Advanced Metering Infrastructure

Later this year, NIST expects to release a draft of the Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards (“Framework”) document for a formal 60-day public comment period and the final version of the document is planned for publication in the first half of 2014. However, those attending the SGIP Inaugural Meeting received an advanced look at the new Framework.

NIST says the smart grid will ultimately require hundreds of standards. To prioritize its work, NIST chose to focus on seven key functionalities plus cybersecurity and network communications. Together, they create nine priority areas:

  • Demand response and consumer energy efficiency: Provide mechanisms and incentives for utilities, business, industrial and residential customers to modify energy use during times of peak demand or when power reliability is at risk. Demand response is necessary for optimizing the balance of power supply and demand.
  • Wide-area situational awareness: Utilizes monitoring and display of power-system components and performance across interconnections and over large geographic areas in near real-time. The goals of situational awareness are to understand and ultimately optimize the management of power-network components, behavior and performance, as well as to anticipate, prevent, or respond to problems before disruptions arise. 
  • Distributed Energy Resources (DER): Covers generation and/or electric storage systems that are interconnected with distribution systems, including devices that reside on a customer premise, “behind the meter.” DER systems utilize a wide range of generation and storage technologies such as renewable energy, combined heat and power generators (CHP), fixed battery storage and electric vehicles with bi-directional chargers. 
  • Energy Storage: Means of storing energy, directly or indirectly. The most common bulk energy storage technology used today is pumped hydroelectric storage technology. New storage capabilities — especially for distributed storage — would benefit the entire grid, from generation to end use.
  • Electric transportation: Refers primarily to enabling large-scale integration of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Electric transportation could significantly reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, increase use of renewable sources of energy, provide electric energy storage to ameliorate peak-load demands, and dramatically reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. 
  • Network communications: Refers to a variety of public and private communication networks, both wired and wireless, that will be used for smart grid domains and subdomains. An interface is a point where two systems need to exchange data with each other. Effective communication and coordination occurs when each of the systems understand and can respond to the data provided by the other system, even if the internal workings of the system are quite different.
  • Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI): Provides near real-time monitoring of power usage. AMI consists of the communications hardware and software, and the associated system and data management software, that together create a two-way network between advanced meters and utility business systems, enabling collection and distribution of information to customers and other parties, such as the competitive retail supplier or the utility itself. 
  • Distribution grid management: Focuses on maximizing performance of feeders, transformers and other components of networked distribution systems and integrating them with transmission systems and customer operations. As smart grid capabilities such as AMI and demand response are developed, and as large numbers of distributed energy resources and PEVs are deployed, the automation of distribution systems becomes increasingly more important to the efficient and reliable operation of the overall power system.
  • Cybersecurity: Encompasses measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the electronic information communication systems and the control systems necessary for the management, operation and protection of the smart grid’s energy, information technology and telecommunications infrastructures.

Given the importance and magnitude of the smart grid, at the most basic level just about everyone you know is a stakeholder. According to NIST, the stakeholder groups who may find Framework 3.0 most useful include:

  • Utilities and suppliers concerned with how best to understand and implement the smart grid (especially Chapters  4, 5 and 6);
  • Testing laboratories and certification organizations (especially Chapter 7);
  • Academia (especially Section 5.1 and Chapter 8); and
  • Regulators (especially Chapters 1, 4, and 6, and also Section 3.5).

Utilities service territories are unique in many ways, including geography and culture. Despite the differences, there are benefits gained from studying the experiences of peers. Voices of Experience|Insights on Smart Grid Customer Engagement provides practical advice from utilities that have implemented smart grid projects to educate and engage their customers. It’s an effort to capture the industry’s knowledge regarding customer engagement related to smart grid deployment. While the guide may lean towards advanced metering infrastructure, the principals and insights apply to a much broader perspective, including engaging customers for dynamic pricing programs, demand response programs, distribution automation and other technology, such as home area network (HAN) devices. The guide is practical, often providing links to detailed examples actually implemented by utilities. As a contributor, I am partial: The guide is a must read for utilities involved in smart grid deployment.

With smart grid events being offered almost daily, unless your day job is to attend seminars, a vetting of the agenda and presenters is critical. The Association for Demand Response & Smart Grid, now simply known as ADS, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and lived up to expectations this week with the commencement of its signature event, The National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid. With knowledgeable and experienced presenters from the White House to the California Public Utility Commission, the dialog at Wednesday’s meeting highlighted policy, pricing, innovation and barriers. Sitting in the audience, the conversation among attendees was as enlightening as the thought-provoking discussions from the panelists.

During a break, I had a great conversation with Jamison (Jay) Shaver from GE’s Digital Energy business. From light bulbs and appliances for residential customers to a suite of products to help utilities develop an intelligent and resilient distribution grid, GE is smart-grid-poised industry wide. As Jay discussed with me the five core components of the modern grid, he stressed that many of the supporting systems and platforms used by utilities can now be seamlessly integrated, providing better access to outage information across functional areas such as customer service, dispatch and engineering. Having a dashboard ready with various data points should improve the restoration process. According to Digital Energy, here are the five core grid modernization components:

  1. Smart meters and an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI),
  2. Geographic information system (GIS),
  3. Outage management system (OMS),
  4. Distributed management system (DMS) and
  5. Distribution automation (DA) capabilities.

Jay says these core elements work cohesively to help prevent outages. Typically morbid, I learned about the concept of a smart meter “last gasp”: As the power goes out, smart meters transmit important data to the utility, notifying them of the outage and other diagnostics. Such vital information improves restoration efforts. Knowledge is power.

DOE recently announced the creation of a new working group to focus on customer engagement. The purpose of the working group is to develop a best practices guide in the following areas:

  • Resource Planning
  • Stakeholder Relations
  • Regulatory Communications
  • Research and Metrics
  • Customer Advocacy
  • IT and Technology
  • Marketing Communications
  • Finance

The presentation from the first conference call provides greater details about the important work planned to assist the industry with customer engagement. If you would like to lend your time and expertise, it is not too late to join. The first in-person meeting will be on November 29, 2012 in Washington, D.C. The project is expected to be completed in Spring 2013.

Why another working group? This excerpt from the first presentation explains:

  • The Success of Smart Grid Lies in the Customer’s Hands:
    It is our belief that the overall success of smart grid depends on whether or not customers will take a more proactive role in managing their energy use.
  • Both Utilities and Regulators Alike Are Looking for a Way to Measure the Success of Customer Education Programs:
    Today many utilities are in search of best practices around how to successfully engage the customer. Similarly, regulators are looking for a way to measure successful customer education initiatives.
  • Developing a Model Will Help Solve These Current Market Challenges:
    Our goal is to develop a best practices model around smart grid customer education and engagement, with a focus on how utilities can effectively communicate the deployment and benefits of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

The project is managed by SmartEnergy IP.

Although the order was issued earlier this year, as one of the few Commissions to say no to smart meter opt-outs, I thought it was worth reporting. On December 7, 2011, the Office of Peoples Counsel petitioned the District of Columbia Public Service Commission to initiate a formal investigation to determine whether it is reasonable for Pepco to offer an opt-out provision to its AMI program. In its response, Pepco cites a number of reasons against creating an opt-out provision, including the fact that the ARRA grant it received is contingent upon full implementation of AMI. Most importantly, Pepco pointed out that the DC Council approved AMI for “all” consumers and did not include an opt-out provision. Therefore, creating an opt-out provision is beyond the authority of the Commission. The DC PSC agreed:

Once the Commission determined that Pepco had received sufficient ARRA funding, Pepco had statutory authority to implement an Advanced Metering Infrastrucfure for “all” consumers. OPC does not cite, nor are we aware of anything in the statute or its legislative history that reflects a legislative intent to give the word “all” anything other than its common meaning. The word “all” means every member, without exclusion. Where the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, there is nothing for this Commission to do but apply the statute according to its terms.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Robert F. Powelson, regarding his views on smart meter opt-outs and other issues affecting Pennsylvania’s energy future. Because I live and practice in Pennsylvania, I may be biased but I think Smart Grid Legal News readers will agree it is refreshing and rare to hear regulators like Chairman Powelson promote smart meters, energy efficiency and other practices that advance our energy future.

Evers: Chairman Powelson, thank you for taking the time to discuss smart meters with me. Why is it important for customers to have smart meters?

Powelson: Act 129 of 2008 has really paved the way for the rollout of smart meters, also referred to as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), and the implementation of Act 129 continues to benefit Pennsylvania customers. As I see it, smart meter technology is a “win-win” situation for the Commonwealth – both electricity customers and electricity providers alike reap the benefits of advanced meters. 

Smart meters give customers greater control over their energy consumption by allowing them to measure their energy usage, monitor real-time electricity prices, and adjust their consumption and behavior in order to realize significant savings on monthly bills. Customers can even shut down appliances during peak periods or pre-program appliances and devices to operate only at predetermined (and lower cost) timeframes if they so choose.

Similarly, electricity providers also benefit from increased smart meter deployment. The two key concepts here are efficiency and reliability. AMI makes meter reading quicker and more efficient by eliminating the current practice of estimated meter readings. Additionally, with smart meters, utilities have the ability to monitor distribution networks to allow for the immediate detection of irregularities, which leads to drastically reduced response time in addressing outages. 

Finally, smart meters can help reduce both overall electricity use and peak demand use, leading to lower emissions from fossil power plants that will not have to generate as much power – a direct environmental benefit.

Evers: Chairman, across the country several states have implemented an opt-out process due to customers concerns about health and privacy. I am concerned about the impact of an opt-out process as people relocate in and out of homes with smart meters. I call it a smart meter mosaic. I joke that real estate disclosure forms will soon have to start indicating the home’s level of smartness. Seriously, I think the implementation and long-term management of such a process could eventually put upward pressure on rates for everyone. What are your views regarding a smart meter opt-out process?

Powelson: In May, I testified before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Consumer Affairs Committee on a proposal to partially repeal Act 129 and permit smart meter “opt-out” programs in the Commonwealth. My testimony addressed two pieces of legislation – House Bill 2186, which would allow consumers to opt out of having smart meters installed at their premises, and House Bill 2188, which would require consumer consent in order to share information from electric meters with government agencies. These bills represent a significant step backward in policy, with the potential to negate all of the reductions already achieved under Act 129.

The proliferation of opt-out requirements for AMI deployment has the potential to cripple efforts to modernize grid technology. Maine has received a lot of attention regarding its AMI opt-out, and Central Maine Power (CMP) has considered, analyzed and provided substantial cost information relating to a variety of potential solutions or mitigation measures for customers seeking to opt out of CMP’s Smart Meter Program. CMP estimates these incremental infrastructure and support costs to be as high as $70 million over the life of the AMI project – and that is assuming only 1 to 2 percent of CMP customers opt out. At an opt-out level of 10 percent, these incremental costs grow to hundreds of millions of dollars – exceeding the costs of CMP’s advanced meter project.

While I appreciate that there are consumers who have security and privacy concerns with respect to AMI, the PUC, legislature, and Electric Distribution Companies (EDCs) may be able to help alleviate these concerns through increased education and outreach. It is worth noting that many EDCs and their customers have had AMI in place for years, namely PPL and PECO. Additionally, we are already facilitating the continued implementation of smart grid technology by establishing rules that more precisely address conduct in the areas of reliability, privacy and security. California and Ontario have undertaken similar efforts through a “Privacy by Design” rulebook, which was integral to customer support for advanced meter roll out.

In sum, opt-outs cause operational gaps that will lead to additional costs for companies and their customers, defeating the stated purposes of Act 129. Such a system reduces reliability for all customers, as well as the benefits of a completely modernized electric grid. Simply put, there is no compelling reason for an “opt-out” program.

Evers: Smart meters have received a lot of attention but there is so much more to the concept of smart grid. Beyond smart meters, what do you see as other benefits as utilities upgrade their systems?

Powelson: Nationally, billions of dollars are being invested in smart grid technology because of the many benefits to consumers and utilities, as well as the positive impact on the environment through increased energy efficiency. (By way of background, federal support for the development of smart meter systems began with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, was supplemented with passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – which set aside $11 billion for the creation of a smart grid.)

For me it is not just about the technology. The most important objective is to better serve the needs of consumers and build stronger, more vibrant communities in which to live, work, and play. Smart meter and smart grid programs will be much more efficient in delivering electricity to homes and businesses; responding to outages and other emergencies; monitoring and seeking to curtail usage, especially during peak periods; preventing theft and fraud; and helping electric customers save dollars on their monthly bill. In short, the benefits to Pennsylvanians will continue to grow.

Evers: Recently many utilities have partnered with Opower and Facebook to allow customers to form teams for energy saving contests and compare energy usage with friends, hopefully creating positive peer pressure. Why are innovations like this important to our energy future?

Powelson: Any method of educating consumers and raising consumer awareness is vital. The real benefits will come when people start to realize that we are all in this together, and everyone contributing a little adds up to significant decreases in demand, which then puts a downward pressure on prices.

I particularly like this idea of comparing energy usage with neighbors and friends, as it dovetails nicely with the idea of “competition” in Pennsylvania’s electricity market. The more customers learn about competitive electricity providers, and the benefits and potential price savings available in the marketplace, the better. Increased dialogue that leads to decreased energy usage is exactly what we are looking for under Act 129.

Evers: Are there any other thoughts regarding Pennsylvania’s energy future you would like to share?

Powelson: Pennsylvania has really embraced a two-pronged approach in considering its energy future. On one hand, we are doing all that we can as regulators, providers, and consumers to comply with Act 129 and become more energy efficient. On the other hand, we are strengthening Pennsylvania’s competitive marketplace to increase competition among electric generation suppliers and produce better pricing and greater savings for the Commonwealth’s 5.6 million electric customers.

In addition to fulfilling its regulatory and oversight responsibilities, the Pennsylvania PUC will continue to educate consumers on the benefits of both energy efficiency and conservation, including smart meter technology, as well the advantages of shopping with competitive suppliers for their electric generation.

Although 2010 has been a mixed bag across the nation when it comes to implementing elements of the smart grid, the major Electric Distribution Companies (“EDCs”) in Pennsylvania have all received PaPUC approval of their smart meter implementation plans. And while the Commission appears eager to embrace the new technology, the common denominator among most of these electric distribution companies is a slow prudent rollout:

  • Allegheny Power – By December 31,2010, Allegheny will have trained personnel, installed support equipment and software, established network designs and tested and certified Electronic Data Interchange transaction capability, paving the way for the first batch of 93,100 smart meters to be deployed in March of 2011.  Allegheny’s Smart Meter Plan may be found on the Public Utility Commission’s website by entering docket number M-2009-2123951 in the search box.
  • Duquesne Light – Duquesne will extend and complement its existing advanced meter capabilities based on analysis and evaluation of several key issues.  The Company is conducting studies on smart meter network design, smart meter installation and training, and information technology systems and software upgrades. Like other utilities’ plans, much of Duquesne’s final deployment plan will be shaped by the outcomes of these assessments. Duquesne has a contractual obligation with Itron for Automatic Meter Reading infrastructure maintenance, which does note expire until the end of 2013.  Once the Itron contract expires, it will begin its 5-year major deployment of smart meters beginning in 2014 to be completed by January 2019, according to its 2009 smart meter plan. 
  • FirstEnergy – Before one meter is installed, the company will take the time necessary to address issues regarding personnel training, equipment procurement, software and testing. By the end of 2013, a pilot batch of 5,000 to 10,000 smart meters will be deployed;this technical trial will feature an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) test laboratory. Following a successful trial, it will deploy up to 60,000 smart meters to “de-bug” the system before full deployment. FirstEnergy’s Smart Meter Plan on behalf of Met-Ed, Penelec and Penn Power may be found on the Public Utility Commission’s website by entering docket number M-2009-2123950 in the search box. 
  • PECO – In October 2009, the company was awarded $200 million dollars in a Smart Grid Investment Grant from the federal government, which will be used to defray the costs of smart meter procurement and installation. PECO has already selected vendors and smart meter technology, and is currently field testing its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) as well as developing the technology necessary to support smart meters and related systems. You can expect to see the first batch of smart meters for PECO be deployed in October 2011.  PECO’s Smart Meter Plan will ramp up deployment starting in August of 2012.  
  • PPL – The company is a leader among Pennsylvania EDCs when it comes to smart meters.  PPL was an early adopter of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), having installed the meters several years before there was a legal requirement to even submit a plan. Accordingly, PPL states that its current meters either meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of Act 129 under the Public Utility Commission’s order.  Notwithstanding, beginning in January 2011, PPL will launch pilot programs for bidirectional data communications capability, direct customer access to price and usage data and remote disconnection and reconnection. PPL will evaluate semiannually next-generation AMI technologies and smart-grid integration.  PPL’s Smart Meter Plan may be found on the Public Utility Commission’s website  by entering docket number M-2009-2123945 in the search box.

Based on PPL’s experience when it implemented AMI, it does not appear that Pennsylvania EDCs will have to deal with the customer backlash currently taking place in California.  Time and full deployment will tell.

Edward P. Yim contributed to this post.