T&D World Magazine

Indiana Utility Reduces Costs with Wireless AMR

Anderson, Indiana’s city-owned Municipal Light and Power Utility and Tropos Networks have announced that Anderson’s automated meter reading (AMR) wireless network for monitoring water and electricity usage is significantly reducing the costs caused by the inaccuracies of manual meter reading and improving overall customer satisfaction.

The city expects a net savings of $18.7 million over a 15-year period. Additional benefits are vastly improved meter reading and billing accuracy, immediate electric outage detection enabling pinpointing of affected areas, and more efficient restoration service.

“We decided to implement a wireless AMR solution to eliminate the inaccuracies and lost costs of manual meter reading,” said Darren Grile, network administrator for Anderson Municipal Light and Power which currently owns, builds and runs the network for the city. “We began to see almost immediate financial benefits as soon as we replaced the meters and also tremendously improved our customer service.”

Three years ago, the city decided to automate the electric and water meter reading system to solve the problems caused by checking and reporting power meters by hand. Customers were enduring the inaccuracies of estimated billing when inclement weather, pets, or locked gates prevented meter readers from getting access to meters -- in one month, 15 percent of the utility bills were estimated rather than actual. Some customers were unpleasantly surprised when the corrected bill arrived – and complained to the mayor or city council.

In addition, like all utility providers, Anderson’s depended on customers to report when there was a problem with a service caused by ice storms or high winds. Because the utility relied on customers to report problems, response for repairs was not optimal.

The State of Indiana recently enabled a new funding method that supports municipal utility conservation programs, and Anderson was selected to participate. The program provided the money for automated water and electrical meters, and for the network to link them together.

Anderson selected an AMR solution from Aclara. The system was deployed using small meter transmission units (MTUs) that are integrated into both the electric and water meters. The MTUs read the meter and forward the data wirelessly through a Tropos network to a data collection unit (DCU) backhauled into the city’s fiber optic network, providing access to the central office’s back end system. The AMR system provides the central office with real-time status on power and water usage for each customer. The AMR system also has the ability to detect water leaks, so repairs can be made quickly, reducing waste and other potential problems.

“We looked at a number of wireless router providers,” said Grile. “Ultimately, we chose Tropos Networks’ solution because it is the proven market leading platform that provides the best price for performance. In fact, the wireless portion of the network cost us less than what we originally anticipated.”

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