The transformation created by the deployment of smart meters is yet to be fully realized. Smart meters with two-way fixed communications (AMI) enable utilities to capture information/metrics rapidly and make business decisions faster than ever before. They also facilitate the integration of functional units within utilities and open the door for greater customer engagement and communications.
Utilimetrics is focused on promoting and advancing utilities in the electric, gas and water segments in the process of transitioning their businesses to the smart meters and the smart grid. In addition, the association is helping utilities take advantage of the infinite amount of information that can be gleaned from advanced meters.
Our trade association has helped thousands of utilities automate their meter reading systems and later migrate from automatic meter reading (AMR) to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). To reflect this change, our board of directors changed our association's name from the Automatic Meter Reading Association (AMRA) to Utilimetrics in 2007. Today, our association is working to help its members prepare for the smart grid of the future, regardless of their current state of smart meter deployment.
It's All About the Smart Grid
With the industry and Utilimetrics fully engaged, the hype of the smart grid is at its fever pitch. In most ways, this is good news. Government officials have embraced the vision of a smart grid and have provided public policy to move the industry forward.
In many countries where utilities are extensions of the government, smart meter mandates are driving the market. In the United States, billions of federal dollars have been allocated to jump-start smart metering and smart grid initiatives, as well as renewables and clean technology. Expect to see significant movement soon, as funds for these projects are beginning to be released.
A Transformative Time
Having studied the transformation of other industries, here are some of my observations about the smart grid:
- The smart grid hype will diminish
While it won't disappear, in the next year, the spotlight will shift from strategic thinking to the more tedious, but critically important, job of implementation. This will enable utilities to focus on the necessary changes and the thoughtful use of new and evolving technology to best serve the needs of their customers.
- Smart meters are the foundation of the smart grid
Utilities talk in terms of endpoints, which are the number of meters deployed in the field. Endpoints represent the connection between the utility and the customer. Everything about the smart grid will be connected to these smart meters including customer devices.
- Electric vehicles will drive the electric grid to the breaking point
Utilities will need to transform their power delivery to address this significant load. More than any other appliance, electric vehicles will push power providers toward smart meters and related technology.
- Utilities will transform the way they do business
Gone will be the silos of the past. The new model is collaborative teams focused on serving customer needs. Consumer engagement and satisfaction will drive success and profits.
- Smart meter technology will continue to change rapidly
Advances in new products and applications will require more frequent upgrades. Gone are the days when meters could function effectively for more than 20 years. To operate at maximum efficiency and to optimize technological advances, utilities may need to enhance or replace smart meters every three to six years. This is a paradigm shift.
As technology advances, Utilimetrics will continue to be the preeminent association for smart metering, smart utilities and utility technology. And much like new technology, we continually adjust to better serve the current and future needs of our members and the industry. The association's focus is on networking, education and communications. Elected leaders from every aspect of the industry set Utilimetrics' policy and direction.
Autovation by Utilimetrics is an annual conference and exposition that brings utilities, vendors and consultants together in a town hall type of environment. This year's event, September 12-15 in Austin, Texas, U.S., will include industry thought leaders, the latest products and services, and the best opportunities to learn, network and see the utility of the future. Smart meter selection, procurement, deployment and optimization are among the educational sessions planned.
Utilimetrics is much more than an annual event. It is the premier advocate for automated metering technologies and the value they bring to utilities and their customers. To learn more, visit www.Utilimetrics.org.
Joel Hoiland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is CEO of Utilimetrics.