Electricity Bill Across The Country Rise On Record Fuel Costs

Quick Take: We typically reserve press releases for our Friday column documenting product announcements and project wins. But I think this recent story from Itron has at least three important implications.

First, an electric power utility is sharing its communications network with a separate entity (a city’s water department). This is such an obvious way for a utility to share both the benefits and the costs of smart meter communications. It’s sad that so many regulators and so many utilities continue to use outdated rules as an excuse to block something that is so obviously right.

Second, the water department is taking advantage of managed services. I believe more and more small to mid-sized utilities will start looking for ways to outsource the human and computer costs of modernization. Why build your own data centers and hire your own high-priced operators when you can pay by the month to have experts do it for you? Especially since managed services give a small utility access to the same sophisticated software and analytics as a large utility.

Third, we may finally be at the point that water utilities will start seriously considering smart water networks. Especially if they can reduce their upfront capital costs via managed services and other techniques. When they do, I hope they’ll look to their region’s electric power utilities for ideas and cost sharing.  – Jesse Berst

 Two Progressive Utilities Demonstrate Resourcefulness with Itron

 City of Bismarck, North Dakota selects Itron for collaborative deployment using Montana-Dakota Utilities Company’s Itron network

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — Aug.5, 2014 — Itron, Inc. (NASDAQ: ITRI) announced today that the City of Bismarck, North Dakota’s water department has selected Itron to help modernize its water distribution system and will manage the system using the Itron network deployed by Montana-Dakota Utilities Company (MDU), provider of electric and natural gas service to parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

This public-private partnership is the first instance in which two utilities are cooperating to share a communications network where a city’s entire meter population is being managed. Bismarck will use Itron’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution along with Itron Analytics as a service and Itron Services to improve operational efficiencies and streamline meter reading.

With the Itron solution, Bismarck can reliably collect water consumption and transform it into valuable and actionable intelligence across the utility. The solution will provide Bismarck with detailed usage information to improve customer service, protect revenue and better manage water resources. With Itron Analytics, the utility will be able to gain more value from its advanced metering investment to improve utility operations and asset management.

The Itron solution being installed in Bismarck includes 21,000 water communication modules and associated collection technologies. In addition, Bismarck entered into an agreement with MDU in which MDU will provide water meter readings to Bismarck using its existing Itron fixed network. The project will not impact MDU customer billing, but rather will provide a cost-effective solution for both utilities through a shared network. Installation of the solution will begin in late summer and is expected to be completed within 18 months.

“Itron’s long history, knowledge and experience delivering automation solutions made it the right choice for the City of Bismarck. We look forward to benefiting from Itron’s AMI solution and taking advantage of MDU’s Itron communications network,” said Keith Demke, director of utility operations for the City of Bismarck’s Public Works Department. “Working with Itron, we’ll be able to meet our goal of increasing efficiencies and improving customer service through access to more detailed metering data and advanced metering infrastructure.”

“In a time where cities and utilities have begun focusing on creating smarter cities of the future that share networks and information, it is exciting to see two progressive utilities collaborate to share infrastructure to better manage water and energy resources,” said Paula Billingham, vice president of sales, marketing and delivery for Water North America at Itron. “This deployment is a great example for other water, electric and gas utilities with overlapping territories. Cooperation is possible and can benefit both utilities and the communities they serve.”

About Itron

Itron is a world-leading technology and services company dedicated to the resourceful use of energy and water. We provide comprehensive solutions that measure, manage and analyze energy and water. Our broad product portfolio includes electricity, gas, water and thermal energy measurement devices and control technology; communications systems; software; as well as managed and consulting services. With thousands of employees supporting nearly 8,000 customers in more than 100 countries, Itron applies knowledge and technology to better manage energy and water resources. Together, we can create a more resourceful world. Join us:www.itron.com.

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.