SPOKANE, Wash., June 13, 2002 — From the beginning, improved customer satisfaction has been the driving force behind the installation of Itron automatic meter reading (AMR) technology in Baltimore Gas and Electric’s (BGE) service territory, a project that reaches a significant milestone this month.
BGE serves more than 1.1 million electric customers and 600,000 gas customers in Central Maryland. This month, the utility will reach 750,000 gas and electric meters fitted with Itron AMR technology, which enables meter data to be collected automatically via radio signal. BGE meter readers now collect readings simply by driving down the street in a vehicle equipped with a mobile computer, with exponentially greater speed and efficiency than the old method of walking a route and manually reading each meter.
Joe Bunch, director of meter services for BGE, says the results of the project have been dramatic. “With advanced automation technology in place, we no longer have to access customers’ properties or enter their homes,” said Bunch. “Customers may not realize we’re reading their meters, but we are, and we’re doing it without intruding on them. That’s a major improvement for everyone involved. We’ve received nothing but excellent feedback.”
The efficiency and accuracy of the advanced metering system has also led to fewer estimated bills. According to Bunch, in the eight years since the implementation began, BGE has reduced its estimated bills by roughly 160,000 per month. “In the past, we’d have to estimate a bill when we couldn’t access a meter, and we would have to make billing adjustments when we finally did gain access,” said Bunch. “People appreciate an accurate bill backed up by reliable information, which has resulted in fewer complaints to our billing center that we have to investigate and resolve, at great expense. Customers are happier, and we have revenue certainty.”
The cost reductions and improved operational efficiency made possible by automation technology, says Bunch, will continue to pay dividends for BGE and the customers it serves every day. “Reducing the cost of doing business is a constant goal of ours. So is serving our customers even better than they expect. The two are intertwined, because when we run our operation more smoothly and cost-efficiently, customers also win.
“A milestone such as this allows us to step back and realize that we’ve been able to accomplish quite a bit, thanks to great technology, a strong working relationship with Itron, and the exceptional efforts of our employees. We’ve built a tremendous foundation for future success, which is important as we look toward a project expansion that would extend the benefits of AMR technology to more of our customers.”
Russ Vanos, vice president and general manager of Itron’s Electric Systems Business Unit, believes BGE is a case study in how utilities can use advanced metering technology to run their businesses better and satisfy an increasingly demanding customer base. “The problems associated with accessing customer properties and relying on estimated bills can impact a utility financially and adversely affect its relationship with its customers,” said Vanos. “We’re thrilled to see the progress BGE has made in addressing these issues and achieving their strategic objectives by adopting advanced automation technology, and we certainly look forward to working with them for years to come.”
About Constellation Energy Group
A Fortune 500 Company based in Baltimore, Constellation Energy Group owns energy-related businesses, including a North American wholesale power marketing and merchant generation business and the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE), a regulated energy delivery company in Central Maryland. BGE provides service to more than 1.1 million electric customers and approximately 600,000 natural gas customers in Central Maryland. At year-end 2001, Constellation Energy Group reported revenues of $3.9 billion and assets of $14.1 billion.
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