OUC – The Reliable One


As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, renowned for its vast theme parks and outdoor activities, the City of Orlando sticks by its motto “Built for families, made for memories”. Bill Dawson, Administrator of Meter Services, was available to talk about their metering programs.  

Please give a bring history of the utility.

OUC—the Reliable One is the second largest municipal utility in Florida and provides electric and water services to more than 254,000 customers in Orlando, St. Cloud and parts of unincorporated Orange and Osceola counties.

Created by a special act of the Florida Legislature in 1923 as a statutory commission of the State of Florida, the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) has full authority over the management and control of the electric and water systems of the City of Orlando.

OUC’s electric system provides service to customers within the City of Orlando and certain contiguous areas of Orange County. The boundaries of OUC’s 244-square-mile electric service are set pursuant to a 10-year territorial agreement with Progress Energy of Florida.

In 1997, OUC entered into an inter-local agreement with the City of St. Cloud in Osceola County to assume responsibility for providing retail electric energy services to all St. Cloud customers and to assume control and operation of St. Cloud’s electric transmission and distribution system and certain generation facilities in its 150-square-mile service territory.

OUC provides water service to customers throughout Orlando and a 200-square-mile service area as set forth by a territorial agreement with Orange County. Water is obtained from 34 deep wells that tap the Florida Aquifer, a natural source of high quality water hundreds of feet below the surface. Eight state-of-the-art water plants treat the water with ozone for disinfection and hydrogen sulfide removal. In May 2004, OUC obtained a 20-year Consumptive Use Permit (CUP) from the St. Johns River Water Management District. This CUP preserves OUC’s authority to withdraw sufficient quantities of high quality, low-cost ground water to serve customers through 2023.

OUC operates two related businesses — OUConvenient Lighting and OUCooling — that serve Orlando and surrounding counties. OUConvenient Lighting works with municipalities and commercial partners to plan, install and maintain indoor and outdoor lighting. OUCooling provides chilled water service for air conditioning systems through a network of six chilled water plants in four districts with a total capacity of 38,250 tons. A fifth district will be operational in 2009.

Give us a brief history of your career

I was born and raised in Orlando, educated at the University of Florida and I’ve been at OUC for ten years. I started out like 75% of the OUC employees as a meter reader and now I am the administrator of Meter Services which means I manage the Meter Reading Department. I’m also the Coordinator of Meter Services which is where the AMR/AMI (Automated Meter Reading/Advanced Metering Infrastructure) comes in, and I’ve been in the Coordinator position for about seven years.

What are planning on doing with your metering programs?

The oldest program that we have is the Itron Micro-Network and we have 25 000 meters on this AMI system in 55 apartment complexes. About four years ago we moved to the Elster Energy Axis two way communicating AMI System and we have about 20 000 meters on that. Around 1 000 electric remote disconnect meters are on the Elster System and we’ve got 12 new high-rise condo’s that are completely Energy Axis. OUC is metering chilled-water with the Amco/Rex water meters. We measure chilled water in ten gallon increments, and add a temperature differential, the Delta T. We bill for true consumption, not square footage.  Then Delta T Factor is a reflection of how well the Condo Management is running their internal building cooling controls.

Will you be going full network with your meters?

I don’t see us going full network. We have some electric only areas, some water only areas, but most of it is electric and water. I would see us doing 50% within the next ten years, but I don’t see us going full AMI.

Do you service the theme parks in the area?

We service Universal Studios and Wet ’n Wild, so we have some of the theme parks covered. Universal is our biggest customer. Disney has their own utility called Reedy Creek. They buy electricity off the grid and they have their own distribution system that is very well thought of.

What are the challenges and operational issues that you are having with your chilled water metering?

We don’t own the meters. They are sold to the customer because they are behind the master meter.  That releases us from the liability and it puts the maintenance responsibility where it should be, on the building manager of the condominium. But they’re not metering people, so we have to take extra special care of these customers. We will get a few calls a week for various chilled-metering problems and we go into the field and help the condo management diagnose the problem. Most of the problems are installation related because a third party contractor installs the meters for the condo management.

What sort of education does the consumer get?

Usually the condominium will put together an information sheet or they can call OUC and the customer service representative or the account manager can educate them. It is difficult explaining to a residential customer the chilled water cooling, metering, and billing process, the commercial customers pick it right up.  During the first year of operation the customers don’t really know what chilled water is unless they open their closet and see the wrapped chilled pipes. So there is a lot of education. Every time someone calls you have to educate them. Every new high-rise condo built in the last five years has this new metering technology and they all use OUC Cooling Chilled Water.  

What are you doing with the data?

We don’t have the big Meter Data Management Program (MDMA); we have our electric meter shop which handles all the data. We are working on a MDMA but its not there yet. So for the chilled meter readings, the sub-water meter readings and the electric meter readings we pull reads twice a day and the data is stored in a program that anyone at OUC can access. This helps the service representative’s access information at any given time. That data is stored for one month, after a month we purge the data, so all the meter readings have one months rolling usage.

Once we have a large MDMA in place we will be able to flag accounts for leaks, theft, and non-compliant residential irrigation. We can then tie the AMI system into our outage management system to ensure greater reliability. On the Micro-Network systems, we are saving around $350 000 a year just on truck rolls. You could begin to justify the cost of an AMI system on that alone.

On energy theft, what is the situation like for OUC?

There is diversion in every Utility Companies Service Territory. We’re actually doing an AMI pilot just based on theft. OUC is doing a rollout of 7 500 meters with samples from around the entire service area. Diversion Recovery can help justify an AMI System.

How are you handling the changing workforce?

OUC has a strategic plan which incorporates succession planning.  We all train on the new systems and processes which emerge in our industry.  Advanced Metering Infrastructure will dictate a need for more savvy employees to progress into such areas as the Electric Meter Shop, Meter Data Management, and Renweables.

Where do you see the future of the utility?

For OUC, we are mapping things out, probably in 15 years OUC won’t be seeing many meter readers, which is good thing, all of meter readers would have moved their way up because of advanced metering infrastructure. The utility will have more control and the consumer will be able to monitor their usage in real time, that’s the whole point about AMR/AMI.