An interview with Ralph Masiello
and Sue Scott of ABB
The big, traditional projects in automated meter reading have really stalled, because utilities are no longer assured of a return on investment."
That warning comes from Ralph D. Masiello, vice president and general manager, ABB Power T&D Co. Inc., the leading manufacturer of electric meters in North America.
"We used to understand the economics of AMR. Just compare the cost of AMR against the cost of metering. But now the economics have changed. The new model is, 'What can I sell the data for?' The metering company has got to create a whole new value proposition."
So what turned the economics upside-down?
On May 6, the California Public Utilities Commission ruled%n1%n that revenue cycle services - i.e., metering, billing and related information - should be wide open. Thus, after Jan. 1, 1998, electric customers who take power at levels of 20 kilowatts and above will be able to choose their own company to do the metering but must install hourly meters. Smaller customers, including residentials, will follow in 1999, but with no apparent obligation to go with hourly meters.
And it doesn't stop there.
Back in April the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission predicted: "If the Commission decides to unbundle metering services, changes may occur in the historical methods of metering, and [in] who owns and maintains the meter."%n2%n At that time, it solicited comments on a set of 61 questions on residential and commercial metering in the electric industry, asking whether the state should allow competitive firms to provide their own consolidated billing, metering and other related services.%n3%n