CenterPoint Energy, a Texas transmission and distribution service provider (TDSP), has installed 2.2 million smart meters for residential and commercial customers, and is nearing completion of its communications infrastructure installation. A $200 million Smart Grid Investment Grant enabled the project, which also includes distribution automation capabilities.

Advanced metering infrastructure provides automated service connection and disconnection and meter reading, as well as an 80% improvement in metering accuracy. Each of these automated transactions translates into an avoided truck roll.

“In our market in Texas, we have a high volume of service order management,” said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of grid and market operations. “It's a competitive market so customers will change from one retailer to another retailer. We automatically disconnect and reconnect power on the order of about 7,000 transactions per day, so we have executed 3.5 million orders remotely since we went live.”

Another advantage of the meters is automatic notification of outages. As soon as the outage notification system becomes fully operational, CenterPoint will no longer need to wait to hear from customers to learn when an outage occurs or where crews must be dispatched. Smart meters also help determine the type of outage and the number of customers affected.

The smart meters also offer customers the potential for significant electricity savings. CenterPoint owns and operates the electricity delivery equipment leading to the customer premises, including the customer meters. More than 100 retail electricity providers (REPs) compete with each other to sign up customers to sell them electricity. In addition to delivering the electricity, the TDSPs provide consumers' consumption data to the REPS that then bill the customers. The Smart Meter Texas web portal enables customers to access their detailed consumption data, provides the REPs the ability to offer prepay or time-of-use programs, and enables both parties to connect home area network devices to the meter for real-time usage data.

The CenterPoint initiative is highly complex and impacts numerous areas within the utility. “In order to get the technology to work properly, you must have a solid set of requirements, have good communication within the organization and work with vendors that you trust,” Mercado said. “We went with large vendors for our project.”

Itron provided the metering hardware and designed the mesh network that served as the first stage of communication back to the cell relays. Siemens provided the meter data management system. General Electric built the backhaul system IBM did all of the software integration, and Quanta Services was the contractor hired by Itron to do the labor.

For more information, visit www.centerpointenergy.com.