The True ROI of Smart Meter Deployments

on July 24, 2013 at 2:00 PM

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Utilities are just beginning to utilize the advanced data monitoring, recording, and event reporting capabilities of smart meters.

Around the world, new government mandates and stimulus funding have catalyzed the deployment of smart meters.

In the U.S. alone, $3.4 billion allocated from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding will be used to facilitate the installation of approximately 15 million smart meters by the end of 2013, in addition to the 35 million meters that utilities have already deployed through traditional rate cases. In Canada (particularly Ontario and British Columbia), government mandates that were once parts of larger environmental initiatives will lead to the deployment of more than 7.5 million smart meters by year’s end. Meanwhile, in Europe, GTM Research anticipates the deployment of close to 200 million meters under the European Commission’s 20-20-20 directive, which calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, a 20 percent reduction in primary energy use, and a 20 percent penetration of renewable energy by 2020.


Source: Utility AMI Analytics for the Smart Grid, 2013-2020

However, despite the increasing penetration of these new assets, utilities are just beginning to utilize the advanced data monitoring, recording, and event reporting capabilities of smart meters to provide quantifiable operational and financial improvements. Smart meters are capable of monitoring and recording parameters (shown above) that enable many value-added applications related to outage management, asset management, voltage optimization, customer segmentation, revenue protection, and load forecasting, among others. Additionally, most smart meters contain at least two independent data channels, which can be used to collect and analyze multiple parameters simultaneously.

Still, irrespective of size, ownership structure, and geography, utilities have expressed a common interest in providing additional functionality through existing AMI deployments. However, the majority of utilities have yet to incorporate any additional features that could extend beyond the meter-to-cash process. A recent survey of 30 major North American utilities conducted by GTM Research indicates that, with the exception of revenue protection, more than 50 percent of those surveyed have yet to integrate secondary functions such as outage management, voltage management or load planning.


Source: Utility AMI Analytics for the Smart Grid, 2013-2020

Nevertheless, the market is still in a period of early adoption, even in geographies where hardware is relatively mature. Accelerating the rate of adoption will be dependent upon solving technological challenges like systems integration, as well as cultural challenges and other external variables, including uncertain regulatory and macroeconomic conditions. Furthermore, unlocking the true value of AMI data will be dependent upon the adoption of a common utility data model. While many of the interviewed utilities are already utilizing AMI data for basic applications, none of the employees spoken to were content with the extent to which their utility was leveraging AMI data. Based on these findings, GTM Research is confident that the AMI analytics market will be a promising area of growth for software providers as well as a significant entry point for additional sales opportunities.

In the interim, the majority of benefits from AMI will be realized through the expanding capabilities of meter data management systems, as well as through functionality tied to specific AMI vendors at or above the head-end. However, it is important to note that several progressive utilities have begun to adopt true enterprise solutions which incorporate AMI data in conjunction with myriad other data sources. Ultimately, it is these comprehensive solutions which will extract the most value from the plethora of new sensors and monitoring devices, including the smart meters that utilities will adopt through subsequent grid modernization initiatives.

Zach Pollock: July 23, 2013, via Greentech Media