available today via manual meter reads. TWACS solutions have been in use since 1985 by more than 350 utilities throughout 42 states and various international locations. Over 12 million TWACS electric meters are installed and in use.
The system controls our meter-reading costs, while also improving our accuracy. It provides the member with useful consumption data to help them make informed energy management decisions, and it gives customer service information when helping a member with billing-related issues. TWACS allows for outage assessment and restoration monitoring, which helps to reduce any time without power. It improves the efficiency of the electric distribution system by giving data for system planning, and it provides an avenue to create additional optional rates. The system uses existing power lines for electric meter data communications and fully complies with all required industry and government standards.
Previously existing meters were read once a month manually by a meter reader. With smart meters, Coweta-Fayette EMC receives usage information more frequently using secure two-way communication over the existing power lines.
One example: if the meter reading on your latest bill was 1000 kWh, and the current reading is 1200 kWh, then the difference of 200 kWh is how much electricity you used since your last meter reading. (Please see your New Member Guide for more information.)
All electric meters (including TWACS) must be certified and conform to or exceed American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards for meter accuracy and performance. To ensure the meters are as accurate as possible, they are subjected to strict design standards when they are manufactured, and Coweta-Fayette EMC tests meters on a random basis both before and after putting them into service to confirm accurate operation.
No. The smart meters used by Coweta-Fayette EMC do not produce any RF signals. The smart meters use a power line carrier technology to talk to and receive information from the cooperative. The information is sent from the meter to the substation over the existing distribution lines. It is then transmitted via a secure connection back to our office. The meter is simply a circuit board. There are no radioactive elements that emit radiation. The TWACS module has 500,000,000 times less emissions than the average microwave oven.
No. It only collects the hourly energy usage data and cannot determine what type of electric device is in use inside a home or when it was operated.
No. The meter only collects the hourly energy usage data. Coweta-Fayette EMC cannot use this data to determine what a member is doing inside a home. The data collected is no different than if we sent a meter reader out to read an old mechanical meter every hour. In fact, collecting the kWh data remotely is less costly and invasive than if we were to send a meter reader to your home. It’s just a device that measures electricity, not a surveillance device.
No. The data transmitted is only a meter number with voltage and energy data. There is no way we can tell how the energy was used or what it was used for. Coweta-Fayette EMC has been managing our members’ data for years—now we protect that data electronically. We have a privacy policy to protect consumer data while enhancing service to our members, and we do not sell that data to third parties. Coweta-Fayette EMC maintains strict confidentiality and security of usage data.
Coweta-Fayette EMC has successfully deployed the TWACS solution at all of our member locations with great success. It is a safe, accurate and reliable system that allows us to manage our operational costs with many added benefits to our members.

Since news of the COVID-19 virus hit our area, we have paid special attention to all the information coming out both on a national and local level. That includes information from our state and local government officials, as well as the information coming from the CDC and the Coronavirus Task Force.  As more information concerning the virus and its potential effects on our families and our community, comes out, we’ve made changes in how we are working to protect you and our employees. 
 
Effective Monday, March 23, Coweta Fayette EMC will further limit its daily work activities to include only essential services. This means we will continue responding to outages, maintaining our call center, and addressing various reliability issues. However, all other non-essential activities and services are being suspended until further notice. Our lobbies will remain closed but the drive-thrus at all locations are open. Members can still utilize our many online options to monitor account activity through our member portal, send service request or make payments. You can also download our free CFEMC app (available in the App Store or on Google Play).   
 
Our focus is the safety and welfare of our employees and their families, while at the same time providing you, our member, with reliable and dependable electric service. 
 
CFEMC knows this is a stressful time for everyone. Rest assured, we’ll continue to provide you with the reliable, dependable electric service you are accustomed to. We urge you to take precautions for the health and welfare of your family as well. Please continue good health habits such as washing your hands and sanitizing frequently touched areas. We also encourage you to practice social distancing. CFEMC prepares for a variety of crises. While this isn’t an outage situation caused by a major storm, our emergency plans are updated frequently, and we feel confident in our ability to keep your lights on while keeping both our employees and you safe.