Alabama utility expands smart meter rollout

In the US state of Alabama, Decatur Utilities plans to increase the number of smart meters in its water, gas and electricity distribution networks.

According to a local publication, the energy provider announced its plans to invest $450,000 toward the purchase of new meter data management (MDM) software.

The new MDM software will be leveraged for an additional 10,000 smart meters for its residential, industrial and commercial customers.

In total, Decatur Utilities provides water, wastewater, electric and gas services to over 30,000 consumers. The utility firm expects to invest up to $8.8 million in equipping more than 26,000 gas, water and electric consumers with smart meters.

Currently, Decatur Utilities is implementing a smart meter pilot in which some 825 smart gas, electric and water meters are under trial. The smart meters pilot was launched in 2015, is set for completion this October and was designed to accommodate the trial of up to 1,000 smart meters.

The smart grid pilot programme aims to demonstrate how the advanced metering infrastructure can be used to help Decatur Utilities optimise its operations through the automation of meter reading and billing processes.

For instance, Glenn Boyles, manager of the electricity department at Decatur Utilities said the pilot has enabled his firm to automate some 875 power disconnections and 750 reconnections between 2015 and 31 May 2017.

Through automatic connection and disconnection of power, Decatur Utilities will reduce operational expenses such as overtime salaries paid to staff reconnecting power after office hours.

The smart meters will help the utility to accurately bill its customers through elimination of estimated billing as well as reduce costs associated with manual meter readings. [Alabama utility upgrades SCADA technology].

Rollout of smart grid pilot programme

The news follows an announcement made by Alabama Power in late April of its plans to deploy a smart grid pilot under efforts to be able to offer its customers a wide range of solutions for them to improve energy efficiency in their homes.

The US utility is collaborating with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to deploy the smart grid pilot ‘Smart Neighbourhood’ to its consumers residing in the Hoover community of Signature Homes.

Under the pilot, the energy provider will develop and integrate with its grid network, a microgrid comprising solar panels, battery energy storage system and backup generation.

The microgrid is set to be complete by 2018 and will provide the energy distribution company with energy capacity of up to 586,000KWh per annum.

The smart grid pilot programme will include some 62 households equipped with energy efficiency technologies and smart home appliances to help consumers improve management of their energy usage to reduce energy costs.

The smart home appliances will include LED lighting systems, refrigerators and dishwashers, heat pumps, water heaters, intelligent thermostats, mobile applications and voice activated smart home systems.

The utility will use data compiled from the smart home systems over a period of two years to improve its customer services by developing new innovative programmes.


Image credit Shutterstock

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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.