YEAR 2000. MILLENNIUM. DEREGULATION. Each word strikes fear into the heart of meter manufacturers and utilities alike. Like the turning of the century, deregulation is coming for the electric utility industry, and sooner than we think. How will it affect the metering industry?
The first real indication can be found in California. There, by order of the state public utilities commission, the customer's energy supplier (the energy service provider or the utility distribution company) will, for the time being, own the meter. The ESP or UDC will choose its own "meter data management agent" to read it and manage the data. Other states are considering similar ideas (see sidebar, California Metering Rules).
The California model has changed the face of the utility industry, helping to create a new variety of companies. Enron, for example, which now owns Portland General Electric, plans voluntarily to move to open access by establishing the "power supply coordinator." The company has proposed that ESPs should contract independently with metering companies to obtain metering services.
What are these new entities, the power supply coordinator, and the meter bill collect company or meter data management agent? What are their functions? Modeled after the California Independent System Operator, the power supply coordinator will forecast load, manage schedules, provide settlements, acquire ancillary services, act as an ISO for distribution and probably manage service outages. It will not read meters (em that function will fall to the meter bill collect company, which may, perhaps, install as well as own the meters. This MBC will supply billing-ready data and may even process bills for the ESPs, competing for that business against other MBCs.