PUD commissioners approve new ‘Connect Up’ metering technology program

The Snohomish County PUD Board of Commissioners this week approved the utility’s Connect Up program, an infrastructure and technology project aimed at delivering benefits to customers and the utility through deployment of new meters and supporting infrastructure, PUD said in a Friday announcement.

“The PUD strives to become the utility of the future and I am excited about the benefits and financial savings that our customers and the PUD will gain through the Connect Up program,” said PUD Commission President Sid Logan. “This project is also key to helping us achieve the 100% clean energy mandate our state has set before us.”

According to the PUD announcement, the Connect Up program will give PUD customers new options to manage energy use and lower their bills. Infrastructure and technology deployed through Connect Up will enable options such as flexible billing arrangements, detailed energy usage information and new rate designs. Both customers and the utility will benefit from improved outage notification with estimated restoration times, increased safety monitoring and operational efficiencies, the PUD said.

As part of its ongoing smart grid initiative, the PUD built much of the infrastructure in preparation for the Connect Up program over the past decade, including modernizing its substations, deploying automated devices on its electrical distribution system and extending communication technology to critical points across its service territory.

The Connect Up program team was formed in 2019 to study, plan and budget for the project. With the board’s approval, the team will now move to procurement and design, with new meter deployment planned for 2023 and 2024.

In preparation for the project, the PUD set aside cash reserves to finance the Connect Up program. Project costs will be paid either through cash reserves or, because of current lower-than-normal interest rates, a bond issuance. The project is estimated to cost approximately $100 million over the next five years, with most expenses coming in 2023 and 2024.

The business case developed by the Connect Up program team calculates a positive return of investment (ROI) of $40 million through decreased equipment costs and increased operational efficiencies.

“The PUD typically spends upwards of $80 million annually on capital investments like substations, transformers and other infrastructure on our system,” said Snohomish County PUD CEO/GM John Haarlow. “The advantage of the Connect Up program is that it will allow us to optimize our grid, reducing future infrastructure costs, saving the PUD money and delivering lower bills for our customers.”

Customers will have the ability to opt-out of the Connect Up program. The Connect Up team is developing costs and requirements of an opt-out policy with direction from the board.

The new metering technology being explored by the PUD’s Connect Up team has been adopted by more than half of the utilities in the United States and many utilities in other nations. In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle City Light, Puget Sound Energy, Tacoma Power and Avista have either installed these meters or are currently installing them.

Puget Sound Energy, which deployed communicating gas meters in Snohomish County 20 years ago, is currently installing new gas meters that incorporate two-way communication tools and supporting infrastructure in the PUD’s service territory. The City of Lynnwood is currently installing 8,500 water meters with two-way communication technology to its customers.

For more information on the PUD’s Connect Up program, visit www.snopud.com/connectup.

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