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AMI Standards: A Work in Progress

Vendors battle it out while utilities await common communications protocols.

Fortnightly Magazine - September 2008

mission,” Finamore says. “But not everybody is on the same page with regards to what a smart meter needs to accomplish. Right now we’re seeing utilities implementing automated meter reading (AMR), AMI and smart-meter programs.”

Stronger input from the federal government is needed, Burns says, to gain support for further smart-grid investments. The Energy Independence and Security Act, he says, is too vague in calling for smart-grid device interoperability and leaves it to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to coordinate development of information-management protocols and standards. “What the industry really needs is high-level guidance,” says Burns. “Right now it’s a utility-by-utility battle ground. As vendors, we try to understand the utility’s needs on case-by-case basis. We have to determine why they want to employ AMI and then try to help them do it. There are at least 15 different sets of regulatory issues based on the region or utility, so we need a national policy on how to modernize the grid and move all the utilities in the same direction. This is a cat-herding exercise sometimes.”

Indeed, consider the situation in New York. In 2006, the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) put out a notice asking electric utilities to submit comprehensive AMI development and deployment plans by the first quarter of 2007. After reviewing the plans, the commission determined that “utilities do not have a consistent understanding of what physical and/or functional characteristics an AMI system should include.” As a result, the commission sponsored a two-day seminar last April in which representatives of the utilities, meter and other technology vendors discussed potential ways to establish consistent AMI system standards, state-wide. As of August, the commission has yet to announce its next step.

“We’re still reviewing the information that was presented,” says Spokesperson Anne Dalton. “All I can say at this point is stay tuned.”