Victoria interval meter rollout – Are the AMI communication systems up to the job?


By Andrew Mackie

While it would have been useful to have an objective comparison of the performance and likely costs of the systems trialled, the wording of the published report is very careful to protect the interests of the vendors involved. For example, if system A had a hopelessly low data rate and system B’s signal was intermittently obliterated by noise and system C was ludicrously expensive to implement, and none of the others really came up to scratch, it would be highly unlikely to appear in the report in plain English. So what did happen in the trials? In the report’s conclusions the authors resorted to a cautious summing up: “…the [Trials Working Group] and the trialling participants have not indicated that the prescribed functionality, performance and service levels would be unachievable.” This language hardly inspires confidence, but the vendors are, apparently, committed to the project and to further development of their technologies.

The Victorian distribution businesses do have access to the full details of the technology trials results, however. The forum was addressed by Peter Bryant, general manager of AMI services at CitiPower/ Powercor, who outlined the company’s involvement in the trials. In describing the communication technologies, he alluded to a perhaps less than perfect performance with the phrase “these technologies are not yet at their full maturity.” Considering many are decades old, one would hope that they don’t take much longer to mature into systems suitable for Australia.

It would appear that more work on the communications systems is required before the rollout can start, although this is hardly surprising since the nature of this new project is that it has never been done before elsewhere.

The functionality and service level specifications, published by the government, give a clear set of requirements. The distribution businesses have an agreed timetable to work to, and they have the support of the meter and communication system vendors. So, in conclusion, it is expected that the current shortcomings of the communications systems will be overcome to allow full deployment of the Victorian AMI by 2012.