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NorthWestern Energy will start replacing electric meters and upgrading gas meters in Butte this coming July as part of a statewide project to enhance technology and communications with customers.

The power company will install about 590,000 new meters and modules in Montana over the next three years, and started sending brochures detailing specifics about the project to Butte customers this week. The work should be done in Butte by the end of the year.

Paul Babb, community relations manager for NorthWestern Energy, gave a brief presentation on the project to Butte-Silver Bow commissioners Wednesday night.

“We want to make sure that we’re giving our community and our customers enough notice so if they have questions, they can get can get those answers 60 days out,” said Babb, who served two terms as the county’s chief executive ending in late 2012.

NorthWestern has been reading existing electricity and gas meters remotely since 1998, but it still required a vehicle with a reader to pass by homes and businesses.

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Soon, 13 antennas placed throughout the area will do the reading remotely, and other functions such as turning on power for an individual customer can be done from afar.

The meters will read total electricity and gas usage about once and hour and it will be sent to a data center three times daily. Under the new system, problems with equipment such as an underground line can be identified before they cause an outage. The upgrades will also provide more data on grid operations.

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