AMR and AMI in Mexico under the spotlight


Francisco Varela,
Metering Manager,
CFE’s Peninsular
San Antonio, TX, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — May 9, 2007 – Mexico appears to be something of a unique market, with a foot in both the developing world of Latin America and the developed world of North America.

The country has approximately 20 million households, 6 million of which in the capital Mexico City and neighboring states are provided electricity by the Compañía de Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LFC) and the other 14 million throughout the rest of the country by the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE). A key challenge facing the sector, as it is across Latin America, is the high level of theft, and for example at LFC, losses due to theft last year amounted to $2.3 million per day.

Yet like their counterparts to the north, the two utilities are looking increasingly to technologies such as automatic meter reading (AMR) and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for their future metering requirements.

While AMR in now widespread in some parts of the world, and there are some 20 AMR system manufacturers worldwide, a local AMR system has now been developed in Mexico by Asesoría Técnica en Computo, S.A. de C.V. in conjunction with the Instituto de Investigaciones Eléctricas. Named LISA, the system, which is based on open standards, comprises an interface for electricity, gas and water meters supporting one or two way transmission, with a range up to 300 meters. It also includes features such as theft detection and remote connect/disconnect. Currently two pilot projects of LISA are running at LFC, including a comparison of RF and PLC for data communication.

CFE meanwhile, is investigating an AMI option in conjunction with Elster. Believing that an AMR system could not be justified from an investment perspective and aiming to reduce the high level of estimated meter reads, due to the meters being inaccessible inside buildings, a pilot of 1,590 points is currently underway in Mérida in Mexico’s Yucatán state. CFE believes that benefits of AMI to customers will include secure reading, monitoring of potential outages, and the provision of a consumption profile, while for itself it sees the elimination of estimated reads, energy theft detection, increased sales and a faster return on investment.

Both of these projects come under the spotlight in Metering Mexico – one of the two pre-conference workshops at Metering, Billing/CIS America 2007, which opens today in San Antonio, Texas. Other topics under discussion in the workshop include strategic and regulatory issues in Mexico’s electricity and water sectors and energy efficiency – an area into which much effort has been put, with the result, according to energy consultant and former head of the state energy conservation body Conae, Odon de Buen, writing in issue 1/2007 of Smart Energy International, that Mexico’s energy intensity diminished at an average 1.3 percent per year from 1995 to 2004.