CPS Energy is in the final stages of preparing to begin the massive project of switching out all of the electric meters on homes and businesses across its service area, and replacing them with new electronic smart meters, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports. 

  The first of the electronic meters will be installed on homes on August 18th.  More than 750,000 meters will have to be exchanged, in a process that will take four years.

  Dwain Duke, who heads CPS Energy's System Measurements and Technology Division, says the final step is testing all of the meters to make sure they are accurate.

  "We are doubling the number of meters that we are testing," he said.  "That way we can insure for the public that these meters meet our specifications and meet the accuracy requirements necessary."

  The 'Smart Grid' will allow automated two way communication between CPS Energy and customers.  It will enable customers to check data on their energy consumption on line.  It will also allow CPS Energy to phase out meter readers, as all of the data will be sent electronically to a central reading point.

  It will also be easier to facilitate customers moving in and moving out, because power can be switched on and switched off more quickly.  They will enable CPS Energy to immediately know if a customer or a neighborhood is suffering a power outage, so crews can be dispatched.

  Duke says all customers will receive plenty of advance notice that the smart meters are being installed.

  "Thirty days prior to deployment, every residence and every commercial account will get a letter stating that CPS Energy is coming to switch out your electric meter," he said.

  Then, seven days before installation, the customer will receive a phone call, urging them to make sure gates are open and dogs are leashed so the process can begin.  Meter installers will not have to come inside the home.

  He says the smart meters will not cost customers anything.  Customers can opt out of receiving a smart meter, but they will be charged $20 a month for the costs of having a human meter reader continue to come out and check their meter.

  The first areas to get smart meters will be the neighborhoods located north of Ft. Sam Houston up to Loop 410 and east of Broadway and the Leon Valley area.  Those neighborhoods should have smart meters installed by the end of 2014.  The entire area inside Loop 410 should be outfitted with smart meters by 2015, with the outer areas coming in 2016 and 2017.