THE ELECTRIC METER IS UNDERGOING CHANGE AT A FASTER AND INCREASINGLY ACCELERATED PACE. No longer the sleepy noncritical utility function, metering is now a critical part of both advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and the smart grid.
Given this rate of change, is your metering organization ready? Is your metering team ready? Does management realize that this transformation is happening? Don't get caught off guard.
Not long ago, the most serious problems for the turning disk meter (still read monthly by meter readers in many utilities) were slips, trips, falls, occasional over- or under-billing, and ongoing accuracy. Two decades ago, solid-state technology found its way into the turning disk meter. First offered were time-of-day and demand registers, followed by the total solid-state meter — initially in the polyphase application and then in single phase. While turning disk meters were once used by the majority of electric utility companies, times have changed. In fact, none of the major American meter manufacturers plans to sell new these devices beyond 2009.
Just as single-phase solid-state meters have been getting grounded over the last five years, they are suddenly thrust into an increasing list of hundreds of metering features supporting AMI and the smart grid. Service switches, outage/restoration notification and home-area networks are just a few biggies. And when you think of it, none of these features have anything to do with measurement.
Not only are there new metering features, there are also new stakeholders to satisfy. It isn't just reading, rates and billing anymore. Now it's also communications, IT, security, regulatory agencies, Sarbanes-Oxley, planning, outage management, standards committees, financial reporting, power quality, asset management, distributed generation, ISO reporting, and sales and marketing. And let's not forget the customer.
Whether you're a utility presently on the sideline or you're planning, deploying or fully operating AMI, you need to be prepared for change. The best way to prepare is to picture your utility there — with AMI and the smart grid — and ask, “How did we get here?” This answers the question, “What do we need to get here?”
These questions build your road map for technology, quality control, organizational design and personnel. Each of these need to adapt, change or be replaced in the new metering world. While technology change is often understood, changes to the organization and personnel are not.
PLANS FOR EXPANSION
As these changes take place in the meter industry, Utilimetrics is undergoing an exciting transformation. Our association is positioning itself for growth and expansion through expanded services, particularly in the areas of utility technology education, online resources, technology, advocacy and international programs. We plan to emphasize organizational effectiveness through improved board alignment, enhanced staff capability, and a three-year business planning model.
As we look ahead to the future, we have made the following changes to our organization.
A new management team
Our staff is comprised of professionals who are dedicated to the mission of education, collaboration and advocacy for utility technology solutions.
Several other changes have been introduced recently at Utilimetrics including a new and improved Web site with greater functionality, weekly e-newsletters, weekly public policy reports and Webinars.
Another way in which Utilimetrics is positioning itself for the future is through the launch of a new magazine called Utilimetrics Quarterly. This publication, which was first published in the fall of 2009, is a way for our organization to serve the needs of our members. Utilimetrics plans to feature articles that will help our members to do business smarter and more profitably. For example, we will feature industry news, Utilimetrics updates and articles written by thought leaders.
Next year, Utilimetrics plans to launch an education research foundation.
By making these changes and offering more resources, Utilimetrics is positioning the organization for the future of the AMI industry. In order to not get caught off guard, utilities also should be proactive instead of reactive. Rather than simply watching change take place, companies should participate as much as possible.
Rick Stevens (email@example.com) is Utilimetrics board chairman.
Joel Hoiland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is CEO of Utilimetrics.
David Scott (email@example.com) is Utilimetrics board vice chairman.