Within a few seconds, Glendale Water & Power employee Stephen Kim installed the last of the city’s 120,000 smart meters at Glendale Community College.
“This is a bellwether day for us. It changes the way we do business,” said General Manager Glenn Steiger on Thursday afternoon in front of about 60 people who came to watch as Glendale capped off the first phase of its smart meter installation.
Smart meters provide real-time information about water and electricity use, allowing people to cut back during high-price periods to save money. Glendale was the first city in the nation to get federal stimulus money for installing smart grid technology in March.
The city received about $20 million in grants, but also spent its own money to complete the project.
“This is a $70-million investment we’re making. That’s a large investment,” Steiger said. “But it’s going to pay for itself in five years.”
Although city officials have touted smart meters as the way of the future, critics have complained about its high price tag and unknown effects on privacy and health.
Glendale Water & Power has been installing meters for months, but the machines haven’t been operating at their full potential yet. Over the next two months, the utility will be halting manual meter checks as the information is delivered digitally to customers and Glendale Water & Power for billing and monitoring.
As part of a pilot program, about 50 people will receive a digital photo frame that shows the same information. If the program is successful, the technology could become available to all customers.
“This will change how we do business and how our customers view us as a business for decades to come,” Steiger said.