According to the FERC’s latest review of demand response and advanced metering, in the last year utilities announced new deployments of more than 40 million advanced meters between 2007 and 2010. “Utilities are signing contracts, filing AMI plans with regulators, operating AMI pilot programmes, issuing RFPs for AMI infrastructure or consulting assistance, and announcing plans to implement AMI,” wrote the authors of the report.

Currently smart meters are installed in about 6 percent of homes and business in the USA, but if all of the new projected deployments occur then the market penetration could be over 20 percent by the end of 2010. Moreover according to industry analysts by the end of 2012, 40 percent of all customers in the USA are likely to have some kind of advanced metering, with about a third of these customers opting for flexible pricing options such as time-of-use tariffs.

This trend was very apparent earlier in the year at the Metering, Billing/CIS America 2007 in San Antonio, Texas, with smart metering, and the issues and challenges around deployment, dominating discussions there. In the keynote address Al Lujan, executive vice president for Energy Delivery and Solutions at CPS Energy, explained that AMI was being driven by a combination of regulatory impacts, new technology impacts, customer impacts and valueadded services. And, Lujan predicted, in turn it will force many changes: “AMI creates terabytes of information that the utility can use, and customers are clamouring for information that they can use.”

Delegates heard that the size of the utility is no barrier to smart metering. While it is the big utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) in California, with endpoints running into the millions, that are making the biggest headlines, the potential for AMI is no less important in the many smaller municipal utilities or cooperatives, with endpoints in the tens of thousands or even thousands. It all comes down to the business case that can be made – and that will be unique for each utility.

The second key trend that has emerged in the past year has been the increasing focus on areas beyond the smart meter, such as smart grids and home area networks (HAN), with new vendors and service offerings appearing and much attention being given to HAN connectivity in particular.

“AMI is the key, allowing communication through the electric or gas meter into the home, said Terry Mohn, technology strategist at San Diego Gas & Electric Company and panel moderator, opening Metering America 2007’s closing panel discussion on this theme. “It will allow communication with devices such as thermostats inside the home, opening the way for the provision of demand response and other new services to customers.”

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Notwithstanding the mood of optimism and energy at Metering America, several issues and challenges were highlighted. Utilities have investment in their existing metering infrastructure, and now are looking at potentially further major investment in new infrastructure. Then there are the many technological and other deployment decisions to be made: Meters from one supplier or several suppliers? What communications medium should be adopted? How will existing systems integrate with the AMI? What is the life expectancy of the technology and its risk of obsolescence? What is the status of interoperability and open standards? And what about the meter data management system that is essential to handle the mass of data that will flow?

A year on the industry will be able to review these and other questions that will come under the spotlight at Metering, Billing/CIS America 2008. The event, which will take place in San Diego, CA, from 19-23 April 2008 under the theme “Metering the smart grid for smart customers”, is expected to attract some 700 industry participants, including 100 high-level speakers, and 50 exhibitors from a cross section of North American and international electricity, water and gas utilities.

The event will include a multi-track programme that will enable attendees to match their information and learning needs at sessions dedicated to Regulatory Issues (Why?), Transitory Issues (How?) and Case Studies (What’s Now?), and to gain a glimpse into what is coming in The Future (What’s Next?). Highlights include:

  • Metering America: The premier metering forum for utility leaders, covering issues such as optimising integrated systems, AMR, AMI, TOU, BPL, demand response, energy management and efficiency, and more.
  • Billing/CIS America: Focussed on the optimisation of CIS and billing systems for customer-focused utilities and customer management solutions.
  • Water track: A dedicated track identifying the key issues relating to water AMR/AMI implementation.
  • Smart sessions: Exclusively themed daybreak meetings facilitating debate and discussions.
  • Home Area Networks (HAN) pre-conference workshop: A forward-looking workshop investigating the prospective smart home.
  • AMI Star Wars pre-conference workshop: Featuring issues around cyber security and data privacy.
  • MDM America post-conference workshop: A dedicated session with focussed insight on MDM challenges and solutions for utilities including MDM and the customer, data repositories and how to manage them, data analytics, MDM and CIS, and data mining.
  • Exhibition: Featuring the latest technologies on offer.

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