AMP AMI Program5 min read
By Zachary Hoffman, Manager of Communications and Publications
Throughout the mid-2000s and 2010s, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) became more prevalent. Older types of meter technology required meter readers to manually read meters and record the data provided. With the introduction of AMI technology, the labor-heavy task of meter reading became much more efficient, reliable and informative via remote meter reads.
Many utilities accepted the new technology and began to build strategies to introduce AMI meters to their customers. Public power was an early adapter, recognizing the benefits of efficiency and accuracy that AMI could provide.
The emergence of AMI also brought about many new vendors and service offerings. As some early adopter AMP member communities experienced, the onset of AMI installations too often resulted in frustration, lapse promises from vendors and support services negligence.
Through discussions with AMP Members that partnered with some of the early vendors selling AMI meters and related applications, AMP learned of several failings, costly and complex processes, and near dishonest agreements that went unserved, causing many municipalities to pause and hesitate to move forward with AMI adoption.
In response to Members’ experiences, the AMP Board of Trustees directed AMP staff to explore AMI technology and determine how AMP could assist Members to make sure such projects would be more successful in the future. As a result, the AMP Smart Grid Advisory Committee was established in 2011, and the AMP AMI Program launched in 2016.
AMP’s AMI Program combines leading technologies with front- and back-end expertise, while also allowing municipalities to install both electric and water metering. Most importantly, AMP’s program provides participating municipalities with a level of support that is often missing in AMI deployments.
“AMP’s program uniquely ties together and offers as one package all the various technologies and expertise that other programs include through separate vendors,” said Branndon Kelley, AMP chief strategy officer and senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “We are there from the beginning of design, helping your community get enrolled, all the way through operations. We don’t have any unique technology or operations, but what we do have is a layer of expertise and assurance on top of it to ensure that your program is going to work the way it is supposed to throughout the life of the technology.”
Rather than requiring municipal participants to purchase both a front- and back-end solution, AMP partners with Itron, a company that offers products and services relating to AMI metering and smart city applications, and ElectSolve, a division of IPKeys that provides data management and platforms for managing and integrating utility data. In combination, these two partners allow AMP to provide industry-leading services in a single package.
Itron handles the network and endpoints portion of the system, including meters, communication modules, access points and relays. The system uses a mesh network, wherein meters communicate with different relays and access points so they have multiple paths to send data back to the head-end of the system, providing utilities with a great deal of redundancy. This network can be integrated into a number of different systems, including smart street lighting, smart thermostats, electric vehicle charging and more.
ElectSolve handles the meter data management system, which serves as the hub for the utility — and potentially its customers — to access system data such as electric usage. This system stores meter usage and event data, provides access to analytics and reporting, and facilities the billing process. ElectSolve’s system can be integrated into a number of systems, including workforce management tools, geographic information systems, outage management systems and more.
AMP oversees the deployment, which generally occurs over an eight-to-12-month period. During deployment, AMP coordinates with vendors and installers to ensure that installation goes smoothly, while providing the utility with continuous support. Once complete, the system is fully hosted, supported and secured by AMP.
AMP’s program is the result of years of study. During the program pilot, a broad spectrum of AMP and member officials analyzed different metering and network technologies and offerings, considering the benefits of each before deciding on the final components for AMP’s program.
Member feedback helped outline a program that differentiated itself in several meaningful ways:
- Hosted, managed and integrated – The meter data management system and AMI backend operations are hosted and managed by AMP’s project dedicated IT staff.
- Advanced cybersecurity – AMP provides cybersecurity assurances, including intrusion prevention, data encryption and 24/7 monitoring — ensuring a safe and secure system.
- Support and accountability – While a utility may face issues in dealing with a third-party vendor deploying AMI independently, AMP ensures that deployments are done right, on time and within the not-to-exceed cost range.
- Service level agreements – AMP prioritizes clearly stated agreements defining metrics, responsibilities and expectations, and ensures that the AMI system works as intended and that utility staff can use the technology.
- Complete solution – AMP’s solution uses industry leading partners and mature technologies, all of which were studied in detail. From electric meters to back-end data management, participants can be assured the technology will work.
- Purpose built for public power – The program was designed in conjunction with a cross section of AMP Members to ensure that it included the technology, features and functions most important to them. It leverages economies of scale to ensure that industry leading solutions can be deployed in communities of any size.
- Stand out performance – Another aspect that sets the AMP AMI Program apart is its ability to seamlessly expand and improve. This ensures that the program will provide utilities with a platform for the future.
AMP’s AMI systems can track usage in real time, which allows for billing concepts that are beneficial to utilities and their customers. Pre-paid billing allows customers to pay their bill in advance, receiving notice from the system when they need to alter their electric usage in order to avoid more charges. Time-of-use rates allow utilities to charge customers different prices for electricity, depending on the time they use it, helping to spread demand out across the day and regularly flatten demand peaks. Both concepts are difficult to execute using traditional mechanical meters but with AMI are just an application away.
AMP’s AMI systems will also serve a number of additional purposes in the coming years, as they allow for the quick deployment of new applications, such as smart parking, air quality sensors, waste collection monitors, acoustic sensors and more.
“The natural evolution of AMI technology is to become more efficient and effective and add new features and functions as time goes on,” Kelley said. “The beauty of AMP’s program is that participating Members don’t necessarily have to worry about that, even if they deployed many years ago. Those features and functions become available and updated in the system because we manage the upgrades.”
AMP continues to work with Members and vendor partners to assess new applications and functions that can help to meet the needs of Members. This evolving system ensures that installing today does not leave a community exposed tomorrow.
To learn more about the AMP AMI Program or to enquire about a potential deployment, contact an AMP member marketing representative or email [email protected].