Advanced Metering Infrastructure
Advanced Metering Infrastructure are data gathering processes that help Minnesota Power and its customers more efficiently control the use and production of electricity. The technology allows us to automatically and more frequently collect consumption, diagnostic and status data from your electric meter, and gives us quick access to meter data used for billing, analyzing and troubleshooting.
Some advantages of AMI are:
- Improved billing accuracy (reduction in estimated billings)
- Improved operational efficiency
- Reduced environmental impacts
- Monitoring and alarming of common customer problems such as high/low voltage, momentary outages, and sustained outages
- Verification of power quality and outage restoration
- Remote upgrades of meters resulting in fewer site visits
- The ability to offer new rate structures in the future
What is advanced metering infrastructure (“AMI”) and how does it work?
Minnesota Power started installing an advanced metering infrastructure system back in 2009. The new advanced meters are solid state electric meters that collect and transmit metering information back to our meter data systems. The information is collected by the meter and sent via radio frequency (RF) back to our meter data systems approximately once an hour. The radio frequency is similar to other technologies that you are familiar with such as baby monitors and garage door openers.
Why are we installing this technology?
Our existing automated meter reading (“AMR”) and load management devices that have been used for over 20 years are aging and have not been supported by suppliers for several years. Minnesota Power has nearly 150,000 electric meters and is continuously looking to provide the best service possible by keeping technology current and supported.
What are the benefits of AMI?
New metering technology can communicate meter readings and outage information directly to Minnesota Power’s systems. This can help us prevent outages by identifying failing equipment such as meter sockets, detect over-loaded situations before they turn into extended power outages or a potential safety issue, and restore power more quickly with automated features and outage alert capabilities. When an outage occurs, the meter automatically sends signals letting Minnesota Power know about the outage so restoration efforts can begin as quickly as possible.
Benefits summary of AMI:
- Automated power outage detection and improved restoration allowing for better communications and more accurate estimated restoration times
- Enhancements in reliability and better power quality monitoring
- Improved energy usage information and options for customers, including high usage alerts and weekly summaries through the MyAccount online tool
- Quicker implementation and support of renewable resources such as wind and solar
- Streamlined and more accurate billing
- Supports more rate offerings such as Time of Day, Electric Vehicle, etc.
- Better planning, utilization and operation of our distribution system
- Operational savings
- More effective and reliable load management system
- Improved employee safety
What about Privacy concerns?
We use our customer’s energy usage and operational data for billing purposes and troubleshooting and resolving problems with equipment or services. We treat personal information and data about our customers as confidential. Our use of load data will be strictly limited to the provision of electric service. No individual data from a customer’s meter will be shared with a third party or an affiliate for any purpose other than a formal legal requirement without the customer’s express consent. Minnesota Power may disclose PII if disclosure is required pursuant to an order of a court or regulatory agency or other legal process.
What about health concerns?
Research conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Electric Power Research Institute, the Utilities Tele-com Council and others has found no negative health impacts from digital meters that send information via a wireless communications network. The radio frequencies (RF) emitted by digital meters fall well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines.
The following information is from the American Cancer Society: "How much RF energy that people are exposed to from the smart meter depends on how far they are from the smart meter antenna and how the smart meter sends its signal. The frequency and power of the RF waves given off by a smart meter are similar to that of a typical cell phone, cordless phone, or residential Wi-Fi router. Smart meters typically send and receive short messages about 1 percent of the time. Because the smart meter antenna usually is located outside the home, people are much farther away from the source of RF waves than some other possible sources of exposure to RF radiation, such as personal cell phones and cordless phones. In addition, walls between the person and the smart meter’s antenna further reduce the amount of RF energy exposure. This means that the amount of RF radiation that someone would be exposed to from a smart meter is probably much lower than the amount that they would be exposed to from other sources."
Each transmission from a Minnesota Power meter is only milliseconds in length and in most instances will not result in a full second of on air transmission time in a 24 hour period.
What about cyber security?
Minnesota Power takes cybersecurity very seriously and considers it essential to the success of our operations. We actively manage and continuously monitor risk with our vendors/partners and was a factor in selecting our vendors/partners for the advanced metering project. We require our vendors to follow best practices and ensure that they are updating their systems as future cyber-security vulnerabilities are discovered. Minnesota Power utilizes best practices, a Defense-in-Depth approach, and various security technologies for integrating, protecting, and monitoring electronic systems. While no system can ever be considered 100-percent secure against every threat, we are confident that Minnesota Power and its partners are doing their utmost to deliver and maintain a healthy cyber-security position for these systems.
Are these meters constant emission sources?
No. Unlike a WiFi router or cell phone where towers need to be pinged on a more constant basis, these advanced meters send a data set every hour or so. They do this using a transmission that lasts milliseconds in length. This means that over the course of a 24-hour period, the meter would not even have one full second of on-air transmission time. This is such a quick, short duration transmission that most standard EMF detectors would pick it up as a blink of the screen refresh, or a slight twitch for the analog needle style.
Are these meters comparable to 5G type technologies?
No. The meters operate at much lower frequencies. They are on a FCC licensed 900 mHz frequency, which is considered a line-of-site frequency. This means it has a limited ability to penetrate through solid objects such as walls. This is why we sometimes have difficulty getting reads from meters that are inside buildings or structures, and we see reduced coverage due to denser tree foliage in the summer. This is also one of several reasons why we require meters to be located outside, unless otherwise preapproved by us. In general, higher frequency means greater bandwidth, so more data can be added to the signal. However, this decreases the distance it can travel and its ability to penetrate through solid objects. 5G type technology is a much higher frequency and requires significantly more infrastructure at closer range to the end user for it to work properly.
What if I don’t want an AMI meter installed?
Residential Customers: You have the option to have electric service with a non-communicating meter at your property. However, by choosing to opt out of an advanced meter, a monthly charge of $20 per billed address will be added to your bill beginning as soon as August 1, 2023. This monthly charge will be noted on your bill as “AMI Opt Out Charge” and is intended to cover the cost of manual meter reads and related maintenance.
If you choose not to have an advanced meter:
- Information available in MyAccount regarding your energy usage will be limited compared with what you would see with an advanced meter.
- You will not have the ability to access hourly energy information and insights. This means that your energy information will be limited to usage reflected for monthly billing.
- Opting out of an advanced meter will make you ineligible for special rates such as Time of Day, Electric Vehicle, Dual Fuel, Parallel Generation or Fixed Off-Peak. These rates require an advanced meter.
- Your meter will not automatically notify Minnesota Power about outages, failing equipment, or abnormal service conditions. This affects our ability to proactively avoid negative impacts or restore service in a more timely manner.
- Minnesota Power employees will typically be on your property monthly to read the meter. When access to your meter is not possible, usage estimations may occur. To limit estimations, please keep a clear, safe path to the meter year-round.
Can I “AMI Opt Out”?
Residential customers who do not want an advanced meter can request that we not install one. By choosing our opt-out option, you will incur a monthly charge of $20 per billed address for the cost of manually reading the meter and related maintenance.
*Note that our AMI technology is required for rates such as Dual Fuel, Fixed Off-Peak, Time of Day, Electric Vehicle and parallel generation rates for generation such as solar or wind. If a customer chooses to opt out of AMI they will no longer be eligible for these rates.
If you wish to continue your electric service with a non-communicating meter at your property, please complete this form.