New technology allows consumers to manage their own utility costs

The city of Tallahassee has a new utility program that aims to reduce electric bill costs and make managing utilities more convenient.

Their are also plans to create a student plan home devices that reduce off-campus utility costs.

Brandon Hawkins, 21, a political science student, said he is interested in the possible benefits this new technology could provide.

“It should be a little more manageable due to the price you set for yourself,” said the Palm Beach, Fla. native.

In addition to the special provisions for college students, text messages or e-mail alerts will be sent to students when their usage level approaches their set limit.

Smart Grid technology offers users the convenience of controlling their monthly utilities. The project will provide a direct form of communication between utility companies and their local users.
Mayor John Marks has been involved in practicing utility regulatory law and said most of the customers complain about the misreading of meters when it comes to paying their bills.

“I would be happy to have a device that could lower the utility bill in my home because my bill went up from $300 to $500 and my daughter and I are usually at school and/or work,” said frustrated homeowner Jackie Singleton. “It even got to the point where I had to shut the air off when we would leave for the day.”

Utility Marketing Administrator Sandra Manning said she is optimistic about this technological breakthrough.

“The goal is to give our utility customers control, flexibility, greater choices and cost-saving options. The New Smart Grid technology makes this possible to achieve,” said Manning.

In the coming year, the City will offer an in-home energy monitor and two-way communicating Smart thermostats to help customers further reduce electric demand and energy use.

“This technology will offer applications for the utility system just like cell phones,” said Marks. “The applications for the electric usage would be the light, the radio, the TV etc.

and just like cell phones, eventually you will be able to combine your household apps with the smart grid system with an application that allows you to control your use of electric uses on your phone.”

Energy Management Engineer Henry Swift plans for the technology to be convenient for everyone. “The system will allow you to be able to go on the website…and get daily reads, and you would know how much [is used] each day,” Swift said.

Swift said some people worry about security over the Internet and how it will affect the Smart metering system, but assures residents the system has effective security.

“The Smart meter online system is highly encrypted and will give users their own passwords so they will not have to worry about someone hacking in on their utility accounts and doing anything to their devices,” said Swift.

The Smart Metering system plans to market the system and set them up in homes by next fall. System installation will be implemented through a voluntary program that will distribute to businesses, families and students.