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Advanced Metering Infrastructure Special Report: A Planning Guide for AMI

How to manage the metering selection process.

Fortnightly Magazine - September 2007

structure options.

Consider a Pilot or Field Test

AMI is evolving rapidly from a technology perspective, and even more rapidly from a perspective of needs or requirements. We’re not talking creeping elegance here. We’re talking about accelerated elegance. Three years ago AMI was a term most had trouble distinguishing from AMR (automated meter reading). We dreamed of having hourly interval data. Today legislation requires 15-minute interval data, and policy contemplates 10-minute intervals or better. It is easy to build requirements and specifications. It is not so easy to design, build, and operate systems that deliver these capabilities. In fact, since the term AMI has come into existence, we have yet to see implementations exceeding even 0.5 million end-points that can deliver on the AMI promise.

A formal pilot, field test, or phase zero deployment can alleviate, or at least bound, concerns and risks of over-specification and under-delivery. The key word here is “formal.” All too often, the pilot or field test is an unstructured activity executed primarily to get comfortable with, or play with the technologies, and not designed to validate functionality and performance. Formal activities are designed to verify the most critical aspects of a potential deployment, including functionality and performance tied to the major expected benefits, major cost drivers, and most difficult deployment scenarios, whether tied to density, geography and topography, or in-situ problems. Furthermore, formal pilot or test activities should be extended to stress-test the technology to ascertain its limits beyond the requirements.

Business-process testing and benefits validation are more difficult and require a significantly more substantive investment to validate. These tests should be borne when the likelihood of full deployment is high owing to an exceptional business case and certain external drivers, such as a highly supportive regulatory climate.

In sum, AMI is one of the most promising means by which utilities radically can impact society, consumers, shareholders, and employees. The success factors summed up herein provide the guideposts for effective and successful utility AMI solution selection.