Evaluating the benefits of AMR

The City of Seattle, Washington has engaged Plexus Research, Inc. to help it select meter reading technology and develop a comprehensive business analysis of its performance. 

The South Lake Union and Denny Triangle areas (SLU/DT) near downtown Seattle are undergoing extensive redevelopment with new residential, commercial and light industrial facilities. Seattle’s public utilities will install up to 20,000 new electricity and water services. The City’s meter reading staff is already working at maximum capacity, so this affords a superb opportunity to install and evaluate advanced metering and automated meter reading (AMR) technologies. New AMR systems can cost less than manual meter reading, enable better customer service, and support more efficient management of electric and water distribution.

Seattle City Light is a progressive, publicly-owned electricity utility serving approximately 385,000 customers, while Seattle Public Utilities serves over 1.3 million water customers. The two municipal utilities of Seattle are collaborating in this AMR acquisition for SLU/DT.

A competitive solicitation for procurement of up to 2,000 AMR-equipped water and electricity meters will be released to qualified suppliers in mid 2005. The meters will be integrated immediately into the mainstream operations of Seattle’s utilities. Plexus Research will support Seattle in conducting a detailed business analysis of the costs and benefits of the AMR.

IEC catalogue of publications 2005

The IEC catalogue has once again been improved, and now offers a Favourites list. The Catalogue on CD-ROM provides users with an ideal tool for consulting the entire bibliographical information on international standards, specifications, reports and other documents. The search functions on the CD-ROM are identical to those on the IEC web site, allowing users to do text searches as well as searches by publication references, dates, technical committees and ICS codes. It is also possible to look for IEC publications in French.

Once the programme is installed on a computer, its database can be updated via HTTP or FTP with new bibliographical data every two weeks. It also gives links to all NCs and NC-appointed sales outlets, as well as the IEC web site. Every time you update the database you will be notified if a new publication has been published or if any of the publications selected have been modified.

Intelligent meters for domestic demand management

The Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) task force has recently released the preliminary results of its deliberations, which provides an easy-to-understand and readable overview of the technology. The task force examined BPL issues within three broad areas – technology, security and regulatory. It will continue to remain engaged with industry stakeholders and customers in the coming year as it looks to optimise the benefits of the technology for the public. Specifically the task force expects to continue to monitor the ongoing pilot programmes and commercial deployments taking place in the US, and to focus on emerging regulatory issues – possibly even formulating a best practices guide for state regulators.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from NARUC’s web site.

BPL task force releases first report

The Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) task force commissioned by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has recently released the preliminary results of its deliberations, which provides an easy-to-understand and readable overview of the technology.

The task force examined BPL issues within three broad areas – technology, security and regulatory. It will continue to remain engaged with industry stakeholders and customers in the coming year as it looks to optimise the benefits of the technology for the public. Specifically the task force expects to continue to monitor the ongoing pilot programmes and commercial deployments taking place in the US, and to focus on emerging regulatory issues – possibly even formulating a best practices guide for state regulators.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from NARUC’s web site.

Kazakhstan joins the IEC

The country of Kazakhstan, in central Asia, has progressed from being a participant in the IEC's Affiliate Country Programme to its new status as Associate Member. This brings the IECs total membership to 63 countries.

The move gives Kazakhstan the right to participate in all technical meetings, and in the Council and SMB meetings held within the framework of the IEC annual general meeting. It also has access rights and can comment on all IEC technical documents, and can ask to become a participating member on a maximum of four technical committees.

The Affiliate Country Programme, created in 2001, offers newly-industrialising countries a form of participation in the IEC without the financial burden of actual membership.

Getting the best out of your RP programme

 

 

IURPA

Since taking over the chair of the International Utilities Revenue Protection Association (IURPA) Ive had the opportunity to attend a variety of training conferences and industry seminars, and to provide industry professionals with information through forums such as Metering International.

Revenue protection in the Australian utility industry

 

 

AURPA

Deregulation and privatisation of electrcity utilities leading to full retail competition (FRC) in the southern states of Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s has exposed networks and retailers to greater areas of revenue loss than before. To prepare for FRC, the industry went through a period of downsizing and centralisation of all functions, which resulted in an exodus of experienced personnel. Further, meter providers, data agencies, networks and retailers are all ring-fenced from each other and each has its own data, billing and information systems.

Kiss me!

Have you noticed that our world often seems glutted with new acronyms. Not good! Too many new, unfamiliar acronyms create what I call acronym anxiety. We fear that if we have to ask what those letters stand for, we may look stupid and out of touch. So we often don’t ask. We bluff and nod as if we are absolutely familiar with the acronym. Yeah, sure, we’ve “got it.” But we don’t, and we don’t like that.

Relax, because here is an old acronym. You’ve seen or heard it before. It is KISS. Ah, you remember that it stands for: “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” It reminds us that simple things are usually better and more useful than complex things. If we are designing products or programs, teaching or coaching, inspiring or leading, planning or projecting…we should keep it simple.

In the aftermath of the 1973 oil embargo there was a love affair with the notion that time-of-use metering would be a big part of the solution to our dependence on foreign oil. It went something like this: If we provide price signals to the consumer in the form of a tiered electric rate structure, the consumer will shift some of his or her consumption to off-peak periods. That off-peak energy is supplied by efficient base load generation using domestic fuels like coal.

These base load fuels contrast with the fuels required by ‘peakers’. These were more likely to be generators powered by diesel engines or aircraft-derivative gas turbines, in turn fueled by diesel or Jet A fuel. These were the politically sensitive lighter refined fractions of more costly imported fuel. It thus followed that time-of use pricing would reduce the North American perilous reliance on imported fuels.

Peak load pricing was urged further forward by the Public Utility Regulatory Practices Act (PURPA) in 1978, and an early landmark requirement was established by the Wisconsin PUC to compel Madison Gas and Electric to offer time-of-use rates. Did it work? We will come to that.

The 1973 oil embargo also produced the sentiment that natural gas was much too precious a fuel to be used in base load generating plants, and should be reserved for home heating, water heating and other higher uses where the alternatives were more limited. Looking back, history shows that these perspectives had their ‘day in the sun’, but have since been ignored. How times change! Natural gas is now often the fuel of choice for base load plants, driven by emissions considerations. And North American dependence on imported fuels is now far greater than in 1973.

By the early 1980s peak load pricing was a service option available from many utilities, which had created TOU pricing options at the urging of their regulatory commissions. But by the mid 1980s interest was already starting to wane. Why? In some cases poor rate designs were partially at fault. The savings over the flat rate simply didn’t provide enough cost saving (if any) to justify the complexity in a consumer’s life. There was a ‘wear-out’ response from customers once the novelty wore off.

Leap ahead twenty years. We’ve come through a badly flawed attempt at electricity utility industry restructuring. The related confusion has vastly complicated decisions about metering and AMR. In some states and provinces there is a recurrence of interest in time-of-use or peak-sensitive rates. OK, but have we really learned from history that consumers are looking for ways to simplify their lives, not make them more complex? Have we learned that residential customers resent the clock blinking 12:00 on their VCRs? Have we learned that after just one year 65% of consumers give up on their programmable ‘smart’ thermostats, and use them instead as just a simple up-down thermostat, forsaking the complexity of programming?

Have we learned that having to use four or five separate remotes to watch TV isn’t what we’d expected when we were told that one remote would control everything? Have we given up recycling because of the complexity of separating and transporting clear glass, brown glass, green glass, three types of plastic, coated and uncoated paper, ferrous and non-ferrous metals? Does your newest car have an actual knob that turns for volume control, instead of those volume up/volume down buttons that you can’t find when you’re driving? If it does, someone learned that simplicity trumps complexity, digital or not. And…can we understand our utility bills?

We yearn for things that are intuitive, obvious. We want technology that simplifies our life, not complicates it. Rational innovative peak sensitive energy prices will be what some people want. Many, many others will want energy pricing that doesn’t force them to be clock watchers, even if they have to pay a bit more for that simplicity.

As an industry we must beware of technology for its own sake. We must steer clear of technology applications where we could, so we did – and for no other reason. Witness the landscape littered with failed residential gateway companies that sought to do AMR plus_______ and _______ (you fill in the blanks) simply because they could.

Bringing simplicity to consumers’ lives holds vastly more promise than adding complexity! Are we condemned to re-learn the lessons of the past? Maybe so. But there is another lesson with more history and more relevance. Even the lesson itself is simple. It is KISS!

Keep it simple, stupid!

Developing billing standards

Consumer watchdog body energywatch has launched a campaign to set up a British Standard for energy billing. The standard will feature good practice for both the content of a bill, and the processes that should support the production of an accurate bill. It will cover such issues as estimated bills, use of customer-provided meter reads and the clarity of essential information.

Research from UK regulator Ofgem shows that customers are dissatisfied with the billing service provided by energy companies. Complaints relate to how bills are calculated, the difficulty of comparing pricing information, and irregular meter readings. Utility companies are being asked to co-operate with energywatch’s initiative to get the new standard in place as soon as possible.

Ultrasonic heat meter

The SHARKY-HEAT 130 ultrasonic heat meter is cost-effective, service-friendly, of simple design and extremely robust. Its new patented free-flow jet principle provides a high measuring accuracy, with an overload range of 30-50% above qs. The reflector principle creates a high flow speed over the reflectors, meaning that dirt particles cannot settle. The measuring insert, including the reflectors, can be replaced without dismantling the transducers.

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