Conference: Metering, Billing/CIS America
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Presenter: Lynnette Cervone
Abstract: Presented by Lynnette Cervone at Metering, Billing/CIS America

Southwest Gas Corporation provides natural gas service to more than 1.8 million customers living in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Centered in the three fastest-growing regions of the country, its service territories encompass 36,444 square miles. In order to continue to provide exemplary customer service in such rapid-growth areas, the company seeks, researches and implements as needed advanced technologies that help increase its business efficiencies. One area where technology is used most effectively is in meter reading.

Southwest Gas first began selectively deploying Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technology in 1996, in high-growth areas or difficult-to-read locations such as its Lake Tahoe service area where heavy snowfall typically buries outdoor natural gas meters under many feet of snow, rendering them inaccessible to utility meter ready crews. In more recent years, Southwest Gas also began installing AMR technology on all natural gas meters in new developments.

The operational success of those deployments convinced the company to consider deploying AMR companywide in order to maximize the value of AMR. Prior to the project’s start date, a series of communications was created and distributed to employees and customers alike in order to offset any unfounded fears about the technology’s implementation or long-term effects. As a result of the company’s proactive stance, the project was fully accepted by the employees and the public, and the installations began in Phoenix in May 2006.

To date, more than 1.1 million AMR installations have been completed in two of the company’s three major metropolitan areas located in Phoenix, Ariz. and Las Vegas, Nev., as well as numerous outlying areas and districts located in southern California, northern Nevada, and southern Arizona.

In April 2008, the final leg of the project will move into Tucson, Ariz., Southwest’s third metropolitan area and the one with the most square miles to cover. While it was expected that the entire installation project would be completed by June 2009, the project is currently ahead of schedule and is set to wrap up by the end of 2008. Upon completion of the project, Southwest Gas will have deployed AMR technology to more than 1.8 million gas meters.

This presentation will discuss the driving forces that assisted Southwest Gas to begin AMR deployment, how this project began, specific decisions / processes needed prior to implementation, progress of the project and lessons learned.  In addition, the impact on the Meter Reading department and its transition will be discussed.