SmartGridCity™

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is SmartGridCity?

Xcel Energy has announced plans to build out an entire community that combines traditional and cutting-edge technology to modernize our energy grid and provide new, innovative ways to provide you with the best service possible. SmartGridCity is the nation's first fully integrated smart grid community and will boast the largest and densest concentration of these emerging technologies to date. Boulder, Colorado has been selected as the site of SmartGridCity.

Why Boulder?

Boulder is the right-sized city for a project such as this, and offers an ideal mix of residential and commercial customers. It's home to academic and research institutions (including Colorado University, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology) already working with this emerging technology and studying long-term benefits.

How will SmartGridCity benefit me?

Over the next several years, SmartGridCity will offer the potential for:

  • Adding more clean and green power sources in our fuel mix - greatly improving power delivery and reliability while optimizing environmental benefits.
  • A grid that will allow you to more actively participate in decisions about when, how much and what kind energy you use.
  • A digitally enhanced, more resilient and stable energy grid that is less prone to outages, greatly improving power delivery and reliability and optimizing environmental benefits.
  • More energy efficiency and conservation options to help you better manage your energy dollars.

Why is Xcel Energy making this investment?

The current electricity grid hasn't changed much in the past 100 years, and it cannot keep up with growing demands. Today, customers' needs are growing faster than the current grid can handle. If we don't expand our capacity to keep up with a projected increase in demand of 40 percent over the next 25 years, we're going to see healthy grids become increasingly less reliable. This project also allows us to make our vision of a clean energy future a reality. The smart grid will take our energy system into the digital age and ensure that it continues to serve us well into the next century.

Will Xcel Energy work with other companies and organizations to develop intelligent grid technologies?

Xcel Energy is working with a group of public and private partners, including the City of Boulder, on this upgrade. Founding partners in our Smart Grid Consortium include Accenture, Current Group, GridPoint, OSI Soft, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Ventyx.

I don't live in Boulder. Can I still participate in SmartGridCity?

As part of its long-term strategy, Xcel Energy plans to take lessons learned in Boulder and expand smart grid programs to other areas the company serves. And regardless of where you live in Boulder, you will benefit from a grid that is, overall, more reliable and less prone to outages. At this time, SmartGridCity in-home and online energy management programs are being offered to a limited number of customers in Boulder who are served by specific electric feeders and substations. We will gradually expand these programs and will notify you if you are eligible.

Where can I find more information?

Visit this site often for news, updates and fact sheets. Boulder SmartGridCity residents can also sign up for e-mail notifications by completing our online survey.

Who can I contact with questions not answered here?

Call us at 1-877-887-3339 or send an e-mail to smartgridcity@xcelenergy.com.

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Smart Meter Questions

What is a smart meter?

Traditional meters only provide one-way information and must be read in-person by a meter reader. Smart meters are digital meters that offer two-way communication and allow for more interactivity between you and your utility company. Smart meters use computer chips to provide up-to-date information and can send a wireless signal back to the utility for faster, immediate responses.

Why do SmartGridCity residents need new meters?

In order to realize the benefits of a fully integrated, digitally enhanced grid, we need smart meters that allow for two-way communication between customers and Xcel Energy. Smart meters are the tools that will allow you to make smarter choices about how you use your energy. If you choose to participate in SmartGridCity programs and services, these smart meters will be an essential device for pre-selecting, programming, monitoring and managing your energy usage.

Will you notify me when my new meter installation is scheduled?

Xcel Energy has mailed letters to all SmartGridCity residents who are scheduled to receive a new smart meter. And we will contact you again in approximately two weeks in advance of your installation by telephone, e-mail or mail to confirm.

What do I need to do to prepare my meter installation?

You can help make your meter installation go smoothly by:

  • Notifying others at your home and/or business about the meter installation.
  • Keeping dogs inside or away from your meter.
  • Removing any obstructions to your meter so that our installers can easily access it.

Contact us at 1-877-887-3339 if you have any access issues we need to be aware of. We'll schedule an appointment for your meter exchange.

Do I need to be home when my new meter is installed?

You do not need to be home when we replace your meter.

Will I experience a power outage when my meter is installed?

In most cases, you will not experience an outage during the replacement. In rare cases, it is possible, however, that electricity to your home may be shut off for a very short time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. If you have concerns, please call us at 1-877-887-3339.

Will I be charged for my new smart meter?

No. Xcel Energy customers will not be charged for smart meter upgrades.

I'm a Solar*Rewards customer. Will I see any disruption of service?

No. In fact, we expect existing Solar*Rewards customers - like all Boulder residents - will eventually see an enhancement in their overall level of service and reliability with SmartGridCity. The smart meter exchange will not affect your usual solar energy usage, just the way the meter is read.

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Boulder Construction Questions

Where can I find out about construction related street closures?

SmartGridCity is at two-year project and construction is now underway. The City of Boulder's website provides a Cones Zones weekly update, where residents can review a list of construction projects currently in progress.

Why are your crews trimming trees?

The reason we trim trees is simple - trees and power lines don't mix. Xcel Energy is bound by numerous state and federal regulations to keep our lines clear to minimize interruptions to electric service. In Boulder, we're working in close partnership with the city's arboriculturist to establish strict trimming guidelines that support their standards for maintaining tree canopies. Xcel Energy is ensuring its crews follow these guidelines as they trim the trees along the circuits in your neighborhood and throughout the city.

What is Broadband Over Powerlines (BPL)?

SmartGridCity is tied together with Broadband Over Powerlines, or BPL, technology. BPL uses existing electrical wires to provide digital communication capabilities and create a multi-directional, high-speed communication network.

What is the frequency of BPL?

The SmartGridCity network will use fiber optic and BPL technologies, which are both "wires" based. The radio strength of the BPL signal is limited by federal regulations and is comparable to common household devices such as digital clocks and CD players. In isolated instances, we may also be deploying wireless equipment to extend the network. In these cases, the wireless equipment will use standard cell phone technology and frequencies.

How do you determine where and when to put cables underground or aboveground?

We are making upgrades in accordance with whatever grid infrastructure is now in place throughout the city. For example, if your existing electric service is delivered via an aboveground pole, the new wires in your neighborhood will be added to the poles that are currently there. In neighborhoods served by underground power lines, we are placing our smart grid sensors and wire underground as well.

On a related note, Xcel Energy's One Percent Fund provides more than $900,000 to the city for underground conversions each year. As of the end of 2007, we had provided a total of nearly $16 million to the City of Boulder for future underground conversion projects.

How can I tell if the construction crews in my neighborhood are authorized to do this work?

Xcel Energy is working primarily with contracted crews for SmartGridCity construction. All crew foremen carry Xcel Energy identification badges and trucks should be clearly marked with Xcel Energy signage.

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