Mining the benefits of AMI


Smart Metering Canada 2007 got off to a strong start this February, launching from the deep end on day one with a clear and powerful message to its delegates – know your Meter Data Management and Repository (MDM/R) inside out if you want to get the long term benefits from deploying Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

The Ontario Smart Metering Initiative is identified as a crucial element in Canada’s program of fulfilling its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. In Canada’s comparatively regulated environment – as compared to that of the US – AMI deployment takes on a holistically systematic character that often emphasizes MDM/R over Smart Metering itself. Bill Limbrick, Vice President of Information Technology and Infrastructure of the Independent Electricity System Operator in Ontario, described the exhaustive MDM/R design process that finally led to contracting IBM Canada in December 2006. Describing the lengthy consultation process with the region’s 93 Local Distribution Companies, Limbrick emphasized that the rollout of a smart metering system begins with understanding the potentials of the resulting data.

James Douglas, President and Senior Consultant of Util-Assit, also emphasized the developmentally critical nature of MDM/R, noting that with the advent of smart metering technology, metering has broken out of its traditional role as simply being part of the distribution function – it now provides the data that is critical to Customer Information Services (CIS) and demand response. Observing that Ontario currently has eight vendors supplying AMI systems, he emphasized that MDM/R optimizes the value of AMI. By placing the emphasis in this order, he advises a cautious approach to deployment of smart metering – one that includes a thorough understanding of the workflow processes.

George Vegh gave an insider’s perspective on the regulatory treatment of smart metering systems. He noted that the advanced potentials of AMI have led to the unusual situation of a regulatory structure being developed post implementation. Another interesting observation was that variations of pricing within the domestic market are so small that time-of-use billing will not have any real impact on the consumer, thus leading to a situation of contrived prices that will be de-linked from the market price.

Delegations from the top vendors reiterated this experience as regards MDM/R from the R&D perspective, noting that consulting along the entire energy supply chain is intensifying in the quest to provide 360 degree solutions.

This first day of presentation seemed to suggest Canada is moving swiftly into a new phase of AMI deployment, and that the rollout of MDM/R is likely to be the strongest determinant in this market.