Building a smart energy future

In fall of 2017, Alliant Energy began installing smart meters for customers in its Iowa service area.

Installations are taking place over a three-year period as part of a broader upgrade to our electric and natural gas distribution systems. We began work in Northeast Iowa.
 
We’ve been operating smart meters and related communications equipment for our Wisconsin customers for 10 years.

Smart meters and related system improvements detect outages faster and will help provide you with better service.  Smart meters are an industry standard, with roughly 65 million currently in place, serving more than 50% of households nationally.

Key benefits of smart meters 

Detecting problems faster
When power goes out, smart meters help identify problems instantly in most cases, which means problem solving can start right away. When the connectivity across our system is upgraded (expected in mid-2018) we will be able to detect most outages automatically and read your meter without needing to visit or disturb you.

Preparing for the future
Smart meters and related system upgrades enable better integration of power from cleaner renewable energy sources, including wind and rooftop solar systems, and provide better opportunity for connecting new and enhanced battery storage options.

Reducing pollution

Collecting meter readings wirelessly means we can reduce vehicle emissions because we will no longer have to send trucks to every property we serve.  

Keeping the lights on
Many parts of our current electrical systems are old and reaching the end of their useful life. By installing smart meters and related system upgrades, we’ll be able to continue delivering energy safely, reliably and efficiently.

Giving you more control over your energy bill
When you have better information, you have better control—smart meters capture data in near real-time of how much, and when, you use energy. This capability will allow the introduction of tools that provide greater control of your energy bills.

Next steps

Replacing and upgrading meters across our Iowa service area will be a multi-year process. We’ll notify customers and communities in advance through mail and phone calls, and work to minimize any inconvenience to you.

Frequently asked questions

What is the installation process for customers and businesses?

We’ll notify you by mail and telephone when we’re in your area.

We’ll make an appointment to replace or upgrade meters that are inside or otherwise inaccessible.

No appointment is needed for us to replace meters that are outside and accessible. For outside meters, we’ll leave a phone message a few days in advance of the work.

Please make sure we have your current contact information.

Electric meters will be replaced. Service will be interrupted briefly (a few minutes in most cases) during the replacement.

Gas meters will simply see the addition of a smart module. Service will not be interrupted.

How do smart meters work?

Our smart meter system uses remote, two-way wireless communication to retrieve customer meter data (meter number, energy usage and diagnostic information) and send it through a secure and proprietary network.

How often does the signal transmit?

A little less than one second per day – about 30 seconds per month. The meter will send six signals per day, with each signal lasting 0.15 seconds.

Don’t smart meters signal all day?

Alliant Energy smart meters do not. We use a hub-and-spoke type network, where there is no communications signal when the meter is idle. Meters that signal more often are usually set up in a “mesh network” which means they signal the central office and each other much more often. Alliant Energy is not using a mesh network.

How common is this type of signal?

The smart meter signal uses low-energy radio frequency (RF). RF is used for a variety of purposes, like cell phones, Wi-Fi routers, baby monitors, Blue-tooth enabled devices, microwave ovens and TV towers.

Are radio frequency levels regulated?

Yes. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets RF limits and requires that all radio communicating devices be tested to ensure that they meet federal standards. RF from smart meters is many times lower than the FCC standard.

What studies have been done on health impacts?

An in-depth review of numerous scientific studies by the World Health Organization has confirmed that the small amount of RF energy is not harmful to human health.

What type of information is being transmitted?

Only meter numbers, energy usage readings and diagnostic information are transmitted. Personal data is not collected.

How secure is the information being sent from the customer’s meter to Alliant Energy?

Just as banking, credit card, and cable industries secure your information electronically, in the utility industry we use the same advanced security and encryption technology to safeguard your data. We adhere to national cyber-security standards to ensure privacy and security of customer and smart meter data.

How do you ensure accuracy of smart meters?

All of our smart meters are tested for accuracy at the factory, using calibrated reference standards that provide reproducible and verifiable results. While it’s not required, we also sample test shipments of meters received as a secondary check prior to approving meters for installation.

Are smart meters safe for properties?

Yes. Smart meters are safer than older-style analog meters. 

In other parts of the United States, known meter failures are generally attributed to factors unrelated to the type of meter a customer has. The main factors are:

  • Worn connections and components inside meter bases that should have been repaired or replaced but were not
  • Customer tampering
  • Accidents

We require thorough training for meter installers and rigorous inspections during all meter installations. If our installation team identifies an unsafe condition in the meter box, they will either report it to you for review by your electrician, or make the repair if they are further along in the meter replacement process. In any case, we will not proceed with the installation until it’s safe to do so.

Smart meters are safer than older-style analog meters because they have a heat sensor and signal us automatically if temperatures exceed normal levels. 

Safety is the #1 priority for our customers, employees and the communities we serve. We’ve been operating smart meters safely for a decade for 470,000 of our Wisconsin electric customers.

Will the smart meter interfere with other devices?

No. Our system operates under a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license and uses a portion of the 900 MHz radio frequency band separate from that commonly used by consumer products such as cordless telephones and garage door openers. Because of this, our system will not cause interference problems with other wireless devices.

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