T&D World Magazine

Edison Announces Advanced New Meter Will Reach Customers Sooner Than Expected

Southern California Edison (SCE) has informed state officials the utility's advanced metering initiative (AMI), a plan to replace five million residential and small commercial customer meters with first-in-the-industry, two-way home communications devices, is ahead of schedule. The speed-up primarily resulted from assurances by the metering industry it can meet SCE's request faster than expected for a new generation of meters with advanced customer benefits.

"We have asked meter manufacturers for enhanced meter functions and capabilities that provide customers with significantly more control over their energy use and costs," said SCE Senior Vice President of Customer Service Lynda Ziegler. "The industry's response has been impressive, and we believe the devices being developed could benefit every home and small business we serve."

Two trade organizations are citing SCE's meter initiative as the industry's leader. Utility Planning Network, a membership-based peer group of utility professionals worldwide that facilitates the annual Metering Awards Program, has recognized SCE's entry as winner of the "AMR Initiative by a North American investor-owned utility" category. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has recognized SCE's approach to advanced metering as the industry leadership position. SCE is the first U.S. utility to adopt EPRI's IntelliGrid Architecture for a system-wide advanced metering deployment.

The SCE meter initiative is part of a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) study of the feasibility of replacing the state's residential and small commercial electricity meters, that currently measure total energy use by the month, with more advanced devices that measure usage by the hour. Once such meters are installed, the commission would implement the same type of time-of-use rates for the state's residential and small business customers that have been available to larger business customers for years. Such rates will allow SCE to provide customers with pricing options that can lower their costs.

Subject to approval by the CPUC, SCE plans to begin field testing the new, advanced meters next year in 5,000 to 25,000 homes and small businesses, and fully deploy the units between 2008 and 2012.

Features and benefits of SCE's next-generation meter are that:

-- SCE's new meters would provide a communications link with other household devices such as personal computers, feeding PCs real-time energy information that helps customers control usage and costs.

-- The devices would link to household and business devices required for rate discount "demand response" programs.

-- The one million SCE customers who relocate each year would be able to request that their service be turned on and turned off when it is most convenient.

-- The new SCE meter would provide a communications link to the smart thermostats and appliances of the future, allowing customers to automatically manage costs.

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