Next generation metering technologies for Central American and Caribbean utilities


Bogotá, Colombia — (METERING.COM) — May 12, 2008  – A range of technologies from prepayment to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) are appropriate for the Central American and Caribbean region, delegates to the recent 2nd Metering Central America & Caribbean event agreed.

The event, which took place in Bogotá, Colombia from April 28-30, was attended by more than 340 delegates from across the Latin American region, who came to strategise on next generation metering technologies for Central American and Caribbean utilities and to view in the exhibition technologies available for the region.

After two well attended pre-conference seminars on prepayment and automatic meter reading (AMR) the event was officially opened by Luis Eduardo Villamizar, secretary of energy in Colombia’s ministry of energy and mines, who reviewed the regional struggle against losses in electricity.

Commenting that the quest for a reduction in losses is a theme of strategic importance, Villamizar reminded on the importance of distinguishing between technical and non technical losses and that solutions would depend on the type of loss. In the case of technical losses a key is to give balanced signals to distributors so they can invest in their networks and systems appropriately. In Colombia a challenge occurs in rural areas, where consumers are geographically dispersed and often have limited resources and topographies are difficult, to maintain a balance between efficiencies in investment and in operation.

In the case of non technical losses, such as for example theft of electricity, those involved should be penalized and home monitoring teams should be established. In Colombia however, this is not practical as such teams may not be financed from the distribution tariff, and currently a strategy is being put in place in which distributors will be required to bear the costs of losses if reduction targets are not met.

Villamizar also commented that the ministry is in the process of introducing policies on the rational use of energy, efficient use of infrastructure and reliability of supply.

Following the opening debate on developments and direction in the region the program continued with regulation and standards, resource management for sustainable development, and a debate on energy efficiency as an unexploited resource. Independent consultant Luis Ayala from Ecuador pointed out that in the region Mexico was prominent in exhibiting a reduction in energy use, and he attributed this to the existence of policies and institutions to implement these.

The second day of the event started with some interesting case studies of AMR implementations across the region and continued with discussions on advanced metering and smart grids and billing and customer service. The final, somewhat controversial, closing debate reviewed the role in technology in the region, making the case for both low tech and high tech options, from simple flat rate payment to AMI.

Metering Central America & Caribbean is now firmly established on the annual event calendar and planning is under way for next year’s third event.