Steven Brown, Senior Associate Editor
Soon, I’ll be heading down to San Antonio to attend the AMRA 2002 International Symposium. It’s a show I always look forward to and admire for the single-minded determination of its participants. There’s little mistaking the primary goal of the attendees, exhibitors and organizers of this show-it’s all about the advancement of automatic meter reading technology in the utility industry.
Despite a sluggish U.S. economy (is that an understatement or what?), I expect the mood around the AMRA show to be upbeat this year. Take a look at the data in Howard Scott’s article (in this issue) for an indication of why I believe this to be true. AMR deployments to utilities-particularly electric utilities-made a dramatic surge in 2001, and Scott predicts this growth to continue. That should come as good news to AMRA exhibitors. It also suggests that utilities are finding greater value in meter data.
Having said that, it’s interesting to note that as of the beginning of this year, only 13.2 percent of U.S. meters were served by AMR. That’s not altogether a bad thing, as it shows there is plenty of room for the AMR industry to grow. But to look at it another way: Doesn’t that seem like an awful lot of room for growth for a 20-year-old industry? AMR is a proven technology, so why aren’t more meters being served by it?
As at least a partial answer to that question, I’ll point to a quote made in another article in this issue (“Opening the Gate to New Customer Services,” on pages 28-29): “Having technology is important. But technology does not drive the market-applications drive the market.”
Historically, AMR’s primary application has been to remotely collect customer usage information for the purpose of billing those customers. That is undoubtedly an important application of the technology, but in many cases, it hasn’t been enough for AMR to pass a stringent cost-benefit analysis.
If AMR is to gain greater market penetration, the consumers of the technology-namely, water, gas and electric utilities-must come to the realization that AMR has many uses beyond the collection of consumption data for billing. On the electric utility side, AMR technology has proved to be a valuable tool for outage management, transformer utilization analysis, demand response and other programs.
The AMRA Symposium provides an annual opportunity to showcase applications of this technology. Scott’s data indicates that, with each passing year, more and more utility companies are catching on.
On the topic of upcoming trade shows, I recently returned from the DistribuTECH 2003 planning retreat in Las Vegas. Although my opinion on the matter is obviously biased, I can honestly say the conference planning committee has put together a fantastic program for the DistribuTECH 2003 show.
Coming out of the planning meeting, we’ve developed conference tracks covering distribution automation, substation automation, automatic meter reading and data management, demand response, enterprise integration, distributed generation, field force automation, and a few other related business issues. DistribuTECH 2003 will take place Feb. 4-6, 2003, in Las Vegas.
This will be our first year to hold DistribuTECH in Las Vegas. From the looks of it, the change of scenery has invigorated all aspects of the show. February can’t get here quickly enough for me.