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PNG upgrades to begin in Tumbler Ridge

Project expected to improve service and result in cost savings for customers
Stratocom, PNG’s installation contractor for the Itron ERT technology, will follow all provincial COVID-19 safety protocols,

Today Pacific Northern Gas Ltd. (PNG) announced that it will begin installing automated meter reading (AMR) technology for Northeast customers, starting in Tumbler Ridge the week of February 15, 2021.

AMR technology will allow PNG to remotely read meters, both enhancing convenience and resulting in cost savings for customers. This follows British Columbia Utilities Commission approval for the $4.2 million project last fall and the project announcement in December 2020.

“The AMR technology will make it possible for PNG to collect meter reads using a drive-by system,” said Dominic Feenan, Director, Operations and Customer Service.

“This will improve the safety and efficiency of meter reading and gas billing by eliminating the need for PNG to enter customer property each month to read meters located outside homes and businesses.”

Implementing AMR systems involves installing a device called an encoder receiver transmitter (ERT) outside the home or business on a customer’s existing meter. It encodes the consumption and transmits the data to remote mobile data collectors using a drive-by system. After the readings are gathered, they are automatically uploaded to the billing system for billing purposes. Following Tumbler Ridge, installations are scheduled to begin in March for Dawson Creek and the surrounding area, then moving to Fort St. John and the surrounding area, which will be completed by late summer.

Each installation will typically take less than 15 minutes with no interruption to gas service during this process. As long as a customer’s meter is accessible, no one needs to be home for the ERT installation. Stratocom, PNG’s installation contractor for the Itron ERT technology, will follow all provincial COVID-19 safety protocols, including minimizing in-person interactions wherever possible.

All Stratocom installers and vehicles will carry identification clearly indicating that they are contracted by PNG. “Safety is PNG’s top priority,” said Feenan. “Careful guidance and training have been provided to our Stratocom contractors and the new ERT module conforms with Industry Canada standards for radio frequency safety.

The radio signal exposure is less than 1.5% of Canadian exposure limits (Safety Code 6, 2015) for someone standing 20 cm away from the meter.” Benefits of automated meter reading technology include improved billing accuracy and the elimination of estimated billing for properties that cannot be accessed due to locked gates, animals or weather. AMR is expected to result in cost savings over the life of the technology which will both cover the project cost and benefit PNG customers.