Leading utilities in the region are turning to technology to meet the challenges of today and to build a solid foundation for future growth. As we look at these issues facing the region, we see several trends that speak to shared priorities and a movement toward increasing automation and improving data collection and management as ways to meet growing and changing demands.

THE GROWING INFLUENCE OF DEREGULATION

As some countries embrace deregulation and allow increased competition, improved data collection and management technology become a competitive necessity. Commercial and industrial (C&I) customers require a new level of information and service. Utilities have begun to use technology wisely to streamline operations, speed the collection of data and leverage this data to improve their own operations and share it with key customers.

In Japan, one independent power producer (IPP) has recently piloted a software application that enables it to share detailed usage data with its C&I customers quickly and easily over the Internet. This gives customers a powerful new tool to manage their businesses and energy usage to the best advantage. Software applications such as this will likely become more popular with utilities and IPPs as they look to grow their customer base and to add value.

Australia provides a useful example of how deregulation can affect utilities, and helps to paint a picture of what may be ahead for Asian countries considering deregulation. Victoria, the state that is leading meter regulation in Australia, has passed legislation requiring interval metering for all customers by 2015. Utilities are responding to this in a variety of ways, and their ultimate technology choices will undoubtedly influence utilities across Asia.

Leading Australian utilities and metering service providers are piloting a full range of AMR technologies to identify the systems best suited to their needs, whether they be PLC technologies, public network wireless (GPRS and 3G), or short range radio frequency solutions. Utilities in Asia are watching to see what decisions these Australian companies make, and how the solutions deliver results.

THE EXPANSION OF AMR

The growing influence of deregulation in the region has created more interest in AMR technologies. As regulation requires the collection of interval data, or as business drivers begin to make frequent data collection more desirable, utilities are seeking the latest developments in technology to automate data collection.

Asia currently ranks third after North America and Europe in AMR deployments and the region will likely see aggressive growth in this area over the next decade.

TNB (Tenaga Nasional Berhad) in Malaysia issued a tender last year for the remote meter reading of its top 56,000 industrial customers. The utility is seeking to achieve the efficiencies and improved meter data management that a full AMR system enables.

NEW SOFTWARE TOOLS

As utilities try to provide better data to customers, protect revenue and manage their operations more effectively, they are looking to new software tools that can help them realise the full value of meter data across their organisations. Increasingly, they desire a central repository that can be used for multiple business objectives. From billing and customer service to planning and maintenance, access to accurate and timely meter data is critical in meeting business objectives.

Meralco (Manila Electric Company), the largest utility in the Philippines, is increasing its strategic use of meter data in preparation for deregulation. The utility is implementing a system to enable the retrieval of detailed meter data from different brands of meters remotely, anytime, anywhere. This new capability will save the organisation time and money and will give it improved data for decision-making and strategy formulation.

SP Services of Singapore uses the same system to manage market operations and settlement. Singapore Power’s purchase of TXU in Australia is also significant because it signals the organisation’s interest in participating at the leading edge of deregulating markets.

THE UTILITY OF THE FUTURE IN ASIA

As utilities in Asia work to meet the diverse challenges and opportunities of the region, technology will play a major role. Experiences from Canada, the US and the European Union provide a glimpse into the future of the advancement of meter data collection and management. While the path to that advancement may look different in Asia, early adopters of technology solutions in the region are learning the full power and potential of meter data to drive value throughout the operation and to end users.