Elster Electricity (Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.) recently announced that Shawano Municipal Utilities (SMU; Shawano, Wisconsin, U.S.) is installing the EnergyAxis System and that Toronto Hydro, the largest municipal utility in Canada, is piloting the system.

The EnergyAxis System is a metering automation system that uses a 900-MHz controlled mesh network with Elster's single-phase electronic REX meters and A3 ALPHA meter collectors. SMU selected the EnergyAxis System as its total system solution based on the system's many features that help utilities increase productivity and improve customer service.

SMU is installing approximately 5000 meters throughout the city in residential, commercial and industrial applications. System deployment was expected to be completed by June 2005. After the installation phase is complete, SMU will launch a new billing system that will interface with Elster's EnergyAxis Metering Automation Server (MAS).

The remote reading capability of the EnergyAxis System will allow SMU to eliminate the need for estimating monthly electricity usage during periods when weather conditions make the meters hard to access. Additionally, the ability to perform scheduled and on-demand meter reads and remote service disconnects/reconnects will eliminate the need for scheduling and dispatching crews to the field. SMU anticipates seeing a significant improvement in business operations and customer satisfaction by eliminating misreads and billing errors, and reducing the number of customer inquiries generated from inaccurate bills.

According to Al Weber, Elster Electricity's regional sales manager for the central United States, once the electricity-metering phase of the project is complete, the plan is to implement the EnergyAxis System for water metering later in the year.

In addition to SMU, Toronto Hydro is also working closely with Elster Electricity. Toronto Hydro is testing the EnergyAxis System's two-way communications capability in three locations in the city of Toronto. The system enables the utility to collect hourly interval and time-of-use metering data on electricity consumption from commercial installations, townhouses and single-family residences. Toronto Hydro is testing the system's two-way meter-to-meter communication capabilities by stretching communications distances between meters up to 1000 ft (305 m) and installing meters in communications-challenged locations, such as metal boxes and the basements of older homes.

Toronto Hydro is also using MAS, which enables the utility to use additional system features such as flexible rate structures, two-way communications and on-demand meter reads in response to the government of Ontario's Smart Metering Initiative.

The Ontario government has established targets for the installation of about 800,000 smart electricity meters by Dec. 31, 2007, and the installation of smart meters for all Ontario consumers by Dec. 31, 2010. Toronto Hydro's thorough program to test the system under the Smart Metering Initiative requirements should be beneficial to other Ontario utilities looking for smart-meter solutions.