T&D World Magazine

Southern California Edison Expects Advanced Metering RFPs to Set New U.S. Standard for Cost-Effectiveness

Southern California Edison (SCE) has issued requests for proposals to supply the advanced, two-way meter communications system the utility intends to install at approximately five million homes and businesses.

The RFPs require that bids include the largest array of customer service features of any advanced metering solicitation by a U.S. utility. Pre-qualified bidders expected to participate have met SCE’s initial technical capability requirements.

Prior to issuing the RFPs, SCE conducted a year-long collaborative effort with meter and communications companies resulting in industry predictions it can provide SCE with a more robust metering system than previous off-the-shelf systems, and at an attractive cost. This collaborative approach was so successful SCE has shortened its advanced metering project timeline by 12 months.

“Advanced metering will be the most sweeping change in the way SCE and its customers manage electricity use in Edison’s 120-year history,” said Alan Fohrer, SCE chief executive officer. “It will provide new ways to control costs and improve service response.”

The first of SCE’s RFPs issued this week invites participants to bid on supplying five million meters and the secure two-way wireless information transfers. The second solicits bids on an advanced meter data management system to support the new infrastructure. Common features of utility advanced metering RFPs include the requirement that meters measure usage hourly, rather than monthly, and use a wireless network to communicate usage information, eliminating the need for manual meter reading.

SCE is the first U.S. utility to issue RFPs requiring that suppliers go beyond these basic features to include the following as standard equipment:

  • Integrated remote service-activation technology allowing customers who are moving to order their new service instantly instead of scheduling a field service representative to do so on-site at a home or business.
  • Open standards-based design and assured compatibility with the next generation of smart thermostats and appliances that will be capable of automatically responding to customer energy usage and cost preferences.
  • Assurance of long-term remote upgrade compatibility as technology advances are made that benefit customers and reduce utility costs included in customer rates.

“Once our new metering system is installed, customers will know more and have more control over their energy costs,” said Lynda Ziegler, SCE senior vice president of customer service. “For example, customers will be able to program the next generation of communicating thermostats and appliances to automatically respond to their preferences for energy use during more expensive peak usage periods.”

SCE is requesting bids from potential providers of the database management system needed for advanced metering. Each of the potential suppliers was selected based on their ability to deliver the products and services needed. Bids must be received by Jan. 15, 2007, for the database management system and by Feb. 13, 2007, for the meters and communications infrastructure. After selecting a short list of most attractive finalists, SCE will negotiate and sign final contracts. The RFPs ask for initial product to be delivered by winning bidders beginning in February 2007.

Subject to approval of the next phase of its advanced metering project by the CPUC, SCE plans to begin field testing its new, advanced meter system during the summer of 2007 in as many as 5000 homes. Full scale deployment of the meter system will take place between 2009 and 2012.

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