By James McClelland, Sr. Global Director, Utilities & Energy SAP Americas

Over the course of many years, utilities have established robust meter network, and customer service infrastructures that are supported by processes and systems defined for well-defined work routines and functions. This situation is about to change. To address these challenges, the next generation of technology to be applied to metering and customer service infrastructures is known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) drives the optimisation of revenues and demand, enables more cost-effective customer service, and facilitates market efficiency and the automation of data exchanges at new business networks of energy suppliers and infrastructure operators.

Energy markets are changing in response to consumer demands and legislative mandates that seek to conserve resources, protect the consumer, and introduce greater competition by giving customers more choices.

The next generation of metering and data-exchange technologies is known as advanced metering technologies. AMI has the abilities to support bidirectional flow of information, enables more responsive sales and service departments and allows customer to make informed energy-consumption decisions in response to different price signals.

As utilities begin to feel increased legislative pressures to adapt their businesses to competitive markets and to support demand management, experts predict that AMI will fill the gap as an enabling technology.

Ultimately utilities will invest in comprehensive or selective AMI deployments to remain competitive despite lingering attempts to milk existing investments as they decline.

The following sections will describe how AMI helps utilities do the following activities:

  • Optimise revenues and demand
  • Make customer service more cost-effective
  • Enable Market Efficiency and Automation

OPTIMISE REVENUES AND DEMAND
AMI will not be able to change regulated prices, however; it can enable sales departments to create demand-response programmes and offer differentiated services on the basis of more refined customer segmentation.

SAP AMI Integration for Utilities enables utilities to process and analyse consumption profiles in real time. With AMI you can introduce different pricing schemes that will allow you to design products for better demand balancing and margin optimisation. Personalised supply contract can support complex billing schemes for real-time and time-of use pricing (based on seasonal, day, type, and on- and offpeak periods) incentives for non usage (curtailment agreements), power-quality services, street-lighting services, appliance control, customer services levels based on credit scores, or other criteria.

Not only will linking real-time consumption analysis to risk-basted consumer segmentation and more effective collection measures to assure revenue. Tailored rates combined with tailored collection strategies can change consumption behavior. This means greater price elasticity for differentiated services offerings.

MAKE CUSTOMER SERVICE MORE COST-EFFECTIVE
AMI technology allows utilities to effectively integrate processcentric energy and business data across different systems – including electronic meter systems (also called “smart meters”). Automated meter reading (AMR), meter data management (MDM) systems, customer information systems (CIS), and outage management systems (OMS). SAP AMI Integration for Utilities, available since November 2008 helps utilities execute the following tasks:

  • Read meters remotely
  • Bi-directional communication and control of Smart Meters
  • Offer billing services based on actual consumption data and meter reading
  • Automate the aggregation and transfer of energy data
  • More effectively manage customer service inquiries and disputes, with access to up-to-date profile data
  • Connect real-time consumption data to electronic customer self-services
  • More effectively identify faults and rapidly restore service on the basis of real-time readings of on-premise conditions and extended enterprise systems into the mobile field force
  • Automatically interpret and implement curtailment and disconnection/reconnection orders as a result of enforced collection measures

ENABLE MARKET EFFICIENCY AND AUTOMATION
With SAP AMI Integration for Utilities, utilities markets that are designed to promote competition will force energy providers to focus more intently on specific roles and business objectives, such as delivering excellence in customer service, achieving reliable meter and grid infrastructures, and providing meter reading services and value-added services. In order to make such markets work utilities will need collaborative and automated processes and enabling business IT, such as portal technologies, collaboration tools, integration brokers, energy data management applications, and market processing applications and repositories to exchange and monitor aggregated consumption information.

AMI serves this need with next-generation, process-centric data-exchange infrastructures with capabilities for two-way communication, high-capacity processing, near-real-time data, rule and context handling and audit tracking.

AMI promises to help utilities stay competitive in ways that older metering and data-exchange technologies simply cannot.

NEXT STEP
Learn more about how SAP can help meet the emerging demands for smart metering and AMI, please visit us on the web at http://www1.sap.com/industries/utilities/index.epx

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