The new why – why is the industry taking the direction it is?


Rick Weston,
Regulatory Assistance Project
San Antonio, TX, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — May 11, 2007 – Against a background of growing interest in AMI in the U.S., the 8th Metering, Billing/CIS America opened today with a debate on the ‘New why: Why are utilities, government and the industry taking the direction that they are?’

Presenting the keynote address Al Lujan, executive vice president for Energy Delivery and Solutions at CPS Energy, said that the ‘new why’ – AMI – was being driven by a combination of regulatory impacts, new technology impacts, customer impacts and value-added services. And in turn it will force many changes, commented Lujan. “AMI creates terabytes of information that the utility can use, and customers are also clamoring for information that they can use.”

The topic was taken up by a high level panel of industry representatives, moderated by Rick Weston, a director of the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), who advised that all parties, whether utilities, vendors or government, needed “to speak the same language.”

As a customer Angela Beehler, director of energy regulation in Wal-Mart, said that her company’s view is that advanced metering and energy management systems form the cornerstone of deregulation and that their costs should be lowered by removing unreasonable regulations and promoting competition and innovation. Moreover there should be customer choice in metering and rules should be developed for the benefit of everyone.

A similar view was expressed by Aaron Johnson, deputy director of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Division of Ratepayer Advocates, who stressed the customer perspective – that consumer needs should drive the technology, rather than regulation, and that also there should be some protection for low income earners.

“But AMI is an evolution and it will take time to get right,” said Johnson.

Don Tucker from Ercot said that there are a lot of justifications for AMI, based on largely competing interests. Commenting that there are unanswered questions around the use of AMI data and unresolved issues around its implementation, Tucker predicted that nevertheless, approximately 5 million of the 6 million customers in the Ercot region would have advanced meters within the next five to six years.

Shane Pospisil, president and CEO of the Ontario Energy Association, pointed out that in Ontario there was strong political and environmental drivers for the deployment of AMI, and he felt that consumers would need to be “empowered” to benefit through pricing incentives.

Andres Carvallo, CIO of Austin Energy, said that AMI is about building the intelligent utility network. “With the intelligent utility network moving from concept to reality, AMI is about all the things that a utility needs to provide.”

Metering, Billing/CIS America 2007 continues today with sessions on meter technology, meter data management and best practices in billing and customer service. The closing debate will take a futuristic look at smart home and smart grid issues.