Silvana Giaimo Chávez,
Colombia’s vice-minister
of mines and energy
 
By Jonathan Spencer Jones

Smart technologies are steadily gaining an increasing foothold in Central America and the Caribbean region, as utilities invest to reduce losses and to augment their network infrastructures.

This became clear at the 4th Metering Central America & Caribbean event, which took place in Bogotá, Colombia from April 20-21, 2010. Under the theme “Fast-tracking utility intelligence from the meter to the grid,” almost 300 delegates from across the region, from Mexico in the north to Argentina in the south, and from outside including the US and South Africa, gathered to review key developments and issues in moving towards a smarter future.

The event was opened by Jose Manzur, director of the Colombian distributors’ association Asocodis, and the keynote was presented by Silvana Giaimo Chávez, Colombia’s vice-minister of mines and energy.

A panel discussion followed, moderated by Pablo Corredor, general manager of XM and president of Cocier, in which utility executives discussed how they were using different technologies. Oscar Armijos, general manager of Electrica de Guayaquil, described how using an AMI system had reduced operational costs such as meter reading and losses by over a quarter from almost 26 percent to just over 18 percent, while José Inostroza Lopez, general manager of Consorcio Energetico Punta Cana Macao (CEPM), discussed how prepayment was being deployed by this Dominican Republic utility for various types of customers. Eduardo Neri, metering director of the IUSA Group, reviewed the business case for AMI in Mexico. And closer to home, Jaime Vargas, commercial manager of Codensa, outlined the company’s technology strategy based on the parent Enel/Endesa AMI technology and a senior representative of the local water company Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá reviewed their move to automated metering for certain categories of customers.

Following the discussion, the program continued with sessions on regulatory issues, standards and meter testing, meter data and customer management, and AMI/AMR foundations and best practices, while a parallel session offered workshops on prepayment and water metering. A lively session on prepayment highlighted the new functionality in which the meter takes on the role of “administrator,” rationing supply over a defined period, and in laying the smart grid foundations, Charles Morris, director of Cognyst International in Colombia, “put it all together” with a comprehensive review of the issues: research, plan, estimate the return on investment and the social and environmental impacts, and ask where you will be in 5 years?

The conference sessions closed with an energetic discussion on smart grid communication technologies, in which it was agreed that a number of technologies will be required for the region, including powerline communication, broadband over powerline, radio mesh, WiFi, and ZigBee.

Alongside the conference, an exhibition showed off the latest technologies for the region, including meters and other smart grid components and IT.