"Really, Lubbock is behind the times on this. We need to get moving on it and get going."
The LP&L Board voted Tuesday to begin taking bids on smart meters to monitor power usage. Board Chairman Gail Kring said had smart meters been in place during the June 5 storms, the 27,000 customers affected would have had power restored more quickly.
"We would have known where the outages were. We would have known where the problems were," Kring said. "Otherwise, we had to send out a field man, check out each situation. We probably could have had the electricity back on 24 hours quicker than we did."
"It allows us to be able to, what we call "ping" a meter, and see if it's on. So, we know for sure when we look at a whole circuit, we can double check that every meter is on."
Lynn Simmons said South Plains Electric Cooperative has used 100 percent automated metering for a year now, and said it can be much more efficient in emergency situations.
"These meters do help us know like by circuits, what major areas are out," Simmons said. "Our operations center gets that information quickly, and we can dispatch crews quickly to help identify the problem, but as far as the actual restoration process, the meters really aren't involved until we think we have everybody back on."
Lubbock Resident Mikel Ward isn't sold on the smart meters. Among other concerns, she said they present a health hazard.
"They said, 'Oh, it's no more than a tenth of what a cell phone is,'" Ward said, "and you can go around with a little radiation detector, and blow that one away."
"This is microwave radiation," Resident Carol Meek said. "It essentially, you know, cooks. So, there's both a low frequency that's essentially going off all the time in most smart meters, because it's communicating with the devices to gather all your electricity usage from their energy signature."
Simmons said SPEC uses a system in which information is carried through the power lines, which eliminates those concerns.
"Our system is called a power line carrier system, so our system does not use radio frequencies, which is where a lot of the health concerns seem to be coming from," Simmons said.
"Ninety percent of Texas already has smart meters," Kring said. "South Plains Electric Co-op already has smart meters, they have not had any problems, health problems. So, I would just say, 'Look at what's already going on', and I think they'd be comfortable with it."
Kring said there would be a four-year payback on smart meters. The estimated cost is $20 million.