Tallahassee Leads in Smart Meter Spending

With the installation of smart meters throughout the City of Tallahassee’s electric service territory complete, city planners are now moving forward with time of use rates through its “Nights and Weekends” pilot program.

The $40 million plus investment in this technology was a bold move by the city. A move they hope will reap numerous benefits over the next fifteen years for their 100,000 customers.

Given the national trend towards implementing the smart meter technology, there have been a number of different approaches used by those seeking to understand and measure the benefits of the technology.

Tallahassee Reports investigated how much money each of the five largest cities in Florida with municipal owned electric utilities chose to invest in smart meters. In addition to Tallahassee, we gathered information on Jacksonville, Orlando, Gainesville, and Lakeland.

Smart Meter Spending

JEA, the governing body of the Jacksonville electric system which is comprised of 417,000 customers, was presented with a three year plan to develop the smart grid in August, 2010. The JEA decided to spend $13 million to match a federal grant of $13 million.

A report on the project indicated the investment would allow JEA to “explore smart grid technologies” by installing 3000 smart meters and upgrading the metering and data management infrastructure.

Down the road in Gainesville, GRU – the city’s utility – has decided not to pursue smart meter technology. “Our capital budget does not include money for smart meters. We have taken a wait and see attitude”, said Scott Schlossman of GRU.

Further south in Orlando, OUC – the city’s utility authority which serves over 250,000 customers – approved an expenditure of $4.3 million for smart meters in June 2010.

When asked about the level of commitment by OUC, Keith Mutters, the Director of System Planning at OUC, said that “the current budget does not allow for a full rollout of smart meters to every electric customer. Staff is currently targeting areas where the smart meters will be the most cost effective and operationally effective.”

In Lakeland, there was a contentious fight over smart meters. In May, 2010 the Lakeland Utility Committee, comprised of citizens and city commissioners voted 7-6 to recommend against expenditures on a smart meter program.

However, the full City Commission voted 4-3 to spend $16 million on the program for its 100,000 customers.  Utility Committee Member George Lindsey voted against the program because he said “there are less costly alternatives” while City Commissioner Howard Wiggs, who supported the measure, said “this is the future of the utility.”

Out of the five utilities researched, the City of Tallahassee’s expenditure of approximately $40 million surpassed the combined total investment of the other four utilities, which was approximately $35 million.

When asked why the City of Tallahassee did not choose to start with a pilot program, Reese Goad, with COT Utilities, said “that the agressive DSM strategy of the electric utility will yeild the best results if all customers have smart meters.”

City Customers Smart Meter Expenditures
Jacksonville 417,000 $13,000,000
Orlando 250,000 $4,300,000
Tallahassee 100,000 $40,000,000
Gainesville 90,000 $0
Lakeland 100,000 $16,000,000

3 Responses to "Tallahassee Leads in Smart Meter Spending"

  1. I am all for smart metering, but this project seems to lack transparency and public involvement which does not fit with the Moniker “Your Own Utilities”. In fact, if a customer calls to ask about the program, they are routed directly to Honeywell, the contractor. Why Our Own Utilities is letting Honeywell deal directly with customers is beyond me. And yes, a pilot for this kind of expenditure should be a requirement. Hey, this cost almost as much as the Court of Appeals near southwood (yeah, that one gets headlines) and I cannot find a plan anywhere which tells how the customer benefits. Didn’t we pay for it?

  2. Interesting article. I am amazed at our electorate – voting these guys in year after year despite countless stuff like this. Democracy doesn’t work if the voters don’t hold anyone accountable.

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