Columbia Exploring Using "Smart Grid" Utility System

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COLUMBIA - Columbia hired Burns and McDonnell, a Kansas City-based engineering firm to look at implementing smart grid technology for the city's utility system.

"The smart meter is more of a meter that provides interval data, so we can collect more data on when the electricity is being used, but also it's a two-way communication so we can detect outages, and we can also turn on and off electric service from that meter," Connie Kacprowicz, a spokesperson for Columbia Water and Light said in November.

Columbia Water and Light said the R300 CENTRON meters found on almost all of the residential homes in Columbia do not have the two-way communication capabilities.

The city said while rates won't necessarily increase if new meters are installed, residents may still see higher costs on their bills. Older meters slow down over time and sometimes give lower readings that would lead to lower bills.

The consultant's first study advised against a city-wide smart grid and called it a "significant financial risk". But the city has now asked the consultants to look at possible business cases to expand the technology in Columbia without losing money.

In July 2013, the Institute for Electric Efficiency said around 30 percent of meters nationwide are advanced meters.