MLGW Approves $240M Smart Meter Purchase


The Memphis Light Gas & Water [MLGW] board approved the purchase of more than 1 million smart meters over the next five years for $240 million. But the purchase will require a vote of approval from the Memphis City Council.

Smart meters are electronic devices utility companies can use to measure electrical, water, and natural gas use in a home or business. The meters can also transmit that information back to the utility without having a human physically read the meter.

MLGW installed about 1,000 smart meters here in a three-year pilot project that ended in 2012. The utility then bought about 60,000 in 2013 for about $14.1 million. Those meters are now installed at about 24,000 homes.

The meters brought controversy in 2013 from some MLGW customers who thought the meters could cause health hazards, increases in utility bills, fires, and hacks. Council member Joe Brown said the meters were like “communism.”

MLGW wants to purchase 1.14 million smart meters and install them at a rate of about 50,000 meters every four months. The installation would be complete in 2020.

But first, the MLGW board of commissioners has to give its final approval on May 20 and then the project goes to the city council for a vote.

Council members Brown and Janis Fullilove led the opposition to the smart meters back in 2013 and could be opponents of the new proposed purchase. In fact, a discussion on opting out of smart meter installation was on the council’s agenda Tuesday.

But should the purchase get all the votes its needs, telecommunications infrastructure must be installed on existing utility poles. After that, MLGW will select which areas will get the meters and then notify selected customers 30 days in advance of the installation. Opt-out information instructions are included in that letter.  

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