Scott M. Gawlicki is a Fortnightly contributing editor and energy industry writer. Email him at: email@example.com.
Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) allows utilities to take a large step forward in the way they interact with customers—at least in theory. In practice, few utilities actually have closed the loop and combined smart meters with smart rates—and a smart billing and customer information system (CIS). The biggest example so far is north of the border in Ontario, Canada.
During the past three years, Ontario has instituted a full-scope AMI program that will bring smart metering and time-of-use (TOU) rates to 90 licensed distribution companies (LDCs) and, cumulatively, some 4.5 million residential and 500,000 commercial and industrial businesses by the end of 2010.
Most important, several small LDCs already are billing TOU rates to residential customers via their existing CIS. By the end of this year, roughly 55,000 residential customers will be receiving electricity bills based on Ontario’s TOU rates (see Figure 1).
Indeed, the Ottawa program already is addressing CIS-related issues facing U.S. electric utilities looking to implement an AMI and smart-grid program, including:
• How to set up the meter data management system (MDM) most experts say will be needed to collect and process the smart-meter data;