MD UtilitiesBismarck, ND, U.S.A. --- (METERING.COM) --- January 3, 2007 – Montana-Dakota Utilities customers will not be charged for new AMR meters; the technology is expected to pay for itself in the long term. The utility has signed an automated meter reading contract with Itron Inc., a supplier of wireless communication devices.

The contract covers some 277,000 electric and gas meters in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Itron will supply electric meters, mobile data collectors and software; the utility mentions improved customer service and reduced operating costs as the main reasons for the change.

MDU spokesman Mark Hanson said: “There may be tower collectors in an area that will automatically get the information. It could be a mobile receiver in an area that can collect it or, depending on the area, the meter reader would just walk down the street and collect information on a hand-held device.”

The automated project is due to start in March, and is expected to finish in 2008, although Hanson said some meters already have been changed.

“The customers are not going to be charged directly for it. Over time, we’ll see how it all balances out, but the idea is that this technology is cost-effective, so it should be close to paying for itself.’