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In the US, an Oklahoma energy company has announced that advanced meters deployed as part of a US$130 million advanced metering system (AMI) will give a “slight net bill decrease” for all customers.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), part of American Electric Power, said from its billing cycle of November 2014, it will lower its fuel charge by approximately US$50 million, reflecting a decline in forecasted natural gas prices.

At the same time, the company will implement interim rates, subject to refund, for the AMI portion of its pending rate case settlement.

The energy company, which has plans to replace more than 520,000 electric meters with AMI units by 2016, said although installation of the new AMI technology initially costs US$3.11 per month for a residential customer, the decrease in fuel will more than offset that cost, resulting in a net bill decrease of slightly more than one per cent.

Fuel cost adjustment

PSO annually adjusts the fuel cost passed on to customers each November to reflect increases or decreases in what the company spends on fuel used in generating electricity.

State law allows utilities to implement changes proposed in a rate case subject to refund if no decision has been made by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) within 180 days of the filing, which was reached in July.

However, PSO had previously announced that it would delay implementation of interim rates until Q3 this year to lessen the impact on customers.

Since filing the proposal, PSO has invested millions of dollars in the new AMI technology and believes it is appropriate to implement that portion of the settlement agreement pending final approval, the company said in a statement.

Emily Shuart, director of regulatory services at PSO, said: “The company continues to invest in this project to give customers the energy savings tools and service quality they expect from their utility, and we need to continue that investment to stay on track.

“Implementing cost recovery on an interim basis at a time when fuel costs are decreasing allows us to cover our costs but also mitigates the impact on our customers.”

Opposition to AMI program

However, a local consumer advocacy group for the other 50s, AARP, is opposed to the new system.

Local media the Tulsa World reported comments from AARP Oklahoma state Director Sean Voskuhl saying: “PSO is playing a shell game with consumer utility bills to finance their flawed smart-meter expansion program.

“Ratepayers deserve a lower electric bill when fuel prices decrease — not an additional charge for smart meters that will stay on their bills long after fuel prices increase.”