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Electric Meter Deregulation: Potholes on the Road to Plug-and-Play

Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1998

comment period.

On June 18 (Decision 98-06-81), and July 1 (Decision 98-07-032), it set rules for utilities to (a) certify and train meter providers and (b) bill and credit customers. PUC opened metering to competition in May 1997 (Decision 97-05-039, 177 PUR4th 386). PUC first set rules for competitive metering on Dec. 3, 1997 (Decision 97-12-048, 182 PUR4th 284).

NEW YORK. Five working groups file reports, on or about Aug.17, recommending competitive model, and were to post findings on Internet ( State regulatory staff "hopes" to review and report back to full PSC by end of year, ahead of deadline. Earlier, Aug. 1, 1997, PSC decided to retain electric metering as utility function, but had asked working groups to recommend "workable" competitive framework (Case 94-E-0952, Opinion No. 97-13).

PENNSYLVANIA. Adopts rules May 14 (Docket No. L-00970128, 186 PUR4th 267), for optional deployment of qualified advanced metering equipment and networks (otherwise metering stays as utility function), but rules are rejected June 8 by House and Senate standing committees, and again on June 18 by Independent Review Commission.

But at PECO Energy, restructuring settlement on May 14 opens metering and billing to competition (R-00973953, P-00971265, 186 PUR4th 105). Most issues resolved by order adopted June 26. Data formats and communications protocols set by working group on electronic data exchange, as adopted earlier on June 1 (Docket No. M-00960890F.0015, 186 PUR4th 257).

1 Now competitive: Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Under study: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. See, Michael R. Jaske, "A Review of Competitive Metering and Billing and Early Experience in California," occasional paper presented July 28, 1998, before the Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment, at the summer meetings of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

2 See, "Meters Go to the Dogs," and "Meter Markets: a New Value Proposition," Public Utilities Fortnightly, Sept. 1, 1997, pp. 4, 38.

3 Final report, PSWG, p. 40. See dai/dai3msg00060.htm.

4 Nevolo explains: "There was limited discussion of data communications protocols for access to metering data at the MDMA server. The interim standards for access to this data are Internet protocols and Secure Socket Layer SSL3. A detailed assessment would have looked at alternatives. This was not done. Thus, in my opinion the interim data communications protocols were adopted implicitly. EDI was approved as the [MDMA server-level] data format standard."

5 According to Stanley Klein, Bill Rush and August Nevolo, UCA version 1.0 (Utility Communications Architecture) was designed to standardize communications in six specific areas, (1) control centers, (2) distribution automation, (3) transmission substations, (4) generating plants, (5) corporate database systems and (6) the customer interface, based upon a protocol known as Open System Interconnection and a 7-layer scheme of functions. The updated UCA version 2.0, developed in the mid-1990s, offers even more capability, says Nevolo.

Michael Jaske suggests that UCA standards may no longer be appropriate: "UCA concerned standards for facilitating meter communications back to the distribution system, but competitive metering systems don't need that functionality. Why should California, going in the direction