To AMR … and Your Success

To AMR … and Your Success

Jerry Locsin Senior Editor

There are many who lump a variety of metering devices under the term AMR. For the purposes of its utility studies, PennWell Research groups metering into three broad categories: electronic (i.gif>. handhelds), remote (i.gif>. vehicle-mounted) and automatic (i.gif>. wireless network). But if the system does more than AMR, then what do we call it and how much more is its value?

Jack King of Scientific-Atlanta classifies metering devices under four categories, and each have a different value–both from cost savings and revenue possibility: 1) Meter modifications, or kWh meters that have been fitted with some sort of AMR module. These meters usually are capable only of limited AMR; 2) Existing electronic meters, with and without two-way communications capability. Generally capable of AMR and load profiling; 3) Advanced electronic (smart) meters, with and without two-way communications capability. Capable of AMR, load profiling and time-of-use control; and 4) Full-service gateways, which offer full two-way communications. Capable of AMR, time-of-use control, load profiling, load control, outage notification, surge protection, real-time tamper protection, messaging and many other value-added services.

These classifications are further complicated by regulatory mandates, such as the California Public Utilities Commission unbundling decision, which allows for competition in electric and gas billing and metering. The decision calls for a metering standard process which will establish the conditions under which utilities can proceed with AMR.

This new competitive landscape has forced many utilities to examine their metering capabilities. According to the Trials & Installations July `97 update from the Automated Meter Reading Association, the wave of AMR deployments continues to spread throughout the United States. Water utilities report the highest level of AMR deployment activity with 22 new installations and six new trials initiated since the beginning of the year. Electric and gas utilities have also remained highly active with 15 electric utilities reporting 17 deployments and 12 gas utilities reporting the deployment of 10 installations and two trials.

In this issue of Utility Automation, we take a closer look at the realities of AMR and other emerging utility technologies. Shimon Awerbuch takes us into the world of the “Virtual Utility” to discuss the transformation and integration of various systems. A key to this concept is a customer orientation towards an efficient and flexible collaboration of market players. Other industry giants, such as Federal Express and Wal-Mart, have already used similar recipes in their competitive strategies. It`s about time the energy providers of America utilize the same proven innovative concepts in operating practices that have made so many companies in other industries so successful. UA

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