Great IDEAs at DWP
As a result of recent actions of the Public Utilities Commission, California utilities are facing new competitive challenges. In the new deregulated business environment, energy will be reduced to a commodity and customers may select their energy supplier based on price alone.
To meet this challenge, the Department of Water and Power (DWP) of the City of Los Angeles has developed the Information Development, Enhancement and Application (IDEA) system. This system will have a database for customer facility and utilization data, and remotely gather electric, water and natural gas information from DWP and customer locations. The IDEA program will be deployed in two phases. Phase 1 will be to install a master station and use phone lines and power-line carrier (PLC) systems to retrieve data from remote equipment. This will maximize the effectiveness of the automatic meter reading system. Phase 2 will enhance the master station for supervisory control and data acquisition and distribution automation functions, and allow data retrieval and control of customer facilities.
One of the first stages of the project involved the installation of a Two-Way Automatic Control System (TWACS) power-line carrier system to read water, electric and natural gas meters. Southern California Gas Co. participated in the project for additional cost savings. Devices were installed on meters and were hardwired to the three available TWACS`s electric meter communication ports. Because of its physical proximity to the electric meter, wiring the gas meter proved to be a simple task. Since some of the water meters were in a subterranean hand hole in the parkway, cable and conduit had to be installed to connect the water meter to the electric meter.
This provided cost information for future analysis. More than 4,000 electric and 80 gas meters have been successfully read with the TWACS system during the past several months. Final deployment is resting on the development of an enhanced water meter reading system. In the Southern California area, most water meters are located below grade in the customers` front parkways. This can minimize the cost-effectiveness of using PLCs or phone lines for communication because it normally requires the installation of an expensive cable and conduit system, often requiring unacceptable trenching or boring around existing customer facilities. Since natural gas and electric meters are usually located on a building or other structures, remote reading using PLCs or phone lines is usually more cost effective.
To enhance the capability of reading water meters, other pilot systems have been installed by DWP. Now at test, 10 below-grade water meters have radios installed to communicate with equipment placed on power poles and street light posts.
The pole-mounted equipment will use phone lines or PLCs to return the data to a central master station. Another pilot is being conducted in a large brewery where large amounts of water are used. A number of water meters were connected in a local area network and are being remotely read using dial-up phone lines. These pilot systems will provide data on the costs of each technology and will be used to develop a business case for long-term deployment of communication technology. They will also provide data on the survivability of communication equipment subjected to damp, and sometimes flooded, conditions, as well as signal propagation limitations based on physical location.
A successful transition from pilot to full implementation is on the horizon as they reorganize around an incoming flow of information. According to Fernando Calderon, Engineering Technology and Marketing Services manager, “The utilities that survive will be the ones that leverage their resources and brand equity to develop a mix of services to meet the changing customer needs.”