As the city of Naperville plans for the expected November rollout of Smart Meter installation in homes, it is looking to its residents to help educate the community about the project.
Last week one of the first meters was installed in the home of City Manager Doug Krieger as part of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative (NSGI) pilot program.
To educate the average resident for the upcoming project, the city has enlisted a number of ambassadors to spread the word.
About 60 residents have submitted forms showing an interest in becoming an ambassador, said Nadja Lalvani, Naperville’s community relations manager. To become an ambassador a resident must submit an interest form, attend an orientation meeting and undergo a background check.
At a recent orientation meeting 17 potential ambassadors met with city officials to learn more about their role in the project.
Marsha Lenz, 46, of the Westwind neighborhood has attended two of the meetings. She said the Smart Grid is an interesting idea with many benefits.
Lenz, who works as an engineer at Bell Labs, said she thinks the ambassador program is a smart decision by the city. For her, being an ambassador is also a way to fill up some of her free time.
“I think it will be a good idea to have normal people spread the word about the smart grid,” Lenz said. “We’ll spread the common man perspective and we’ll bring a lot of issues back to the city.”
Lalvani said a diverse group of people are volunteering to be ambassadors but the city has noticed two distinct groups applying.
“One group are older professionals from technical industries, such as BP, IBM and the Illinois Institute of Technology, who live in Naperville,” Lalvani said. “The second group are younger residents from the general public who are interested not so much in the technical aspect of the project, but the general benefits it will provide utility customers.”
According to the city, the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative is an investment in its electric utility that will allow the city to modernize its electric grid using digital technology. Along with the installation of smart meters, the initiative also will modernize the city’s electric grid backbone.
The city has said that the upgrades will lead to numerous benefits for Naperville residents and businesses, including maintaining competitive electric rates, greater reliability and efficiency in service, new tools for managing and controlling energy usage, a smaller carbon footprint and potential cost savings.
Some residents have taken issue with the initiative, claiming that that radiation from the meters could cause health issues.
Richard Ryan, 59, of the West Highlands neighborhood also attended a recent ambassador meeting to learn more about participating.
His wife suggested he become an ambassador after she read about the program in the city’s newsletter. A recently retired IT manager, he said he wanted to join.
“It’s a good way to get out of the house and I’m interested in the information,” Ryan said. “I think I understand the concept of having us spread information.”
Lalvani said the city expect ambassadors to be leaders in the community concerning the spread of information about the smart grid.
“In many cases, they will be some of the first people customers turn to as they have questions about NSGI,” Lalvani said. “Truly, the city is gaining the most from the ambassador program by having informed, engaged utility customers be able to spread the word about this project and also help evaluate how effective the city’s communication is with utility customers.”