In 1983, the solid-state electricity metering revolution began with the introduction of the Itron QUANTUM® STQ. Itron Electricity Metering (IEM) has more than 100 years of experience in meter design and optimisation of product features and benefits, so the spark of the revolution actually began much earlier.

The STQ set the standard in the South American, European and Mexican high-end metering markets. With more than 50,000 units shipped throughout the world, the impact made by solid-state metering was obvious. The release of the FULCRUM and SQ400 a short time later helped meet the needs of the many verticals in the high-end metering market.

The late 1990s saw the release of the QUANTUM® Q1000—the first ANSI/IEC product that offered fully integrated communications options and support for a myriad of industry standard protocols (MODBUS, DNP3.0, IEC). Utilising this strong solid-state experience as the foundation, the next evolution was to apply such techniques to the mass market – residential kWh metering. In 1998, IEM released the CENTRON® meter.

The CENTRON was the first economical two-piece architecture to offer superior flexibility and accuracy over time, and more resistance to tamper. Since 1998, more than 13 million CENTRON meters have been shipped from Itron’s Oconee Product Center in West Union, South Carolina.

The CENTRON meter has proven to be the leader in the electricity metering marketplace, improving accuracy, reliability and cost-effectiveness for automatic meter reading (AMR). With increased accuracy and reliability at a competitive price to electromechanical meters, Itron’s CENTRON solid-state meter has gained world-wide recognition as the industry standard.

“With the CENTRON meter, utilities are capturing usage that had not been captured before, which translates into increased revenue,” said Bob Burks, Itron’s Vice President and General Manager for metering operations. “Itron’s industry-leading portfolio of solid-state electricity meter products sets the standard for precise measurement, advanced functionality, reliability and ease of integration with automatic meter reading (AMR) technology.”

HOW IT WORKS

The CENTRON’s two-part design and well-documented interface are engineered to allow easy implementation of new communication personality modules that simply snap into the base measurement module. The metrology board, located in the meter base, is developed on the Hall Sensor approach and contains the calibration information for the CENTRON meter. The calibration information remains intact, while optional modules can be added or upgraded. The metrology board provides the watt-hour pulses, frequency, power direction indication and voltage to the attached personality modules.

This flexible format allows communications and other register functions to be separated onto option boards for easy upgrades. All calibration data is permanently stored in the base of the meter. The interchangeable personality modules offer a snap-in register assembly and improved performance, such as low starting watts and low burden. The CENTRON easily integrates with AMR technologies, especially fixed network technologies for advanced metering and data collection services.

In addition to its proven reliability, accuracy, and easy installation, this revolutionary solid-state meter is designed to provide utilities with maximum revenue and protect against energy theft, even if the meter is turned upside down. Its resistance to magnets and DC immunity allow utilities to capture energy usage that was not previously being recorded. With metering related losses, both technical and non-technical, costing utilities in some international markets 10% or more each year in lost revenue, Itron’s CENTRON solid-state meters are proving to be the solution utilities can count on to protect revenue and minimise meter tampering.

GLOBAL PERFORMANCE

Itron meters continue to set the industry standard in solid-state metering throughout the world. This reputation has earned Itron a distribution agreement with ELO Sistemas e Tecnologia Ltda. (ELO) of Brazil, under which ELO and Itron are working to provide electricity meters, data collection and meter data management solutions throughout South America.

“ELO has an excellent reputation in South America for innovation, quality and expertise, and works with nearly 100 utilities in the region,” said Leslie Thrasher, Itron’s international marketing manager. “This agreement gives customers a convenient way to continue working with a trusted local source – with expanded choices from Itron’s broad product and system portfolio.”

South American utilities face many long-standing challenges, including expanding basic services, controlling losses, forecasting loads and improving operational efficiency by updating systems and technology. The ELO/Itron agreement offers solutions to these challenges.

“Itron’s accomplishments in major world markets and its commitment to evolve with advancing customer needs assure a reliable and stable presence,” said Gilberto Teixeira, ELO President. “This alliance means that our customers can now choose from a full line of world-class hardware, software and service solutions.”

Andrew Baldwin, Itron’s managing director for the region, expects that South American energy companies and utilities will be particularly interested in Itron’s range of electricity meters and other products tailored to their needs.

“The Q1000, SENTINEL (for C&I customers) and CENTRON meters are designed to work with South American meter standards, and ELO has a long history of providing electricity meters to utilities,” Baldwin said. “We expect a lot of interest in Itron’s 900 MHz walk-by and drive-by automatic meter reading solutions.

“Utilities are also looking to AMR as a way to improve billing accuracy, ensure revenue protection and provide better customer service,” Baldwin said. “There’s a strong business case for what Itron does, and the partnership with ELO will provide more convenient access to Itron’s range of hardware and software solutions.”

Itron and ELO will exhibit together at the upcoming SENDI tradeshow, to be held November 21-24 in Brazil.

Itron is also working on several AMR/RF pilot projects, and exhibiting at Metering Latin America in Sao Paulo in August. Itron’s mobile collection technology has also received certification from all of North America. “Qualification and certifications for all Itron meters for the entire North American region is also underway,” said Baldwin.

Itron’s solid state meters are also gaining international recognition in Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, the Philippines, and Canada. More than 600,000 CENTRON meters have been shipped to the Dominican Republic. PREPA and BELCO (Bermuda Electric Cooperative) recently transitioned from electromechanical to solid-state and chose the CENTRON technology, based on a history of proven accuracy and significant revenue gain.

Whoever imagined seven years ago that Itron’s CENTRON solid-state electricity meters would be nestled in small Latin American countries – ahead of other utilities in the United States?

Much of it is due to the distinctive anti-tampering features and the proven track record of CENTRON technology to reduce system loss. It is why Meralco, the largest distributor in the Philippines, has installed over 100,000 units of CENTRON meters. In addition to tamper resistance, other drivers for this purchase include low starting watts and watts loss, TOU, the upgradeability of the meter, the fact that it was DC immune, and the significant milestones achieved in the US market.

ONTARIO’S SMART METER INITIATIVE

Recently, Wasaga Distribution Inc, an electricity provider to approximately 10,000 customers in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada, signed with Itron to provide Itron’s Fixed Network AMR technology and CENTRON® solid-state electricity meters. Wasaga’s initial deployment of Itron’s advanced metering technology, one of the first fixed network installations in Ontario, is driven by the requirements expected to be set forth in the Ontario Electricity Board’s Smart Meter initiative. Central to those requirements is the ability to collect electricity consumption to support hourly reads across the territory. This enables customers to respond to time-sensitive pricing to help ensure reliable and efficient operation of the electricity grid, especially during periods of peak load.

Wasaga Distribution is deploying CENTRON meters and two collectors to gather meter data information. Additionally, repeaters will be deployed as needed to optimise fixed network costs and coverage.

“In Ontario, we are mandated by the government to collect interval data from residential customers by the year 2010,” said Dave Stavinga, manager of energy services for Wasaga Distribution. “In deploying Itron’s smart meters, our purpose is to test and prove the ability of this technology to meet the key requirements of the OEB initiative in the most cost-effective and reliable manner before we move to a full deployment.”

Wasaga’s demographics and service territory will provide a great environment to demonstrate that Itron’s fixed network solution meets the OEB objectives. “As the industry leader in advanced metering technology, Itron has always provided us with leading edge technology and excellent customer support," added Stavinga.

Itron has several pilot projects in Ontario in an effort to help utilities meet the goals as set by the provincial government. The intent of the smart meter initiative is to help foster a conservation culture in the province. Smart meters will be used to implement a new rate plan that charges different prices for electricity depending on the time of day. The ability of the system to accurately record and retrieve data required to implement the new rate plan is critical to the success of the smart metering programme. Itron has developed and deployed a number of hardware and software solutions that enable advanced rate plans to be implemented.

“We are very happy to help Wasaga Distribution deploy a smart metering technology pilot,” said Scott Owen, vice president of hardware sales for Itron Canada. “It is this kind of forward thinking that will save Wasaga and its customers time and money, and most of all, valuable resources. With Itron technology in place, we believe Wasaga will be able to fulfill the government’s mandate at the lowest possible cost. “

With offices in the The Netherlands, U.K., France and Australia, Itron’s International Market Group has the technology, knowledge and global reach to deliver data collection and management solutions which meet the needs of electric, gas and water utilities in a wide variety of business and operational environments throughout the world.