Smart Grid and Smart Meters

Smart Grid FAQ

GENERAL

What is a smart grid and why does Hawaii need one?

A smart grid is a modern electric grid that incorporates communication and information technologies to better manage how energy is produced, consumed, stored and delivered. Hawaii needs a smart grid to improve reliable service and make the power grid more flexible and able to adjust to the variable availability of renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. This flexibility allows us to integrate more renewable energy and will help us reach our state’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

What are the benefits of Smart Grid?

  • Cost savings and more customer options:
    • Customers can access a user friendly energy portal via a personal computer or mobile device which allows them to view and monitor real-time data about their energy consumption. This information can help customers identify which activities use the most electricity, and empower them to make informed adjustments that can reduce energy usage and expenses.
    • Enables customers to easily take advantage of existing time-of-use rate options and programs by providing greater access to energy use data based on the time of day.
    • Improves operational efficiencies through automated billing and reduced meter reading costs.
  • Faster Power Outage Restoration
    • Smart meters can detect power outages instantaneously and help the utility identify the source of problems faster.
    • Remote troubleshooting can restore power more quickly.
    • Crews can ping the meters to locate pocket outages and ensure all customers are restored.
    • Customers will be able to access real-time power restoration updates.
  • Greater convenience and faster service
    • Allows a more efficient way to read meters remotely; which means fewer interruptions for customers with dogs or gates; and fewer truck rolls, which reduces our carbon footprint.
    • Customer requests to turn new service “on” or shut “off” existing service are expedited through remote capabilities.
  • Helps Hawaii reach our goal of 100% Renewable Energy
    • System operators and engineers have greater access to the data and tools needed to integrate more renewable energy (like wind and solar) onto our grids.
    • Reduces energy and fossil fuel use by more efficiently controlling the level of power delivered to customers.
    • New technology solutions make it easier to incorporate future technology such as energy storage to further increase distributed generation from sources like rooftop solar, while maintaining reliable and safe power quality for our customers.

What are smart meters?

A smart meter is a modern electric meter with two-way communications capabilities that enable the exchange of data between electric customers and the utility through a secure wireless communications network. Smart meters can offer remote meter reading that improves efficiencies, data collection of energy use in 15-minute intervals to enhance use of energy management tools and options for customers, and power outage detection that will help the utility restore power faster.

What is the meter installation process?

The meter installation is a seamless process. A meter technician will remove the old meter and replace it with a new smart meter which will take less than 15 minutes. As a result, customers may experience a brief one-to-three minute interruption of electrical service in which customers may need to reset digital clocks on appliances or equipment. Though, in many cases customers will not experience a power outage.

What is the Smart Grid Foundation Project and what will Hawaiian Electric Companies do with it?

To help us improve and upgrade our existing electric grids, we have put together a grid modernization plan for all five islands that we serve, called our “Smart Grid Foundation Project.” This project consists of the foundational components and technologies necessary to transform our old electric grids to smart grids. It includes: a modern wireless communication network, smart meters, back-end software for processing and storing data, a customer Web/mobile energy portal, outage management systems and additional equipment.

To help guide our plans, Hawaiian Electric Company has been testing smart grid technologies through a pilot demonstration project. In June 2014, there were 5,200 smart meters installed in the Moanalua Valley area and in parts of Pearl City, Kaimuki, Kahala, Diamond Head and Waikiki that reflected a general mix of homes, businesses, physical terrain and electrical circuits. This initial smart grid demonstration was in preparation for statewide installation and allowed us to fine-tune the installation process, evaluate upgrades to the grid and substations, and gather feedback from customers to enhance services.

A few Maui Electric customers have also been participating in the Maui Smart Grid Project since 2012, and in 2013, some Kihei residents started participating in the JUMPSmartMaui, and EV demonstration project using smart grid technology designed to aid in the development of a more efficient power grid. The project is a collaborative demonstration project among Japan, the State of Hawaii, and Maui County to improve the integration of renewable energy into the island’s electric grid and support more EV’s on the island.

Smart grid technology has matured and utilities across the U.S. have developed smart grids. There are now more than 50 million smart meters installed across the country.


PRIVACY/SECURITY

Is my data transmitted securely and kept private?

Yes. Your information is highly confidential and protecting it is a top priority for us. We have rules and safeguards in place to protect your information. All messages to and from the smart meter will go over a private network, not the open internet and it is protected by strong authentication and authorization controls. We do not sell, rent or lease personal information. We only use that information to ensure that customers are being billed accurately and are provided with safe and reliable electrical service.


HEALTH/SAFETY

Are smart meters safe?

Yes. Smart meters operate within safety guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Studies in Hawaii and across the U.S. have been conducted on smart meters to ensure they are compliant with the safety guidelines set by the FCC.

What are RF emissions from smart meters and will they impact my health?

Radio frequency (RF) is a form of electromagnetic energy that includes frequencies used for everyday communication such as radio and TV broadcasting, cell phones, baby monitors, and Wi-Fi routers. Smart meters use low-level RF transmissions that are generally lower than other RF-emitting devices such as microwaves and cordless phones, to send data to the electric utility.

Thousands of scientific studies from credible third-party health and research organizations have been conducted on this topic. Based on in-depth review of scientific literature, the World Health Organization concluded: “current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also stated that “available scientific evidence – including WHO findings released in May 17, 2010 – show no increased health risk due to RF energy.”

Do smart meters increase the risk for fire?

No. Based on research and the experience of other utilities, smart meters would not increase the potential risk of a meter-related fire at a customer’s premise. Statistics show that fires resulting from any type of electric meter are a rare occurrence, due to faulty connections or failed components. To ensure safe and proper inspection and installation of meters, the Companies have strict meter service rules and installation instructions for employees and contractors to follow to check for potential safety issues before meters are exchanged or removed.

Are smart meters accurate?

Yes. All smart meters that we will install will comply with standards set by the American National Standards Institute to ensure accuracy of meter reading.


PARTICIPATION

If I do not want to participate, will it cost me anything?

Yes. If you do not wish to upgrade to a smart meter, you may remain on a regular digital meter. However, we have proposed a monthly fee of $15.30 to cover associated labor costs for continuing to send a person to physically read your meter. This is similar to fees charged by other utilities across the country, including Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. Prior to upgrading your meter, we will notify you and give you an opportunity to request not to participate. If we receive your request in advance, no one-time fee will apply. However, if you decide not to participate after your meter has been upgraded to a smart meter; a proposed onetime fee of $49.32 may apply to cover extra labor costs to reverse the installation.