Frequently Asked Questions
What is a "smart grid?"
Duke Energy’s smart grid – or digital grid – uses the same digital technology used in industries such as telecommunications to enable two-way communications between Duke Energy and our customers. Think of it as an energy network that delivers improved reliability and virtually unlimited opportunities for customers to take control of their energy usage and costs.
What makes a smart grid different from today’s grid?
It's the conversation and the functionality.
Consider this: If you decided today to send someone a letter, would you choose a typewriter or a computer? Most people would select a computer because it's faster and provides many more options for font type and size.
Today's analog grid is very similar to a typewriter with its manual operation and limited options. It was designed nearly a century ago to do one thing – deliver electricity to homes and businesses. It's a massive, dependable machine, but it provides limited information, so there is little automation and interaction.
Digital technology will enable the information and control consumers need to save energy and money. It will improve and enable the integration of more renewable energy resources, while enabling more efficient and reliable electric vehicle charging.
The technology will help bring the energy industry – and the resulting customer experience – into the 21st century.
Think about it. In today's digital, highly connected information world, it shouldn't take 30 days for you to get information about how much energy you've used and how much it costs. By then, it's too late to take actions to help you lower your energy bill. The digital grid will make near-real time information available to you, which you can use to control your energy use and costs.
What are the benefits of smart grid technology?
Smart, digital technologies – combined with in-home energy management systems, new energy-efficiency programs, improved communication tools and customer-sited renewable energy sources, such as rooftop solar panels – will benefit our customers, our company and the environment:
- Customers will have tools and information to better understand their energy usage and manage their monthly energy bills.
- Smart appliances and plug-in vehicles will be integrated with the power grid.
- We will have more precise information about outages than we have today, which will help us respond faster to restore service.
- We'll be able to proactively detect and quickly resolve problems, prevent and shorten outages, and improve service, reliability and power quality for customers.
- Our power delivery system will communicate system-wide to make micro-adjustments, if needed, to balance our energy load and help reduce our need to buy or generate extra, more expensive power to meet customer demand.
Why is Duke Energy building a “smart grid?”
The energy industry is poised for a dramatic change. In the face of expanding customer expectations, increasing environmental regulation, a slumping economy and continued growth, the traditional approach of building new power plants to meet energy demand can no longer be the only option. We must find ways to improve our service and meet our customers’ energy needs in a smart, lower-carbon way. Renewable generation and energy efficiency must, and will, play a larger role.
And consumers want more information and control, too; they want reliable and affordable energy that’s clean, and this requires a unique balancing act.
By deploying digital energy technologies and modernizing our power grid, we can bring Duke Energy into the 21st century, empower you to make wiser energy decisions, and help create a cleaner, lower-carbon and more energy-efficient world.
What is Duke Energy’s total investment for smart grid deployment?
We have allocated $1 billion for deployment efforts in Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Indiana. Deployment includes digital and automated technology such as smart meters, automated power delivery equipment and communications nodes.
What is the timeline for deploying smart grid technologies?
In 2010, Duke Energy began a full-scale deployment in Cincinnati, Ohio that includes digital smart meters, automated power distribution equipment, and a communications network and associated computer systems. We are on track to complete deployment in Ohio by 2015, which will include more than 700,000 electric meters and 450,000 gas meters and 130,000 communication nodes.
In the Carolinas, we’ve installed approximately 17,000 digital smart meters and other automated equipment in northern Greenville County in South Carolina and in Charlotte, North Carolina. These installations are pilot programs in areas where we have been testing the technology for several years.
We will continue to work through the regulatory process in Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina to finalize our deployment plans in those states.
Smart grid technologies are so new, why does Duke want to move so quickly on this technology?
Digital grid technologies, including the meters, use the same type of digital technology that make cell phones, computers and wireless Internet possible. Digital technology is used every day in our society to make our lives more convenient and productive. Duke Energy will leverage the technology to offer customers more options, improve reliability and service, and make it possible to incorporate more renewable generation options into the grid.
Is digital grid really necessary?
The digital technology is laying the groundwork for an energy evolution where information and automation enable customers and companies to work together to keep energy affordable, reliable and clean. Energy demand and costs are rising and will continue to rise. It is our obligation to provide our customers with the information and tools necessary for them to best manage their comfort and their costs, and the digital technology is the best way to do that.
Deploying this technology is costly, why do you want to impact your customers now, with the economy so strained?
We must make the investments now so we can continue meeting the energy needs of our customers. In the face of expanding customer expectations, increasing environmental regulation, a slumping economy and continued growth, the traditional approach of building new power plants to meet energy demand can no longer be the only option.
Replacement costs for aging power plants, combined with mandates on renewable power and more stringent environmental regulations, could require $5 billion to $6 billion in additional capital expenditures at Duke Energy over the next decade. In that light, spending on digital grid -- as well as on energy-efficiency projects -- can help us all mitigate higher energy costs in the future.
Has Duke Energy accepted stimulus funds from the Department of Energy for deployment efforts?
We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE) to accept $204 million in digital grid stimulus funds. This award will enable us to move forward with the evolution of our power delivery system in the five states we serve. We feel strongly that our grid modernization efforts support the job creation, economic stimulus and energy infrastructure objectives of the Recovery Act and the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program. We expect to put to work approximately 1,000 people over the next few years as we deploy digital grid technologies in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
The DOE also awarded Duke Energy $3.5 million for workforce development and training. Currently we are developing training plans and programs to equip our existing and new employees to support our grid modernization efforts.
Would digital grid technologies help prevent outages during catastrophic weather events like major hurricanes, or quicken outage response?
Digital technology will significantly improve our response to day-to-day power outages. In some cases, the new equipment can quickly detect and correct trouble on a power line, and isolate and reroute electricity. And since the digital meter that will be on your home is capable of two-way conversation with computer systems back at Duke Energy, we will know more about outages than we know today, which could help us respond faster to restore service.
For a "100-year storm" such as Hurricane Ike or Hugo, digital grid technology would be extremely valuable as we complete restoration efforts – once we have restored the main components of the distribution system and begin to identify and repair isolated outages.
What is a “smart meter?”
A smart meter – or digital meter – is just one part of a smart grid system. But the device is important in delivering nearly real-time information to our customers. With a digital meter on your home and supporting energy management programs, you can find out – at any time during the month – how much energy you've used from the previous day(s).
And since the meter is capable of two-way conversation with computer systems back at Duke Energy – we will have more information about outages than we have today, which could help us respond faster to restore service. While we'll have more information about outages, you should continue to call Duke Energy to report a loss of electric or gas service.
What are the benefits of having a digital meter?
Digital meters will enable some immediate benefits.
- Fewer estimated bills
With smart meters Duke Energy representatives will no longer need to enter homes to read meters. Occasionally, we may need to have access to the meter for routine maintenance, but we’ll let you know before we arrive. In addition, customers who read their own meters will no longer need to submit their monthly meter reading. And having a digital meter will reduce significantly the need for us to estimate bills. Your energy bill will reflect your actual usage.
- Faster service
Remote service connections and disconnections will eliminate the need for scheduling appointments, which means faster service when moving or leasing a property to new tenants.
- Greater control of how you use energy
The digital smart meter will also capture daily energy usage data, which will be available online to customers the next day. Having this information available on a daily basis will help customers make wiser energy decisions and avoid billing surprises at the end of the month.
- Quick response to power outages
And since the smart meter is capable of two-way conversation with computer systems back at Duke Energy – we will know more about outages than we know today, which could help us respond faster to restore service.
NOTE: Our smart meters will NOT alert Duke Energy immediately when there is a power outage; customers still must call to report outages.
My new meter was installed a few weeks ago, but I received a card today telling me I would need to read the meter myself and provide the reading. Why?
Before we begin using the remote meter readings for billing purposes, we will continue to gather manual readings to verify that the information we are getting remotely matches the data displayed on the meter. If your meter is inaccessible (e.g., inside your home, inside a locked fence, etc.) you may be asked to read your meter for a few months or until you receive a letter telling you that your meter has been certified operational and the manual reads are no longer necessary.
To read your meter, stand looking at the face of the meter and write down the numbers you see displayed on the digital readout. To submit your reading, log into your Online Services Account. If you do not have an account online, please call 1-800-544-6900; select option 4 from the Main Menu, then option 2 to enter your meter reading.
I am on Duke Energy’s EZ Read program. Will I need to continue to provide my monthly readings now that I have the new digital smart meter?
You should continue to read your meter each month and provide the readings until you receive a letter stating that your meter is certified operational. Once your meter is certified we will gather your reading remotely. You many continue to receive the EZ Read reminder email, but you may disregard it once you receive the certification letter.
Remote meter reading will eliminate jobs. Are those savings being passed along to customers?
Yes, any savings realized from gains in operational efficiencies and the use of the technology will be passed on to customers.
For employees whose positions are affected by the use of the new technology, Duke Energy is working closely with them to communicate and to make training and opportunities available.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Duke Energy $3.5 million for workforce development and training. Currently we are developing training plans and programs to equip our existing and new employees to support our grid modernization efforts.
Will I have to get a new digital meter?
Yes. Duke Energy is moving to advanced digital meters to benefit our customers and our company. These meters will pave the way for new energy-efficiency programs for customers. They also create efficiencies for our company, since we will no longer have to manually read meters, saving time and reducing fuel and maintenance costs.
I’ve been reading a lot about Radio Frequency (RF) exposure from the meters. Should I be concerned?
Wireless technology is prevalent in our everyday lives. Everything from cell phones and wireless Internet routers to baby monitors and garage door openers use radio frequency to operate. In most cases, the digital electric meter Duke Energy is installing uses Power Line Carrier technology to send data from the meter to a communications node mounted a short distance away on an outside transformer. This set up uses a very low power radio frequency (RF) signal that actually travels along the power line as opposed to through the air.
All of the digital gas meters Duke Energy is installing use radio frequency to transmit information, however; the exposure from this low power RF signal is well below the exposure limits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established for the general public.
Recent studies conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Association of Edison Illuminating Companies (AEIC) and the Utilities Telecom Association (UTC) conclude that digital smart meters pose no health threats.
For more information, read the full report – "A Discussion of Smart Meters and RF Exposure Issues" or visit the following organizations' websites:
Will a smart meter give Duke Energy control over the amount of energy I use in my home?
No. Participating in residential energy management and other energy efficiency programs is completely optional. Customers who participate can use the information they receive to manage their energy usage day by day. Or, they can set preferences (select a maximum temperature for air conditioning, for instance) and let the system automatically make adjustments based on the cost or availability of energy. Either way, the customer is in complete control and will have the option to override signals or not participate in energy-efficiency programs at all.
I’ve been reading a lot about the accuracy of smart meters. What’s Duke Energy doing to ensure the new meters are operating correctly?
We are confident in the performance of our vendors and the equipment we are deploying as part of our grid modernization efforts.
The meter make/model we selected underwent a battery of rigorous tests before it was approved for use in the field. The standardized tests are used to measure accuracy during various load and weather conditions; the tests are industry accepted and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Additionally, we have implemented an enhanced testing procedure where we test a percentage of all meters we receive from the vendor prior to installing them at a customer’s home or business. In some cases, we test each meter included in a shipment.
We also continue to monitor meter accuracy after installation by conducting routine sample and/or periodic testing. For many years, Duke Energy has used this long-standing method to verify meter integrity.
Certainly, we understand that with any vendor or equipment, problems can occur after installation, so we encourage you to contact us if you ever have questions about the accuracy of your meter or your bill.
Will my information be kept private and is the equipment safe from cyber attacks?
We recognize that emerging technologies – no matter what industry – always opens new avenues of risk. Duke Energy's digital smart grid components are protected with layers of cyber and physical security.
We employ highly trained and skilled information technology experts who deploy and constantly monitor our system's security. Our company's active relationships with manufacturers and regulators help ensure that we have a broad view of real-time cyber security threats and can respond to them appropriately.
We review security as part of the new technology design process; we include security requirements when procuring new equipment; we test the new equipment; we request upgrades and fixes if problems are identified.
Our robust cyber security policies are prudent and help ensure the safety of our power delivery system, including smart grid.
How will I know when to expect my meter to be installed?
There is a deployment map on our website. Click on your community to find out if we've already installed equipment in the area or if installation is scheduled this year or 2012 and beyond. We have hired two vendor companies to perform the installations. You will receive a post card in the mail several days prior to our vendor arriving at your home to exchange the meter.
I have one of those transformer boxes in my yard, and I’ve planted shrubbery to conceal it. Will you need access to that box when you convert to digital technology?
Duke Energy may have to remove plantings around the box to ensure we have enough clearance to work safely.
Do I have to wait for smart grid technologies to start participating in energy efficiency?
It will take a few years to fully deploy the equipment and programs necessary to support all the benefits digital grid technologies will make possible, but there are simple things you can do in your home today to save energy and money. First, sign up for Duke Energy’s Online Services and answer a few questions to complete a Home Energy Survey. You can also change out your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Customers in Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina can receive up to 15 CFLs for free by submitting your order online or by calling 800-943-7585; opt 1.
Be sure to check your home for "energy vampires" too. Energy vampires are devices – like cell phone and laptop chargers – that use energy 24/7, even when they’re not in use. Learn more energy-savings tips.
Need more information? A Duke Energy customer service specialist can assist you by phone or email:
Toll Free: 800-544-6900