Metering and AMR Enjoying a Heyday

Steven Brown, Editor in Chief

For the last four years, Utility Automation & Engineering T&D magazine has run a special section focusing on automatic meter reading (AMR) in its July/August issue. This year is no different, and, in conjunction with the Automatic Meter Reading Association, we have once again dedicated a large portion of this issue to AMR-both in editorial and advertising space. The timing for such a focus is right-on this year for a couple of reasons: One, while we cover AMR throughout the calendar year, the July/August timeframe is when we begin looking forward, with great anticipation, to the AMRA’s annual symposium, which is being held in September this year in Long Beach, Calif.

The second reason for dedicating so much space to AMR is that it appears to be an area of utility technology that is honestly booming. In a column written April 29, Patti Harper-Slaboszewicz, director of AMR and demand response for consulting firm UtiliPoint, noted that in the last quarter of 2004 and the first quarter of 2005, “Metering, AMR and AMR data management vendors have enjoyed a blizzard of requests for proposals (RFPs) from large investor-owned and municipal utilities.” She wrote in her column that the level of RFP activity has been so high that certain technology vendors have had the luxury of picking and choosing from those RFPs, selecting the most lucrative.

Harper wrote that if this bevy of RFPs for metering, AMR and meter data management were to turn into actual contracts, “all three markets will sizzle for the next four to five years.” The article by Dave Herchko of Sensus Metering Systems on pages 28-32 of this issue gives some insight into why meter data management, in particular, may be in line for a spending boom. Put simply, the evolution from simple “AMR” to the more data-intensive “advanced metering infrastructure” (AMI) has meant that utilities have a lot more data to deal with. (It’s also meant another acronym, for an industry already loaded with acronyms. “AMI” is already getting a lot of attention in industry journals such as this one.)

In his article on pages 24-27 of this issue, Chartwell’s Garrett Johnson provides further evidence of growing utility interest in AMR, writing that “The AMR industry grew 20.1 percent in 2004 according to Chartwell’s 2004 AMR survey of 119 utilities. In all, Chartwell estimates that about 55 million, or about 20 percent of all North American meters, are automated and that the industry will grow at least 20 percent over the coming years. AMR deployments are expected to grow to more than 66 million in 2005 and 77 million in 2006.”

Part of this growing interest in AMR is likely due to the fact that utilities are now realizing that AMR (or AMI, if you prefer) can be used for a lot more than simple remote collection of a meter read. Utilities are finding that AMR can also help facilitate outage management, distribution planning and engineering, asset management, remote connect/disconnect and more.

The projected boom in AMR may also be due, at least in part, to recent political and regulatory moves. The state of California and the province of Ontario both have advanced metering initiatives in the works, and the Energy Bill currently being debated between the U.S. House and Senate has several provisions related to advanced metering and demand response.

Regardless of what is driving the current AMR boom, it’s always good to see utility companies making the best use of available technology. ௣à¯£

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