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Smart Grid Solution Presented to Norcross Officials

Updated meters would provide more information, smarter fixes remotely, according to the presentation.

Electric Cities of Georgia and General Electric presented information to the Mayor and Council at Monday's Policy Work Session about a “Smart Grid Solution" for the City of Norcross, which would be the first of its kind for a municipality in Georgia.

The solution would include “smart meters” that could remotely provide digital readings, eliminating trips by utility workers and providing volumes of data that could change the way service is provided. “Instead of meter readers having to dodge pit bulls to turn off a meter, we’ve automated it,” said John Srouji, a representative of General Electric, who made the presentation.

That data, which would be owned by the city but hosted on GE’s servers, would allow them to provide smarter service and less outages, according to Walter West, Vice President of Participant Services at Electric Cities of Georgia.

It would also include an “interactive voice response” system that could call citizens on their cells phones when an outage occurred, confirming the status of the outage. Mayor Bucky Johnson said he was particularly impressed with that aspect of the solution.

Another aspect of the proposed Smart Grid Solution would be a consumer web portal that allows citizens to look up their energy usage throughout the month. Srouji said that this encourages conservation for some watching their budget. “You get to the point where you can plan and save,” he said.

The men presented some numbers that they said were based on actual Norcross energy data. According to Srouji, the solution is unique because it takes away the up-front integration costs, which have been prohibitively high—up to $3 million by some accounts. “We see it as a zero integration risk,” he said. 

Instead, the solution would be provided for a yearly fee of $233,748, which does not include any installation or the purchase of the new meters. The contract would also have escalators that could effect the future monthly cost. 

The city would have to sign a 10-year contract.

Craig A. Mims, Director of Public Works and Utilities, said in a memo before the session that he had been evaluating smart grid providers over the past year or so, and felt that GE’s solution “had real merit.” He pointed out the benefits of a low monthly fee, no upfront cost and no investment in technology or staff in his note—and also pointed to GE’s connections to Atlanta and Norcross as a point in favor.

Electric Cities of Georgia would be the provider of the solution. It “provides strategic and technical services to communities with utility operations.” But General Electric would be the “host” of the service, with their own separate agreement with ECG.

Johnson points out that 51 cities are a part of the Electric Cities of Georgia. “I’m guessing with no up front cost, it will go pretty quickly,” he said, referring to other cities getting on board with the program. 

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