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Low-Tech vs. High-Tech AMP: The 21st Century IT Debate

Some want to cut costs, others to improve service.
Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 2002

per month to retrieve the metering data, he says.

Scott insists that a vast majority of residential customers will not respond to real-time pricing-but there will always be a segment that will. How large is that segment? He believes it is within the one to 10 percent range, with one percent being most likely. Furthermore, he says, in demand-side management you don't really need that many customers to make an impact.

About one or two percent of a utility's total customers, or three to five percent of commercial and industrial customers, could represent 40 percent of load. "For very few numbers you can have a huge impact to measure hourly loads," he says.

ISO New England has two different programs for demand response, requiring two different types of meters, according to Scott.

"One is a real-time meter that provides info on loads in real-time, which is really every five minutes. That is an extreme solution to get close to real-time," he adds.

Scott says the service cost of having the meter read once a day is a one-time fee of between $100-$200. A move to real-time metering jumps the price to $1,000-$2,000. "Then you have more ongoing fees such as having the communication conduit to that meter at all times. So, you are either paying a public provider time on the airwaves, or you are building your own system that you have to maintain."

High-Tech AMR: The Future Is Now For Progress Energy

Progress Energy doesn't see eye-to-eye with Northeast Utilities on automated meter reading technology and what customers want. Julie Broadway, supervisor of special projects in energy information at Progress Energy, says that her company wants to install AMR technology that allows the utility to raise the level of customer service. In the long run, she believes high-tech AMR will cut costs by automating several utility processes simultaneously.

Broadway explains that while the company has had AMR for commercial and industrial customers, Progress Energy is now focusing on so-called mass market AMR, which focuses on residential customers and some small businesses that are under 30 kW. The company already has developed specifications for an AMR system and has issued requests for proposals. At press time, the company had not selected an AMR technology provider.

"We are interested in a solution that can do automated meter reading, meaning scheduled meter reading [and] a system that can do on-demand meter reading. So, if a customer service rep gets a call from a customer and the customers says, 'Hey I have a question,' they can say, 'Well, hold on. Let me tell you what your meter reading is right now.'" The idea, she says, is to allow for a productive discussion about the question or concern the customer has, whatever it may be.

The utility also wants an AMR system that has tamper detection. "If the meter is being tampered in any way we'll give them an alarm. That helps us with revenue recovery," she says.

Furthermore, the AMR system would provide outage detection and notification. "One of the biggest challenges that any major