UE operates World`s Largest AMR Network
Union Electric Co. (UE) now has the largest network meter reading (NMR) system in the world, with 420,000 electricity customers in the St. Louis metropolitan area using automated meters. Future plans call for having more than 800,000 residential and business customers in the greater St. Louis area connected to the new system by the first quarter of 1999. Eventually, UE will extend NMR technology to customers in other areas.
With this network, UE can provide greater information on customer usage and respond to outages more quickly. The system also paves the way for new customer services such as off-peak pricing, flexible billing options and an array of information and energy management systems. A recent cost-benefit analysis of UE`s network shows it is achieving savings in a number of core business areas while delivering improved customer service.
To provide this new service, UE contracted with CellNet Data Systems, San Carlos, Calif. CellNet began retrofitting meters with high-tech communications devices and network components in St. Charles County in late 1995. The new technology is not limited to electricity customers. Installation of 1,300 NMR meters for natural gas customers in UE`s Wentzville district began this past fall. In addition, installation has begun on the first 500 CellNet modified meters which will perform advanced metering functions-such as time-of-use, demand and load profiling-for existing commercial and industrial customers. Thousands of these advanced meters are scheduled to be installed on the UE system by 1999.
According to UE officials, benefits from the NMR system include greater efficiency and reduced costs in reading, maintaining and replacing meters, in addition to reduced customer calls-especially during power outages. Benefits to customers include elimination of most estimated bills and quicker response when power outages occur.
“The NMR system is integrated with our outage analysis system (OAS), a state-of-the-art system installed in 1994 to help us respond quickly to customer outages,” said Ray Wiesehan, UE special services superintendent in customer services-division support. “Now that a significant number of NMR meters are in customers` homes and businesses, we find that in some cases we`re responding to an outage before anyone has called to report it.”