Cleveland Utilities to offer online monitoring tools

Cleveland Utilities to offer online monitoring tools

December 24th, 2011 By Paul Leach/Correspondent in News

The Cleveland Utilities headquarters is in Cleveland, Tenn.

Photo by Harrison Keely/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland Utility officials have announced an initiative to give their customers the ability to monitor their own power consumption in real time and to receive emergency messages from the utility.

This week, the utility board voted 4-0 to approve a $55,000 software package that will give customers access to electric meter data. The system will feed off "smart meters" tied in with the utility's automated metering infrastructure system.

"It will be a big help to customers who want to try to budget what they're spending on energy," general manager Tom Wheeler said.

Utility customers will be able to monitor their power consumption either by dollars spent or kilowatt hours used before each monthly bill, Wheeler said. The meter data can be viewed in real time, historical or trending modes, he said.

Customers also may set up their accounts to receive alerts by text or email once their electrical consumption reaches a certain number of budgeted kilowatt hours.

"We've never had the opportunity to be able to offer a customer something like the fuel gauge on your car," Wheeler said. "This will be a great way to feed back information to the customer."

Cleveland Utilities plans to use customer email and text contact information to issue system-wide messages, Wheeler said. However, customer participation is strictly voluntary.

"It will be a great for us to communicate with our customers during emergencies," said Wheeler, who listed power outages, waterline breaks and utilities-related roadwork as examples of message content.

Utility board member Chari Buckner asked Wheeler whether messages could be sent to customers individually instead of system-wide.

Wheeler said he thought the ability to issue messages to particular customers could be programmed, but right now the goal is to send messages with broad application to the customers without overwhelming them with information.

The new software does not include water consumption, but it can once the water meter system is converted to automated metering technology, Wheeler said.

"Great customer relations stuff," said Aubrey Ector, chairman of the utility board.

Wheeler also announced that Cleveland Utilities had received a Better Business Bureau complaint-free certificate for the period of Aug. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2011.

Cleveland Utilities does receive complaints, Wheeler reported, but he said the certificate demonstrated that it did its best to resolve them before they escalated to the bureau.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.