Advanced Metering Infrastructure4 min read
By Zachary Hoffman, Manager of Communications and Publications
Beginning in the early 2000s, utilities began to take note of the increased operational efficiency that advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) offered. AMI systems freed up labor, limited system losses and allowed for easier monitoring of electric systems. This increased efficiency, in combination with grant funding opportunities, drove the adoption of AMI throughout the United States. As utilities across the country began to realize the benefits of the technology, the federal government took steps to drive adoption by including funding and incentives for AMI deployment in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
The many changes rapidly occurring in the utility industry made it clear how significant AMI technology would become.
In an effort to further drive the adoption of AMI technology, the federal government began to introduce funding and incentives for AMI deployment, including through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. A number of AMP member communities took advantage of initial funding opportunities and contracted with various vendors.
For many communities installing AMI systems, problems occurred almost immediately. Deployments ran into lengthy delays, vendors failed to deliver on the capabilities that they initially promised, and many systems turned out to be far more complicated to run than expected. From broken meters and price shock to limited functionality and failing systems, many communities had extremely negative experiences with their newly installed AMI systems.
“We had several Members that received funding, as well as some that just went ahead and funded their own deployment,” said Branndon Kelley, chief strategy officer and senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “What we heard was that the results were not ideal and that they ran into difficulties in dealing with vendors or achieving the benchmarks they were promised when they contracted for their systems. Our Members were very vocal about the negative issues they were facing with their new AMI systems and the vendors they had been working with, and many inquired about how AMP might be able to help.”
Since the AMP AMI Program launched in 2016, it has fully deployed in 12 communities, including 11 AMP member communities, in total representing approximately 123,000 meters. Additionally, several more deployments are planned or underway.
While all of AMP’s IT Department contributes to the successful deployment and management of these AMI networks, the AMI team serves as the core contributors. Under the leadership of Kelley, and Jared Price, vice president of information technology and chief information officer, the team includes:
- Brandon Poddany, AMI program manager — responsible for management and oversight of the AMP AMI Program, including delivery, deployment and ongoing support.
- Aaron Neville, systems engineer AMI/meter data management system — responsible for the maintenance and support of background systems, and the meter data management system.
- Ryan Thompson, AMI operator — responsible for day-to-day operations of AMI network software, head-end communications and the member meter/billing interface.
“We take pride in serving as an extension of our Members’ staff, which I think is something that no other AMI vendors can offer,” said Poddany. “We provide a level of support that you can’t find anywhere else. There is real value in the relationships that we have with Members and the ongoing support that we can provide to them.”
For many participating Members, the ongoing support that AMP offers has been paramount.
“One of the chief benefits of being in the AMI program through AMP is the support you get,” said Steve Morrison, Borough of Ephrata director of utilities and AMP Board of Trustees member. “We are not using some third-party vendor where you are spending an hour and a half on hold trying to get an IT guy. If I shoot an email over to Brandon Poddany and an hour goes by before he responds, that’s a delayed response. AMP’s job is to care about the member communities and so you get 100 percent support every time you call.”
That support manifests itself well before a deployment is complete. AMP’s AMI team helps to manage the different parties involved in each AMI installation, and heavily leverages its relationships with vendors to ensure successful deployments.
“So many deployments are unsuccessful because the vendor is there to sell you something and then move on to their next goal as fast as possible,” said Price. “With AMP, we serve as an advocate for our Members. If something isn’t right, we will be the ones fighting on their behalf to make it right.”
AMP’s AMI team continuously works to refine this phased deployment approach, working to ensure that systems are successful. Currently, phases include initiation, setup, onboarding, certification, validation and system acceptance testing.
“We deploy our software in phases to ensure that the integration is correct the first time and that we meet the needs of the municipality,” said Poddany. “By the time we’re in the validation phase, everything has been tested; we are certain that we are meeting the Member’s expectations, and the system is ready to go. It’s an effective and efficient way to deploy the technology and it puts the subscribing Member in a position to succeed.”
Recently, the City of New Castle, a Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation member community, entered one of the final phases of their deployment, which focuses on the integration of systems.
“AMP’s AMI team has been great to work with and the project is moving along smoothly,” said Scott Blomquist, general manager/secretary for the New Castle Municipal Services Commission. “The phased deployment process has worked very well, and I look forward to the completion of the project. AMP has kept us well informed through weekly communication meetings and has addressed any questions we have had. The scope of the project is well defined, and the team members are true professionals. They do a great job keeping the venders and contractors committed to the timeline with any unexpected delays well communicated as early as possible.”
At the time of publishing, the deployment in New Castle is nearing the certification phase, which places the project around three quarters of the way to complete. Deployment and testing of electric and water equipment is expected to begin soon.
According to a study by Mordor Intelligence, a global market intelligence and advisory firm, AMI adoption rates are expected to grow by as much as 11.6 percent by 2028. As this growth continues, the AMP AMI team will continue to offer Members a best-in-class option for AMI deployment.
Members who are interested in learning more about the AMP AMI Program or a potential deployment are encouraged to contact their AMP member marketing representative or to email the AMI team directly at [email protected].