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The Politics of AMR

The industry continues to debate the costs and technology of automated meter reading, even as some regulators insist on immediate implementation.
Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 2003

or the result of energy being delivered as real energy and reactive energy. While meters meter real energy, certain meters only meter reactive energy. "Our new AMR system allows us to measure this other form of energy and make more revenues than in the past via adjustments to invoices," he says. "So we're coming up with lots of additional value that we didn't anticipate, and it is just making our business case stronger and stronger." Certainly, with talk like this, regulators will listen, and act accordingly.

PECO has bundled information from those meters and "packaged that in a pretty slick, Web-based service that allows our larger C&I customers to assess their energy usage and make decisions around how they are consuming energy," Strutz says. The "Evaluator" service launched a few years ago and has been received very well across PECO's market. "We know that because it is an annual subscription and many of our larger customers have renewed their subscriptions or the service," Strutz says. PECO also just launched a service called "Billing Estimator."

David Berndt, manager of meter strategy integration at Southern California Edison, says about 500,000 of the company's 4.5 million electric meters have been changed over to AMR. The utility has a handful of residential customers with advanced metering, which is read by drive-by, so there is no backbone communication system installed.

Berndt finds that for the residential sector, without drive-by, "the business case has not been positive." SoCalEd had done a small-scale deployment of residential AMR but has not gone any further.

Berndt says SoCalEd uses an Itron ERT model for communications and will use any meter that can be retrofitted to comply with that system. But the technology the utility might go with on a systemwide AMR deployment is not locked in yet. The drive-by AMR system in place could change.

"I don't want to leave you with the impression that we have a specific plan in place today to do that because we don't," he cautions. "We are evaluating the technologies, we are looking at the costs, and we are especially watching what happens with this order instituting rulemaking to determine how this test comes out and see how the public responds to price signals." He believes the test of how customers respond will make a big difference to the business case to determine if AMR is financially feasible.

Remember, regulators will be watching.

  1. Case nos. .
  2. Re Order Instituting Rulemaking on policies and practices for advanced metering, demand response, and dynamic pricing, , June 10, 2002 (Cal.P.U.C.).


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