Objective

NRECA's AMI: Value Beyond Meter Reading will help co-ops obtain ideas on innovative ways to use their automated meter reading (AMR) systems to enhance efficiency, control costs, and improve work processes.

The project is part of NRECA's ongoing campaign to help co-ops get more from their existing technology investments.

Background

The range of technology options for cooperatives implementing AMR systems has expanded from primarily one-way, power line carrier (PLC) systems to encompass various two-way PLC and fixed network wireless communication systems. These two-way technology architectures have come to be known as advanced metering infrastructures (AMI).

Automated meter reading has existed in one form or another since the mid-1980s. Initially it was simply a more efficient way to conduct monthly meter reading. Today, the collection of monthly meter reads is just the tip of the iceberg. Faster, two-way systems allow the user to view meter reads once an hour and in some cases even faster. AMR has matured and become AMI.

AMI is the comprehensive set of technologies and business processes that allow a co-op to use frequent meter reads to conduct a variety of business activities from outage detection to critical peak pricing.

However, there remains a widespread tendency to view such a system as simply an operational improvement for gathering meter reads (primarily for billing). But in terms of business case drivers and cost justifications for AMR, meter data collection for monthly billing is often surpassed by other benefits.

Achieving the maximum value from AMR or AMI, whether already installed or soon to be implemented, requires careful evaluation and planning. The technology offers cooperatives significant opportunities for revenue enhancement, cost savings, operational and customer service improvements, and better service reliability. This report will help co-ops evaluate how they can maximize current or planned systems.

Approach

Most co-ops are experienced at using their AMR systems to read meters. However, many co-ops are in the early stages of implementing the wider range of AMI applications and will benefit from the information in this guide. Through the use of case studies, surveys, and easy-to-understand fact sheets, the guide will accelerate progress toward capitalizing on AMI's full potential.

A majority of cooperatives surveyed during this project reported that customer satisfaction has improved through faster complaint response, shorter and fewer outages, and a better understanding of own-use energy, all of which are enabled by AMI. It can also help co-ops save on overtime issues that can now be solved during regular hours. These include lower line losses due to more accurate meter reading, identifying areas with equipment in poor condition, and a reduction in meter reading costs.

The case studies included in this report describe the process that three co-ops used in analyzing and implementing a variety of uses related to their AMI system. Included in this guide are overviews of how the co-ops use their systems, as well as issues in customer acceptance and business benefits realized.

Results

This report has developed a common sense approach to distinguish AMI from AMR and cuts through the clutter and hype surrounding AMI. CRN developed clear and informative fact sheets on 14 of the most commonly used AMI applications; fact sheets include tables on the latest offerings from AMR vendors. A survey of co-ops' current and planned uses for their meter reading systems is offered as a comparison for readers.

Audience

Managers of engineering and operations, system engineers, IT staff, member service managers, key accounts staff

Keywords

Engineering, operations, AMR, metering, smart grid, transformers, service, payback, IT, AMI, data, analytics, theft prevention

Documents

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