Smart metering large scale roll-out reviewed


Ralph Abbott,
Plexus Research
San Antonio, TX, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — May 10, 2007 –  No matter what the size of an AMR/AMI roll-out, whether a few thousand or a few million meters, the issues are the same, delegates to the 8th Metering, Billing/CIS America were told.

Speaking in the Smart Metering Large Scale Roll-out Super Workshop – one of the two pre-conference workshops at the event, which opened in San Antonio, Texas, yesterday – Dave D’Avanzo, manager of member services and AMR project manager at the Eugene, Oregon cooperative Lane Electric, outlined the development of a 12,500 meter AMR project by the utility, comparing it with projects under way by utilities in California involving millions of meters.

D’Avanzo said that key steps in the process included assembling an AMR team, performing necessary due diligence, defining comprehensive goals and objectives, building a solid business case, developing a detailed request for proposals, and perhaps most important developing and maintaining partnerships with providers.

“Partnerships like these are critical to success. Initiate them, develop them and respect them. They may end up being your lifeline to a successful deployment,” said D’Avanzo.

Ralph Abbott, president of Plexus Research, described the whole issue of partnerships as a “minefield,” and said that the relationship between the utility and its suppliers was like a marriage, with the contract between the parties “the pre-nup, serving to keep the relationship together.”

“A good contract is the best way to establish a clear relationship between the parties,” said Abbott, adding that the top five contracting landmines are: “Warranties, supplier churn, price protection, acceptance testing, and support.”

Commented Abbott: “The contract is the principal risk management resource, and it is vital to get it right.”

Reviewing lessons learned from successful projects, Steve Hadden, senior vice president of Plexus Research, said that every AMI deployment encounters new issues, because of new devices, new applications, or new meters. As such these should be expected to require extra attention and they should be tried out in low volume, starting the deployment prudently, and then ramping up.

Key issues in a project implementation include risk management, costs, leverage and staffing. As such, while the utility can choose to do the contracting itself, “expert help is well worth what it costs,” said Hadden.

The event continues today with the general opening session, including a keynote address from Al Lujan, executive vice president for Energy Delivery and Solutions at CPS Energy, and a panel discussion on why utilities, government and the industry are taking the direction that they are. An accompanying exhibition will showcase the latest technologies for metering, billing and customer management.