Putting a face to a name is the best way to remember someone, and hence Metering International has decided to take you on a quick tour of ten Texas utilities – giving a small taste of their background, metering operations, challenges and vision for the future.

Andres E. Carvallo

Austin Energy

Austin Energy is owned by the city and is a municipal utility. It does all the billing for the city and on the product side sells both traditional and green energy.

Metering

The company currently services about 900,000 customers and 41,000 businesses in a 1,300 km2 radius. There are roughly 370,000 meters out in the field — 130,000 are AMR and the rest are manual, but these will be phased out over the next two years. The AMR meters are provided by Cellnet.

Challenges

Austin Energy is now 80% through its wireless and SOA transformation programme. This has been a huge challenge, particularly in the area of change management, which impacts people, cultures, skills, pay and responsibility. Systems have been developed online for Austin Energy staff to constantly monitor the progress of this ongoing transformation, enabling them to feel a part of the process.

Vision

The integration of energy and information, and to have demand equal supply.

David Hooper and Gilbert Hughes

AEP Texas

AEP Texas is investor-owned and is part of America Electric Power. We provide a service to approximately 900,000 end users, and we provide usage data for the market for all of these. The services we offer include transmission, distribution and the market services (metering).

Metering

AEP has a mix of meters, depending on the industry type and the load. There are 210,000 radio frequency (RF) meters for residential customers, about 13,000 of which are power line carriers (PLCs). There were some start-up issues with the PLCs, but we have had very good service from the RF meters. AEP uses General Electric for their RF meters, and Itron/Suptron meters. There are three mobile collectors, which are from Neptune. AEP uses third party contractors to install AMR – a company called Texas Metering & Device.

Challenges

The challenge is in trying to effectively comply with the new terms and conditions and recently established operations for delivery companies. AEP’s challenge is to establish specific timeframes to service our customers. As AEP receives 65,000 orders per month – the majority of which are connect, disconnect, street lights requests, etc. – all these have a time limit and need to be responded to.

Vision

The difficulty we face is that commissions are currently working on an advanced metering rule which will essentially outline an AMI strategy and specifications to help guide AEP Texas. This should be done in the first quarter of 2007. AEP has not installed any new meters recently, as we are waiting for the results of these rules and specifications.

Bryan Texas

Bryan Texas Utilities

Bryan began assuming control of electric services by contract in 1909, and in 1919 the city purchased a power plant to serve the town’s then 768 customers. Today BTU has 47,000 domestic and commercial customers; some customers, however, have multiple meters.

Metering

BTU’s meters out in the field are mostly electromechanical, although some are electronic, and they all have to be read manually. The main meter suppliers are Itron and Landis+Gyr, but we are not tied to a particular vendor or vendors – if a meter meets the specifications, it will be used. AMR has been investigated, but the company has decided not to introduce the technology at this stage.

Challenges

Growth is a challenge from the metering side – as new customers arrive, new meters have to be installed. It also impacts on billing processes, as there will be more bills to look at and clarify.

Vision

BTU’s mission is “to give its customers exceptional service with reliable, competitively priced electricity while acting as a responsible and caring member of the community.”

James Sheppard

CenterPoint Energy

CenterPoint Energy started in the 1880s, but has changed structures along the way. We are an investorowned utility, with 5.5 million gas and electric customers – in Houston alone there are 3.1 million customers.

Metering

We have a good mixture of solid state and electromechanical meters; we prefer solid state. Our meter readers are able to read individual meters that are equipped with communication modules. About 80% of our Minnesota meter reading is automated with a drive-by solution. We serve about 2 million electric meters and 3.5 million gas meters and use a mixture of suppliers for electric meters, Itron, GE, and Landis+Gyr, while our gas meters are largely from American, Lancaster or Sprague.

Challenges

Following deregulation, our electric business was separated into three companies — retail, generation and a transmission and a distribution wires service company. Metering remained with the transmission and distribution company, which is now a part of CenterPoint Energy and is still regulated. The retail companies competing in CenterPoint Energy’s electric service area became its customers. The end-customer belongs to the retailers. Discussions with electric consumers are restricted, and are the domain of their retailer. This was a huge change in moving to deregulation after a long career working with consumers.

Vision

I’d like to see an intelligent grid serving our system. The Texas electric retail market will certainly benefit from improved service reliability, timely and accurate meter reading data, quick service response and end consumers empowered with usage information and history that is unique to them.

City of Seguin

City of Seguin

The City of Seguin is a city-owned municipal utility that provides electric, water, sewer and garbage services to its customers, as well as other services. Currently the City of Seguin has 6,703 residential electric customers and 1,304 commercial electric customers. The water customer count is slightly lower because of master water meters to apartment complexes.

Metering

I would say 80% of our meters are electromechanical but we are continuing to change these out to electronic as they fail, need to be upgraded or at a customer’s request. We use turbine and combine meters for the water. Our meters are supplied by Hughes, Priester Supply, Wesco, Texas Metering Device for electric meters. We use Hughes, ACT, Ferguson Municipal, and Morrison for the water meters. We are presently looking at different types of AMR solutions and hope to have one installed for water and electric meters within the next two years.

Challenges

Keeping up with new technologies, load growth and meeting the needs of the growing customer base.

Vision

To continue to maintain, and distribute electricity through the utility delivery system in a safe, economical and efficient manner and distribute a safe, economical, and adequate supply of water in an efficient manner as well as provide quality service for all of the City of Seguin customers.

Anthony L Halkins

CPS Energy

CPS is a public owned utility that started operations in 1942 — 14% of its revenue goes back to the city for things such as rubbish and transportation. I joined CPS Energy in July 2005 specifically to install and implement the advanced metering infrastructure. We are piloting the programme at the moment and we are going through a budget process to get funding approval to put the process in place.

Metering

The residential meters are electromechanical – we are modifying specifications to move to solid state. We will be implementing solid state meters with AMI. Commercial/ industrial meters are currently solid state. There are 42,000 commercial and industrial meters, and about 600,000 residential, supplied by Itron, Landis+Gyr, Elster and GE. Challenges We are trying to bring advanced services to customers and are working on strategies. Even small customers are asking for data, so we have to adopt new technology to improve the customer and business processes.

Vision

I’d like to see CPS Energy having a multiple, advanced metering infrastructure feeding into a data management warehouse system, interfaced into the various CPS back office applications, i.e. billing, customer management. This is a typical industry vision! That way as new technologies come on board, we can implement them easily.

georgetown

Georgetown

Georgetown began its operations in 1883, and today we are technically a municipal utility system. There are about 18,300 electric customers, of which 98.5% are read by AMR. In water there are 17,900 billed customers – 96% are ERT and read by AMR. Most of the old meters have been retrofitted.

Metering

Georgetown has an ageing AMR system so we were one of the early adopters and were Itron’s only fixed network on water on their first generation side. In 2001 we added the mobile collector for several reasons – mainly because of the growth rate and the cost of expanding the fixed network.

Challenges

Georgetown is rolling out 1,000 meters per year in water and electric for new customers. This is challenging because of a lack of staffing, plus the fact that over half the meters are in construction phase and not ready yet.

Vision

We need to stay current with AMR technology, provide meter data to our customers and use this meter data to improve our utility operations. We are working with Itron for the next generation of our AMR systems.

Damon Fisher

Lower Colorado River Authority

LCRA — an agency of the state — was formed in 1934 to control flooding along the Colorado River. LCRA now provides wholesale electricity to approximately 43 cities and co-ops in a 53 county area in central Texas.

Metering

In Transmission Services, our billing meters are at the substation level. We use solid state high-end meters, which are interrogated via landline. We cannot take advantage of AMR because of the distance between substations but we are looking into Ethernet possibilities. We support five different types of solid state high-end meters in our transmission system, supplied by Siemens, Transdata, Power Measurement and Scientific Columbus.

Challenges

Since deregulation, we’ve had to increase our staff and change systems and processes. ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) is new in its role and we try to keep up with them. But meeting our customers’ electricity and water needs is our major challenge.

Vision

The mission of the LCRA is to provide reliable, low-cost utility and public services in partnership with our customers and communities, and to use our leadership and environmental authority to ensure the protection and constructive use of the area’s natural resources.

Randy Wuters

San Antonio River Authority

SARA began work in the utility business in 1963 and is a water and wastewater utility provider which has five main service areas: utility services, water resources, water quality and environmental services, flood control, and park services.

Metering

We use more than 400 small turbine type residential water meters supplied by Ferguson in San Antonio and Unique of the city of Victoria. These are all read manually. We will have to grow to justify doing anything different than reading meters manually. Our focus for the next several years will be to make improvements to pumps, storage and distribution system infrastructure. In the future we may be able to consider automated reading.

Challenges

One of our key challenges is ensuring we have a reliable system and that it is efficiently operated. Utilities are supported by rate payers, and we want to keep rates affordable. We must encourage our customers to conserve water and to be responsible stewards of this limited resource. In keeping our systems reliable, we have a capital improvement program that we continuously update.

Vision

All our efforts are directed towards protecting and preserving the resources of the San Antonio River Basin.

Donald Naiser

WCEC

WCEC started operations in 1938. We are a co-op, owned by our 3,500+ members. We mainly provide electricity, but we also offer additional services.

Metering

We have about 5,600 AMR, electromechanical and solid state meters in the field. Cannon Technologies supplies the threephase meters, and the AMR meters come from Texas Meter & Device.

Challenges

Keeping up with technology! But we are ahead of some other co-ops of a similar size. We are getting a mapping system and communications for our fleet vehicles and have an ESRI electronic mapping system. Multi-Speak will help us tie our billing, AMR and mapping all together, which will allow all the customer information and mapping to be available to our workers in the field.

Vision

I foresee credit card type meter billing. I also see web-based meters that allow you to remotely read the meter through a web interface. We are looking at putting mapping, billing and meter reading together in one area via Multi-Speak. We are also looking at an outage management system, and we have goals in terms of automation and dispatch.