METERING issues can be confusing, especially as they relate to
new technologies and electric deregulation. However, only three guiding principles are needed to protect consumers and to ensure fair competition.
First, consumers need accuracy, safety and reliability. These are ensured through adherence to ANSI C12 standards.
Second, they need public, or "open," access to both meters and communications (with passwords to protect privacy). The residential or commercial consumer and their chosen energy supplier must be able to read whatever meter is on that consumer's house or business. If that meter is read remotely via a communications network, the consumer needs open access to that network.
Third, consumers need low cost. Open access is only viable if it is economical. To illustrate, consumers have low-cost, open access to telephone network devices (both wired and wireless), because any equipment manufacturer can obtain the interface protocol at no or low cost.
Closed, proprietary technology (em whether in a network, a meter, or elsewhere (em inhibits competition by obstructing access to some consumers or energy suppliers. Excessive interface licensing fees, much as proprietary technology, also obstruct open access.
CellNet is an example of an "open" network. In California, any energy supplier or customer can subscribe to CellNet's communications services, and any manufacturer can obtain the interface to CellNet's networks at essentially no cost. CellNet encourages other network providers, as well as meter manufacturers, to provide similar open access.
When the California and New York commissions established "open architecture" requirements for metering (see CPUC D.97-05-039 and NY PSC Order 97-13), this is the type of consumer protection they had in mind.
Chris King is vice president of strategic planning and regulatory affairs at CellNet Data Systems Inc.
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