AMI – Providing the Smart Grid Foundation

Conference: Smart Metering West Coast
Location: Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A
Presenter: Maureen Trumble and Jack Hobbick
Abstract: Presented by Maureen Trumble and Jack Hobbick at Smart Metering West Coast

Several forces are converging which are driving many major utilities to move forward with Advanced Metering Infrastructure projects. Some of these primary drivers include advances in technology that have made desired features affordable, a regulatory climate that is looking for load management and energy efficiency, and a utility industry that is refocusing on investing in the core utility functions.

Consumers Energy has proposed an AMI project with key objectives to reduce O&M costs, provide load management and demand response capabilities, enhance the customers’ experience, meet regulatory requirements and enable Smart Grid.  The AMI project team has begun to define the functionality, requirements and architecture to meet the goals and the benefits defined in the business case.

To scope the project, we have reviewed the level of functionality offered with AMR versus two-way communications AMI, and on to Smart Grid. We have chosen to focus on the functionality of AMI including automated meter reading, remote connect / disconnect, time of use rates, load control, price signals to customers, outage detection, theft detection and power quality reporting. We are also striving to design an architecture that enables future smart grid capabilities such as remote fault detection, central and distributed analysis, correction of disturbances on the grid and optimization of grid assets.

One of the key components to enable smart grid capability is the communications infrastructure.  As the functionality requirements increase from AMR to AMI to Smart Grid, so do the requirements for the data refresh rate and the diversity of devices that need to be able to connect to the network.  One other consideration when designing the architecture is to ensure that it integrates with existing and future field technology such as the SCADA and ACG systems. This will be essential as future resource planning will not only include the traditional central power plants but also include load management, demand response and distributed generation in the portfolio of resources to meet customers’ demands.

The Information Technology component must be flexible and secure in its design by utilizing standardized interfaces and a secure architecture. A key concept that will enable this capability is the Data Unification layer that provides the interface between the field technology and the commercial systems. This component is the data interface and repository for all data collected from the remote data acquisition systems (AMI, Distribution Automation, SCADA). It should also have a SOA bus on the back end to interface with the Enterprise Application Suite and other systems used to operate the grid such as Outage Management and GIS. The need is to focus on a system that will compliment the functionality of existing business applications and not cause redundancy and the need for custom interfaces.

One other component whose need has evolved through the Use Case sessions is a system currently referred to as DRAACS (Distributed Resource Activity & Analysis Control System).
This is the system that will accumulate the capabilities of many individual customers that can reduce load, shed load, provide customer-owned generation and aggregate it to a value that is useful in the control centers.