Prior to 2012, Baldwin EMC’s billing system was based on manual meter readings. Those readings were obtained by a team of employees, appropriately called meter readers.
But when advanced metering technology became available, that process was completely overhauled, resulting in one of the biggest changes the cooperative had experienced in 75 years.
Today, the daily task of manually reading Baldwin EMC’s tens of thousands of meters is no more, as that data can now be collected remotely. However, a dedicated team of metering and field service technicians still work as closely as ever with the co-ops complex infrastructure of meters.
While Baldwin EMC’s metering department’s job has changed, the value of what the team contributes has not. Everything from billing to outage management depends on the cooperative’s metering infrastructure working efficiently and effectively. It’s this group’s job to make sure it’s doing exactly that.
With 81,000 meters currently in use across Baldwin EMC’s 1,500 square-mile service territory, this is no small task.
Meter installations, which can average in the hundreds each month, along with meter testing, coding, repair and removals all fall to this team of 15 people. They also work very closely with the cooperative’s billing department, handling any question or concerns about the accuracy of a member’s meter reading or any issues that come up as the billing process is carried out each day.
Baldwin EMC’s field service technicians also handle the unpleasant, but necessary, task of collecting on delinquent accounts.
“Even though we are the metering department, we never forget we’re serving members,” says Greg Gipson, Baldwin EMC’s manager of business development, energy services and advanced metering. “Anyone can find themselves in a difficult situation, or just simply overlook making their payment. So we use door-to-door collections for accounts that fall behind, so we’re still making face-to-face contacts with our members.”
In 2017, Baldwin EMC’s metering department joined forces with the co-op’s energy services department, and the Business Development, Energy Services and Advanced Metering Department was established. This combination meant Baldwin EMC’s energy marketing specialists, who serve as the co-op’s residential and commercial energy advisors, could now work closely with the metering team to provide energy audits, energy-efficiency education, and other programs such as heat pump rebates to members.
“We have access to more data on how our members use electricity than ever before, and we can use this information not only to make key decisions about Baldwin EMC’s operations, but also to help our members make good choices in their homes,” Gipson says. “This department gets to be involved in both, which is a valuable role to play.”
Baldwin EMC is adding new meters at an unprecedented rate, and growth predictions aren’t suggesting any slow-downs in the near future. The contributions of the co-op’s hardworking meter department will continue growing just as quickly.