While interest in AMI is growing across the globe, the rapid developments taking place in the U.S.A. would appear to put it in a boom phase. According to a recent review by UtiliPoint of announcements of large AMI deployments (greater than 100,000 endpoints) in electricity, water and gas there was a more than 200 percent increase in 2006 over 2005 levels.And for 2007 a further increase of 25 percent over 2006 levels is projected, driven by large utilities such as Southern California Edison (SCE), which plans to rollout some 5 million AMI meters, DTE Energy with 4 million AMI meters and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) with 2.3 million AMI meters, among others.

At the same time, and as a consequence of these activities, significant changes are also taking place in the meter market place. Within the next few months the appearance of a new generation of meters is expected from the major meter manufacturers as well as new entrants, with ‘advanced’ features such as an integrated remote connect and disconnect service switch, remote upgradeability, and more memory. And developments are ongoing on enhanced network communication capabilities, including two-way communications to premise devices.

This is according to SCE, whose AMI initiative is noteworthy for its extensive involvement of the industry to refine the future vision and to develop the products to meet future requirements. In a feature in the latest edition of Metering International AMI program director Paul de Martini and program lead architect Jeff Gooding describe how by focussing on the customer and supporting an open innovation approach, SCE’s AMI business case could be developed positively.

“By taking the customer’s perspective it is possible to focus on the innovations that are believed to yield the right blend of customer benefit, utility efficiency and technologies necessary to optimise customer value,” write De Martini and Gooding.

Furthermore, SCE’s AMI Final Feasibility Report (released January 2007) comments that the Phase 1 process to confirm the technical and financial feasibility of the solution, projected to take 18 months, was completed in 13 months, and that prototype ‘new generation’ AMI residential and commercial meters are already in hand.

AMI is clearly at an exciting stage of development and over the next decade significant investments will be made into it by the utility industry. Thus the imperative to “do it right,” as De Martini and Gooding write in the case of SCE, must be recognised by all the participants.

With such rapid evolution, what are my options? What is the business case for AMI strategies? How is the CIS going to manage and leverage the data? What is the role of AMI in the smart grid of the future? And how should large-scale rollout be managed? Answers to these and other questions from the pioneers of AMI will be offered at the 8th Metering, Billing/CIS America from May 7-11,2007 in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A. – ‘The integrated smart metering, billing and CIS toolkit for the NOW utility’. www.meteringamerica.com