They are known as smart meters, and if you’re a Chugach Electric customer there’s a good chance you got one recently or are about to. Chugach information manager Julie Hasquet said the project to replace 80,000 aging utility meters on Anchorage homes should be completed by the end of the summer.

So what makes a meter smart? Hasquet said it has to do with the way they transmit information.

“They’re smarter because the technology is so much more advanced and the communication is instantaneous,” said Hasquet.

Unlike older meters, which require a person to physically read them, the new meters transmit information directly to the utility. Hasquet said the proper name is Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI. In the case of an outage, she said, the meters will notify the utility company immediately, so crews can respond right away.

“You could be at work and there could be an outage that was triggered by something,” said Hasquet. “We get a notice, we can roll a truck and get it fixed before you are even home.”

Burke Wick, director of system control at Chugach said attending to outages as soon as they happen can save both time and money. Often, he said, the utility wouldn’t know there was a problem until a customer called in at the end of the day, when crews had already gone home. And, he said, the new meters will tell them exactly who’s affected.

“It will call us up, it will give us your address and the time the power went out and we can dispatch a crew,” said Wicke.

But while the meters give specific information about an outage, Hasquet said the utility is not collecting anything new. Some customers, she said, have expressed concern that the new meters are collecting personal information.

“We are not giving away any information, we are still just taking your power usage,” said Hasquet. “It’s a very secure system and nothing changes with the AMI’s.”

Hasquet said the biggest difference between the old meters and the new is the frequency of the information and the fact that it is coming directly. Instead of someone going out to read them once a month, the meters send updates on energy usage four times a day.

That information should be available to customers soon. The utility is planning to launch a member engagement platform at the end of May. Hasquet said customers will be able to log in with a password and see their personal energy use throughout the day as well as track it long term.