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Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career. 

Anthony L Hawkins

I joined CPS Energy in July last year. Prior to that I was with Austin Energy for 15 years – I worked in EMS/SCADA for about six years, with metering for about seven years, and I spent one year on distribution.

I was an intern at Austin Energy and I ended up working there when I came out of college. I was part of a team that implemented an EMS/SCADA system with full graphics, and got involved in the PC world – mainly enterprise and name frame applications. 

I decided to do something different after six years, and went to learn metering. In Austin Energy I did specs for the metering section for a handheld meter reading system for Y2K. We also implemented ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) pole settlement metering to measure energy flows in and out of Austin – this was a big undertaking. 

In 2002 we implemented the fixed network over Austin to read 125,000 electric meters. This cost $7m for the project (the whole contract was worth $37m) and I am happy to say that it was running at 99.8% high reading when I left.

After that I moved on to taking over the distribution operations for the north side of Austin, and I assisted with the design and construction of distribution operations.

Then in 2005 I got called to San Antonio – the management from Austin had already moved there, and wanted me to join them. I especially moved here to install/implement the advanced metering infrastructure.

We are piloting the program at the moment (it was piloted at Itron as well) and we are going through a budget process to get funding approval to put the process in place.

CPS is part of a strategic growth team – we are looking to market its transmission and distribution systems.

As far as personal qualifications are concerned, I studied at Texas ANM University in College Station. I have a BSc in electrical engineering and technology, and I’m currently doing a Masters in public administration at Texas State University. I am also taking courses in project management, as well as AMR courses, to keep up with what’s going on.

Please tell us a bit about your utility.

We started operations in 1942, offering electric and gas services. CPS is a public owned utility that contributes some of its profits to the city – 14% of revenue goes back to the city for things such as rubbish and transportation.

How has deregulation impacted your utility and your customers?

The customers are now protected! Internally we are making strategic plans to prepare for the open market – it has impacted on how we strategise and spend our money.

What are some of the key challenges your utility faces?

Providing added services to make customers become energy savvy – but they want information! We are trying to bring advanced services to customers and are working on strategies.

In the past it was all done manually, but now we are moving to automation by introducing smart meters etc. Even small customers are asking for data, so we have to adopt new technology to improve the customer and business processes.

Please give us a short overview of the metering operations.

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. They are supplied by Itron, Landis+Gyr, Elster and GE.

How do you disconnect them if necessary?

At the moment this is done manually, but we are piloting a remote disconnect feature.

How are meters read?

We have a combination of manual and drive-by readings. At the moment, 260,000 meters are read using drive-by.

What procedures do you follow when doing upgrades/replacements?

We have a process of sampling and testing of information, whereby we pull samples of meters out and do a test.

Do you outsource any business processes or operations (such as meter reading, billing)?

No.

Please give us a short overview of your billing operations and some of your customer management/service initiatives.

All bill processing is done in house, and customers are billed monthly. We are piloting a project involving online bill payments, including evaluating the cost of this service.

What is your vision for your utility?

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.

Finally, what are your personal interests?

Tracking/field, golf, and spending time with my family – my wife and two boys.

Thank you for your input.