California’s Public Utilities Commission has asked the three large investor-owned utilities in the state to submit business plans for introducing an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMI calls for remote meter reading and hourly interval data collection, in order to offer users the opportunity to save on power bills by reducing usage at critical peak periods.

California has been trialling time-of-use rates since last year, and the response from customers has been favourable. They reported that they found the new rates easy to understand, and also appreciated the fact that they were more in control of their energy bills. The objective of introducing AMI is to avoid the rolling blackouts and huge spikes in power prices that were a feature of the state’s energy sector in 2000/2001.

This initiative is not restricted to California. A few months back Ontario province in Canada announced a plan to introduce smart meters to all customer groups by 2010.