Power company admits mistake, wants new devices for all customers

PNM meter

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Public Service Company of New Mexico wants to make a change at every home in Albuquerque and you’ll end up paying for it.

A week ago PNM made a proposal to the Public Regulation Commission to install Advanced Meters. If approved, all 531,000 customers would have them. The devices would send out an electronic frequency directly to PNM.

“Well there’s a radio frequency it works very much like a modem in your home and it has about the same frequency as a modem,” Jodi McGinnis Porter, the PNM Spokesperson. “However your microwave, your remote control, your laptop your cell phone, that all has more radio frequency than a meter.”

How the radio frequency of the smart meter compares to other wireless products: 

Radio Frequency

The meters would cost a total of $87.2 million. Customers would see their first charge for $5 in the year 2020. The cost would then go down each subsequent year until 2039. PNM said there would be a cost savings for customers $80.9 million dollars over the life expectancy of the 20 year project.

PNM said if there was a house fire, the company could shut down the power right away. If there was a power outage, the power company would know immediately to dispatch crews. It would also eliminate human-error in the field.

smart meter
Smart Meter

“We (each) read about 600 meters a day here in Albuquerque with about 41 guys,” said Eric Morgan, PNM’s Manager of the Meter Reader Department. That’s about 24,600 a day.

Morgan showed KRQE News 13 how difficult it can be to read some meters. He peered over fences, used his binoculars and was ready to fend off aggressive dogs with an umbrella and pepper spray on his hip.

But mistakes still happen.

That’s what happened to 70-year-old Ralph Loomis. He’s lived in the same Albuquerque house off San Pedro for most his life.

“I’ve lived here 46 years,” he said.

PNM sent Loomis a letter last month.

“It said they can’t read my meter,” Loomis said. “You can see my meter is right here on the corner of the house.”

Loomis said PNM meter readers have never had a problem reading his meter before, even through his chain link fence stays locked. You can see the meter from the sidewalk.

“They have these big ole’ monster binoculars. I mean they can spot an ant over across (the street),” Loomis said.

But it’s unclear why, after so many years, PNM all the sudden had trouble reading his meter.

“I’ve had my gate locked for 30 years,” he said.

Loomis unlocked the gate on the specific February day the electric company told the homeowner a meter reader would come by.

“Then the next day I got a phone call saying that they couldn’t read my meter because my gate was locked,” Loomis said.

The elderly man is on budget billing. He was worried his $48 monthly bill would skyrocket if PNM couldn’t read the meter for a few months. And he said he had a hard time getting answers from PNM

“PNM building is tighter than Fort Knox, you can’t even get in, you can’t see anybody. The only person you can see is the person you’re paying,” Loomis said.

The PNM Spokesperson told KRQE News 13 they made a mistake but wouldn’t say exactly what happened.

“It was a miscommunication on our part and we take full responsibility and again we apologize to Mr. Lewis for any inconvenience and undue stress,” said McGinnis Porter.

If PNM had the advanced meters, then a situation like Mr. Loomis’s wouldn’t have happened. The power company asked the state to make a decision about the meters within nine months.

125 meter reader related jobs would be lost. PNM said some of those employees would be given other jobs in the company, others would be given severance packages. About a week ago PNM notified employees about the potential change.

Nineteen other states already use these type of radio frequency meters.

Smart meter use in the state

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