Following on the visit to Tallahassee, the next stop was in Jacksonville. The late afternoon sun gives the magnificent skyline of this burgeoning city a unique atmosphere; a youthful exuberance much like that of JEA’s Director for Meter Reading, Billing & Collections, Wayne Young.
Please share a brief history of your career and how you ended up at JEA
My transition from a career in the US Navy took place in 2006; my profession was in Surface Warfare where I had the privilege to serve as Commanding Officer of two warships. My last command was that of an Aegis Cruiser which used the very highest level of modern technology for the ship’s weapons systems, navigations systems etc. Upon transitioning my desire was to return to my home town of Jacksonville, and JEA presented the perfect opportunity. Two things appealed to me: number one was the mission of JEA to improve the quality of life their customers, so JEA was people focused. And the second was the area I would be going into: meter reading, billing and collections. Under that was network meter reading. That was to become mine, to take this new, advanced technology from a project phase and integrate it into the daily operational, service and financial functions of the company.
What is the history of JEA’s advanced metering program?
The program was brought onboard in 2000. The scope of it was visionary in that the CEO and others recognised that advanced metering would be the way of the future. Looking at opportunities for energy conservation, enhanced customer service and opportunities to better regulate the energy we are using now.
It was felt that building new infrastructure would be a challenge, but this was an opportunity to bring in new technology and leverage it across the board to do everything from reading the meters to developing programs for demand-side management, energy load management and transformer load management. The largest return on the investment would be energy management, handling peak loads during winter and summer, being able to provide more information to the customer empowering the customer to be in control of their energy usage. We service 400 000 electric and water customers and about 20 000 water only customers.
The business case was formed around 1999/2000, and the initial deployment process (for both water and electric) took around seven years to complete. JEA is unique in that we’re deploying the technology to a very large water meter population, and all our water meters are subterranean, bringing with them a whole set of challenges.
Have your customers been actively involved in this project?
For the deployment they were made aware of it and each customer was informed individually of the work that was to be done on each premise. And we just transitioned from the deployment phase totally about eight months ago, and now we are beginning to look at certain areas to act as sites for our demand-side management projects. JEA started an internal section, the CDI (customer data integration) which is headed up by a VP and has a director and several managers. Their sole function is to leverage this technology within a community, where we would do demand-side management etc. We’ve identified a customer base of around 4000 right now, for the demand-side project. We’re doing load management research and we’re collecting some time-of-use data, as well as daily usage information.
How has the project affected staff turnover?
We have seen a decline of about 60% of our meter readers, the remainder reading those meter that are water only or areas were we didn’t get the AMI read during the billing window or those areas where we experienced growth and we’re putting on the electric meters but will go back later to put on the water meters once the housing development is complete.
How are you using all the data you’re collecting?
This is what we are working at right now. Our initial though was to use our customer information system to store that data, but we discovered that not after too long the amount of data quickly overwhelmed that system. We then developed an in house MDMS, that is pretty good, but as we started to take stronger focus on utilizing the data we found that we were doing a whole lot of queries and developing new codes to give us information, that we were very heavily tasking our IT team. So we went externally to seek a vendor and bring in an MDMS. That data now is being collected for the MDMS which feeds our data warehouse and also feed our customer information system for billing purposes.
The data is being collected by our corporate data integration team for about 3 000 residential customers right now who we are actively tracking to monitor their use for transformer load management purposes to assist us in determining customer usage styles and what size transformers we should put out into the system. Before we would place a larger transformer in the field to take care of capacity, but we are finding now that we can very comfortably predict, based on house size and other factors, what size transformer is needed.
Other areas include energy management initiatives for customers specifically in income challenged areas. The task is to determine how these customers can experience cost savings; from things they can do in the home themselves to utilizing external sponsored programs to help decrease energy usage.
On the water side, we’re looking at doing hydraulic modelling, to see what size pipe would be required to put into new subdivisions. But we’re really skimming the surface on these things and hoping to see a lot more happening in these areas in the near future.
We have received a lot of queries about how we executed deployment of our system and brought it into the operational and maintenance organization of JEA. We have also been asked a lot about our meter data management system.
Do you see a future in prepaid metering?
That’s one of the projects we are considering. Our meter maintenance team has just completed a feasibility study on prepaid and the challenge that we have is that as we look at these new opportunities, prepaid can stand alone. However, we want to integrate it into the system. We don’t want to have four or five different systems working for a common cause; we want an integrated system as much as possible. Prepaid has been looked at very closely with the expectation and the desire to integrated into our overall AMS.
How do you see the future at JEA?
JEA’s AMS, where we stand right now, is solid in the day-to-day operations. We have initiatives that are in development between the day-to-day operations and the strategic level that we are working on to make happen. In the meantime very close attention will be paid to the industry forecasts. JEA now has an AMS Business Analyst to work with all entities in JEA that have equity in AMS; externally part of the analyst’s job is to keep an eye on emerging technology, what is happening within the regulatory environment and what is transpiring with other utilities. We want to make sure that there is internal and external congruency with what we are doing as we move toward our strategic goals to best leverage the AMS. I can see this approach taking JEA a long way.