AMR industry focuses on customer market

San Jose, Calif.

Widely accepted for large end-use customer metering and for reading hard-to-access meters, automatic meter reading (AMR) solutions are now trying to capture the smaller end-use customer market.

The increased interest in interval usage data for this customer segment stems from the need of utilities to protect themselves against volume and price risks arising from the restructured wholesale market.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “North American AMR Markets,” reveals that the electric, gas, and water markets generated $580.5 million in 2002. This is expected to rise to at least $690.9 million in 2009.

Regulators are hesitating to move away from the retail prices averaged over long periods to shield small customers from the wide price swings in the wholesale markets. Efforts by the electric industry to educate regulators on the value of advanced metering AMR to end-use customers will help reduce the volatility in wholesale prices.

“With the hourly data available from the advanced metering AMR, the utilities have the data to support retail rates that would send a strong price signal to customers to reduce usage during periods of relatively high wholesale energy prices,” said Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Patti Harper-Slaboszewicz.

Developing best practices holds the key to attaining the potential benefits from advanced metering AMR on a timely basis. Utilities need to extent the benefits of AMR beyond meter data retrieval and billing services to develop a centralized AMR storage with authorized access and advanced data management.

“Rapid attainment of benefits will raise the value of AMR for utilities, thus increasing future sales of advanced metering AMR,” said Harper-Slaboszewicz.

New AMR technologies that are reliable and less expensive will also spur market growth in advanced metering AMR. Power line carrier and new fixed radio frequency AMR solutions are already attracting the attention and investment dollars of utilities in the power, gas, and water segments.

“Being a high investment area, revenue growth will be significant for advanced metering AMR solutions as economic conditions improve,” added Harper-Slaboszewicz.

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