Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Accordingly, a 'genius' is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.
- Thomas Edison
Texas AMI: An Advanced Metering Update From The 'Big 3'

By Jon T. Brock, Desert Sky Group, LLC

January 10, 2012


Market forecasts have indicated a growing advanced meter outlook with the U.S. market peaking and declining while other international markets pick up the new growth.  Most of these market forecasts are based upon sales or shipments but not deployed advanced meters in production.  Late last year I attended the Smart Grid RoadShow in Corpus Christi, TX where AEP, Oncor, and CenterPoint Energy gave an update of their advanced metering deployments in the state of Texas.  The luncheon panel discussed the status (as of November 2011) of the deployed advanced meters, not shipments.  At the time of the panel, the Smart Meter Texas web portal reported over 4 million advanced meters registered in the state providing 15-minute interval data to the Texas market.


AEP, Oncor, and CenterPoint Energy are by no means the only advanced meter deployments in the state of Texas.  There are many others contributing to the statewide effort including but not limited to Austin Energy, TNMP, CPS Energy, to name a few.  The luncheon panelists were Jeff Stracener, Manager AMI, AEP, Jon Pettit, AMS Program Manager, Oncor, and Corrie Morales, AMS Support Supervisor/Electric Market Operations, CenterPoint Energy.


CenterPoint Energy started with a 10,000 advanced meter pilot project in 2006 and had approximately 1.5 million advanced meters deployed with a scheduled completion date of June 2012.  AEP began looking at advanced metering in 2007 and had 400,000 of approximately 1 million advanced meters deployed.  Oncor had approximately 2.1 million advanced meters deployed on its way to 3.2 million and is deploying at 8,000 per month.


The panelists entertained multiple questions from the audience.  One such question involved what concerns you the most with your advanced metering deployment?  Panelists expressed concern over the complexity of integrating systems in order to meet market requirements.  Texas is an unregulated state and each of the panelists represents the meter asset owner, or the regulated distribution utility.  The state has many market requirements for passing data such as meter read information between market participants via a “centralized data hub.”  Ensuring that multiple systems talk to each other in a smooth fashion to meet market requirements was a major concern of the panelists.

After deployment, what are your plans to take advantage of the network you have just deployed?


AEP, Oncor, and CenterPoint Energy are all focused on successful deployments.  After such deployments, the utilities expressed an interest in analyzing the new data coming in from the advanced meters to aid in load profiling purposes.  Some expressed a need to redo and optimize business processes that change or are new as a result of advanced metering and the data it provides. 

What are the lessons from a deployment in progress at this time?


While doing a great job on logistics for deploying advanced meters, one utility expressed the need to better prepare the field technicians for troubleshooting issues that they have never encountered before.  Such issues include problems with the advanced meter itself or the network that the advanced meter uses.  Keeping the affected business units involved throughout the deployment was a good lesson learned.  Several utilities used affected business units for user acceptance testing, or what is called UAT in the information technology world.  One utility built an online training program for internal business units to access.

Customer Apathy – with opt-out talk around the country (particularly on the coasts) do we have to drag customers kicking and screaming into this?


The utilities reminded the audience that like other areas in the country, they are regulated even if they operate in an unregulated state.  Every customer engagement or training program has to be reviewed and approved by the Texas Public Utilities Commission. Customers do have concerns and getting outright acceptance is difficult.  One utility broke the concerns down into pre-deployment concerns and post deployment concerns.  Another utility argued that customers cannot be forced to adopt but could be educated.  That utility was building contests around saving energy and money and letting customer “compete” with each other as a form of education.

How do you measure success?


The three panelists expressed meeting or exceeding the expectations of multiple stakeholders.  Those stakeholders included the market, customers, and internal business units.  Some had set financial and customer key performance indicators (KPIs) prior to starting the deployment and were tracking those throughout the effort.   


While the U.S. begins to peak on advanced metering shipments, the production numbers will rise.  When the number of advanced meters put into production rise, the focus will quickly shift to what benefits they are providing for customers.  This was not discussed by the panel, but I did make an interesting observation among utilities in attendance at the Smart Grid RoadShow.  While virtually all had put in the regulatory business case a strong link to outage management, none had actually built that integration yet.  Look for integration efforts to increase at utilities that have deployed advanced metering.  Have you integrated your smart meters to outage management?  I want to hear from you.  Take a short “Yes/No” survey at

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