Electric Utilities may be Missing Out on Several Key Benefits if they are only using advanced metering systems for meter reading. When used to their full potential, these systems can generate daily as well as interval data on an hourly, a 15-minute or a more granular level.

Utilities also can obtain other data such as blink counts, reverse rotation and voltage from residential meters. By leveraging this data, utilities can enhance their customers' experience, improve operational processes and take advantage of data applications beyond billing.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

The data obtained from meters can help customers to understand their present energy-usage levels. By simply providing them with monthly billing information, customers will begin to understand how they use energy on a monthly basis. Secondly, when presented with daily and interval data, they will begin to familiarize themselves with their usage patterns on a more granular level. Customers can view their changing energy patterns from weekdays to weekends and analyze their energy-consumption patterns. This is especially true for customers considering the option of enrolling in a utility's time-of-use (TOU) rate program. Customers can analyze their usage patterns to determine how energy is consumed during peak and off-peak periods. Then they can determine what they are using during those time periods (i.e., HVAC equipment and hot-water heating) and make decisions on what to shift and when to do it to maximize their energy savings under the TOU rate.

If they have not opted for a TOU rate option, customers can still use this information to make better-informed energy decisions going forward. Using the utility's Web site, they can investigate energy-efficient equipment and measures. Then, once they have implemented cost-saving strategies, customers can view their energy usage to determine whether or not they achieved the predicted energy savings.

OPERATIONAL APPLICATIONS

Once a utility has implemented a meter data management system (MDM), it can then leverage the data to improve its operational processes. For example, a utility can discover when theft occurs without even visiting the meter.

By collecting and aggregating the daily and hourly consumption information, a utility can create a particular customer's energy-usage patterns. The revenue protection/assurance specialists can more intelligently target the suspected premises for investigation. For example, a utility can identify whether or not a customer is bypassing the meter through the unique “signature” of the usage pattern created by the customer. This makes it easier to determine whether or not a theft has occurred.

An MDM enables a utility to identify equipment issues such as stopped or slowing meters or AMI modules. Normally, a utility has to wait until the monthly bill is rendered to the customer for about two to three months before uncovering such issues. With AMI and MDM systems, a utility can quickly determine that the meter or module is not registering the proper revenue from that customer. Once identified, the utility can quickly remedy the situation by issuing an order to the field crew to replace the defective meter or module.

DISTRIBUTION PLANNING

Another vital area for application of the data is in distribution planning. Through aggregation and analysis of interval data, a utility can address the business needs of distribution planners and operators by allowing them to better understand and anticipate loading conditions, identify and prevent device overloads, and forecast short-term and long-term growth to help improve reliability and reduce costs. The other value of MDM is that regression modeling and forecasting capabilities can deliver accurate and versatile historical and forecast load reporting in one application.

The power of the data from an AMI system can be unleashed through the usage of a MDM system. Utilities that have implemented these systems are experiencing success with their customers and within their utility operations. In summary, careful and strong consideration should be given to implementing an MDM system with your AMI implementation to secure valuable benefits.


Michael S. Godorov is manager of AMI operations for PPL Electric Utilities. He has a varied experience at PPL, which spans more than 32 years. Godorov serves on the board of trustees of Utilimetrics and is program chairman for its Autovation Symposium. msgodorov@pplweb.com