Starting in late fall or early winter, Thumb Electric Cooperative (TEC) will begin installing equipment for its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system. Only members served from the Ubly Substation circuits will be part of the initial deployment. The initial deployment phase will allow us to test and work through any problems that could occur with system communications, billing integration, outage integration, and any other unforeseen issues. Once the AMI is operating as expected, full deployment will begin throughout the rest of Thumb Electric’s system. It is anticipated that full deployment will be completed by early 2021. As deployment advances from one area of the system to the next, members will receive postcards in advance and door knocker information after meters have been replaced. Ubly Substation circuits in the initial deployment include the following:

  • Bingham Township—north of Atwater Road
  • Sheridan Township—the NE corner
  • All of Colfax Township except the NE corner
  • The southern border of Meade Township
  • Paris Township—all but some areas in the east and south
  • The southwest corner of Sand Beach Township
  • Sherman Township—a small section in the northwest corner
  • Verona Township

All meters in Michigan, including existing and new, are required by the Michigan Public Service Commission to meet very strict standards and must be at or very near 100% accurate. The new meters will be the same electronic-type that TEC has been installing for the past 15 years or so, with only a communication module as an additional feature. The only activity most members will see on their property is the replacement of the meters. If during this process, a meter base is determined to be a safety hazard, it will need to be replaced. Since the meter base is part of the member’s system by regulation, the member or property owner will be responsible for this replacement. Recognizing that this unplanned expense may be financially difficult for some to handle, TEC will be offering no-interest loans to those members. Once the AMI system is operational, the meters will be transmitting communications for approximately 3.5 seconds in a 24-hour period. Some of the many benefits for TEC and its members include:

  • Accurate 30-day billing cycles every month. This includes seasonal accounts. • Members no longer need to read their own meters.
  • Automatic outage notification. No more need for members to let us know if their lights are out.
  • Elimination of false outage calls. No more unnecessary truck rolls.
  • Remote disconnect and reconnects.
  • A greater level of employee safety.
  • Alarms for high/low voltage and other abnormalities, meaning situations are resolved quicker.
  • Hourly billing data available for members via SmartHub App.
  • High-temperature warnings that can reduce the chances of meter base fires.
  • Meter tampering alarm—attempted energy theft can be detected quickly.
  • Increased ability for the co-op to offer more attractive rates such as time-of-use and prepay rates.
  • Enhanced System Engineering accuracy/efficiency.

This project is not expected to increase members’ monthly bills as it is one of several projects included in the Capital Budget, which the board approves annually. Based on the results of the independent Feasibility Study, the $3 million investment in this AMI system should pay for itself in approximately six or seven years and will then further reduce members’ costs, helping keep rates competitive and allowing money to be spent elsewhere to continually improve reliability. TEC looks forward to the successful deployment of this important AMI system and thanks in advance for your cooperation.