Smart metering changes the back-office paradigm.
Scott M. Gawlicki is a Fortnightly contributing editor and energy industry writer. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a member of power industry consultant KEMA’s intelligent networks & communications practice, Ron Chebra often meets with utility executives to explain the impact a smart metering or smart-grid initiative will have on the company’s customer information, billing and other back-office systems.
He usually kicks off the meeting with a brief video clip from “I Love Lucy” called “The Candy Factory.”
In it, Lucy and Ethel have been hired to hand-wrap individual pieces of candy as pieces trundle down an electric conveyor belt. At first the candy is delivered at a reasonable pace. But then the conveyor belt picks up speed, reaching the point where the two simply cannot wrap the candies fast enough. At that point all hell breaks loose and the hilarity ensues.
“I like to show that during my presentation,” Chebra says. “My point, of course, is that a utility can’t suddenly go from gathering meter data once a month to gathering it every hour without making significant changes to its back office. I usually see a lot of nodding heads and nervous smiles.”
Suffice to say most power industry executives—especially those looking to institute an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) program— have a pretty good understanding of what’s going to be coming down that conveyor belt.