One Size Doesn’t Fit All: EPAct 2005 and Smart Metering Technology

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff February 27, 2007

In 2006 Edison Electric Institute (EEI) commissioned Plexus Research Inc. , Boxborough, Mass., to develop a guide to “smart metering” and related issues in complying with requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

“Deciding on “Smart” Meters: The Technology Implications of Section 1252 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 ” is a 79-page guide that is already said to have helped utilities and regulatory bodies understand the technology, economic and strategic implications of EPAct 2005 and various implementation alternatives. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to meeting the Act’s metering requirements, which address innovative and time-dependent energy rates. Most utilities already have some experience with innovative rates. Many utilities already have modern two-way advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems in place for at least some of their customers. The full economic justification—the business case—varies widely, even among apparently similar utilities.

Smart metering refers to a meter and a meter data communications system: that is, an AMI system. Smart metering implies the ability of the utility to remotely and automatically acquire from a meter all data necessary to support a full range of innovative or peak-sensitive electric rates. Many smart metering systems provide customers the information they need to make better energy purchasing choices. Some also can operate remote load control devices at participating customers’ premises. Customers will experience enhanced service quality with fewer billing errors, more available information about their consumption, and more choices of alternative service options including time-of-use, dynamic peak rates, and demand response applications. In addition to enhancing service quality, AMI systems dramatically reduce the cost of meter reading and support many other high value functions, such as outage detection and restoration support, demand response, detection of energy theft, distribution automation, remote service disconnect/reconnect, etc.

EEI already has conducted a series of webcasts based on the guide to provide utilities and regulators a forum for presentation of the materials and an opportunity to discuss them with the Plexus authors.

In discussing the Guide, EEI’s Eric Ackerman observed that, “The topic of smart metering is on the front burner with our members and our affiliates. Regulators at all levels need to understand the technical implications of the Act on the utilities they oversee. We are pleased to be providing tools, like this report, and other EEI initiatives to constructively support our industry.”

“Smart metering is a complex topic all by itself,” noted Ralph Abbott, president of Plexus Research. “It becomes much more so when set against widely varying utility operating practices, diverse regulatory environments and existing utility investments in metering. We have extracted some practical lessons learned from 25 years of objectively assisting utilities with major remote automatic metering system decisions, and applied those lessons to the context of the latest industry trends and technologies. EEI and many of its member utilities have had a strong hand guiding our development of this guide. The results of this collaboration speak for themselves.”