Some want to cut costs, others to improve service.
Uncertain economic times have always moved companies to find ways to cut costs. Utilities and energy companies are no different. They have turned to automated meter reading (AMR) during the past years in increasing numbers.
But many technology experts disagree on strategy: should utilities go high-tech or low-tech on AMR?
Demand Response: An Overview of Enabling Technologies
Some thoughts on the battle to measure electricity consumption in real time.
How can something so simple as an electric meter bring governments, editors, and the utility industry to their knees?
San Diego Gas & Electric turns vendor heads with its plan to install real-time meters, but the company could face heat from regulators.
This is a landmark event," says Bill Rush, a physicist at the Gas Technology Institute, and a gas industry expert on electric utility metering systems.
As energy suppliers gather more detail about customers, opportunities for segmenting and selling them will increase during the next five years.
As technology such as AMR and improved information-gathering systems enhance customer data, energy service providers will be well-positioned to segment load profiles into valuable blocks for sale. According to PHB Hagler Bailly's "Energy Industry Outlook 2000," this bottom-line-enhancing possibility will contribute to the changing customer-energy supplier relationship during the next five years.
With so much at stake, why don't utilities ask vendors for plug and play?
Everyone agrees that competitive retail energy markets need interoperable information systems. Otherwise, the high cost of switching proprietary metering and data communications systems could offset savings from customer choice. Standardization reduces the costs of automating operations - also crucial for competitive companies. Interoperable "plug and play" systems can free companies of dependence on expensive, single-sourced equipment. So why do most utility systems remain incompatible from vendor to vendor?
Roll over wireless, tell your meter the news.
AMR has come full circle - from industry darling to problem child and now back again to the next new thing. For this latest reincarnation, thank the Internet.
Early AMR efforts focused on how to recoup costs through lower operating expenses and more accurate usage data, but infrastructure startup costs proved a stumbling block to modernization when industry uncertainty over deregulation made companies wary of whether they'd ever see a return on their investment.
Now deregulation has matured enough to remove some uncertainties.
AMRA's annual symposium addresses potential payoffs and lingering concerns about the technology.
The annual Automated Meter Reading Symposium, Sept. 26-29 in Reno, Nev., finds AMR a year further along in its evolution in terms of both implementation and ideas for application and usage.
But while a few electric utilities have embraced AMR and others will arrive at the symposium ready to make purchases, some uncertainty remains for others as to the what, when and how of the technology.
How Soon is Now?
NITROGEN-OXIDE EMISSION LIMITS. Denying an appeal by electric utilities and industry groups against rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for emission limits for nitrogen oxides at certain electric utility boilers, a federal appeals court has ruled that EPA properly interpreted the Clean Air Act. The act allows EPA to set NOx limits for certain electric utility boilers if it could show that more effective technology for low-NOx burners was available, the court said.