Seoul, Korea and New Delhi, India — (METERING.COM) — April 23, 2013 – The identification of best practices in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is the subject of a new case book from the International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN) that was released last week.
The AMI case book considers six AMI rollouts – Ontario’s smart meter deployment project, Ireland’s smart meter pilot customer behavior trial, Enel’s Telegestore, automated meter management project in Italy, Kepco’s AMI rollout in Korea, the smart meter rollout in Sweden, and four AMI deployments in California.
Among the key findings is that messaging to customers is a critical component to the success of AMI projects – primarily because the actual potential for savings or benefits from the AMI is often dependent on some aspects on customer behavior. Further, the means of reaching the customers can be as important as the message. In the U.S. a 90/60/30 day communications strategy before AMI deployment has become a best practice. Customer engagement in the planning phases prior to rollout has also emerged as a best practice.
Most AMI deployments have been successful without suffering significant customer opposition. However, a vocal minority in a number of jurisdictions has captured a lot of media attention. In these cases, utilities with pro-active customer engagement plans and alternative options have fared better than those without. Some jurisdictions have deployed with mandatory deployments of smart meters, others have created opt-out and opt-in policies intended to avoid customer opposition. At present, there does not appear to be any consensus on a best practice for this yet.
Another finding is that rate structures should balance system and customer benefits. Distribution companies may choose to phase-in new rate plans over a period of time to allow customers to become more aware of their consumption habits and the opportunities they have to change their demand profile. Other jurisdictions have found that having multiple rate options provides customers with more opportunities to capture value from AMI and increase their awareness of energy costs.
Another key issue is the business case for AMI. Those of the six cases have focused on one or more of low voltage grid monitoring capability, outage and theft detection, automatic meter reading (AMR), and remote connect and disconnect. For example, distribution companies have recognized significant value simply from having increased real time visibility of events on the distribution network. Operational savings from reduced truck rolls, more detailed asset management and investment, and strategic planning for further smart grid deployment are all a result of AMI data.
The cases also highlighted that identifying the business case is one challenge, but that realizing or maintaining the identified benefits can be quite another. Up-front data gathering and planning is important to avoid costly modifications and adjustments in the field that can quickly consume the value of any anticipated savings.
The case book concludes stating that looking forward the business case for AMI goes beyond the direct effects to billing and is linked to the potential to leverage value from other smart grid capabilities enabled by AMI. It is important for jurisdictions to consider these when assessing the case for investment in partial or full AMI capabilities. New billing options, new rates, distributed generation with smart inverters, demand response controls and smart appliances are all examples of smart grid technologies that are anticipated to leverage further value from AMI.