The lessons learned and best practices presented in the 6 cases included in this case book provide qualitative insight into the potential costs and benefits of AMI, and the associated business cases for investment. Each case presented has its own unique set of characteristics and drivers, which is indicative of the global drivers for AMI. It follows then that the costs, benefits and business cases are different for each case. Still there are a number of best practices and common themes that emerged that are likely to be useful for any jurisdiction planning or deploying AMI. Those common best practices and insights are presented here.
The message to customers is important. A number of jurisdictions have learned to be careful with the promise of direct customer savings. There have been cases of customers seeing their bills go up following smart meter deployment due to more accurate meter readings compared to the old electromechanical meters. As an an example, weather events have also caused increases in customer bills unrelated to the cost of new meters and pricing. Therefore in some cases, distribution companies have found it easier to be transparent about the savings that will accrue on the grid side, and how those savings will be passed to the customer, than to predict how customer behaviour change might lead to savings. The means of reaching the customers can be as important of the message. The 90/60/30 day communications strategy before AMI deployment has become a best practice, as has customer engagement in the planning phases prior to roll-out. It appears that more is better than less for customer communication and creating the engagement strategy. Distribution companies that invested in extensive planning and engagement prior to roll-out have experienced less opposition to AMI deployment than others who advanced more quickly in neighbouring jurisdictions.
Most AMI deployments have been successful without suffering significant customer opposition. However, a vocal minority in a number of jurisdictions has captured a lot of media attention. In these cases, utilities with pro-active customer engagement plans and alternative options have fared better than those without. In some cases, the cost of addressing customer concerns outweighs the cost of providing alternative solutions. While some jurisdictions have deployed with mandatory deployments of smart meters, others have created opt-out and opt-in policies intended to avoid customer opposition. At present, there does not appear to be any consensus on a best practice for this yet, beyond that extensive customer engagement and alternative options should be available to reconcile customer concerns in a cost-effective manner.
Rate structures should balance system and customer benefits. Moving away from averaged billing has the potential to be a positive experience for customer awareness but, in some cases, can also lead to negative experiences. Distribution companies may choose to phase-in these rate plans over a period of time to allow customers to become more aware of their consumption habits as well as the opportunities they have to change their demand profile before having to pay more for consumption during peak pricing periods. For example, one jurisdiction identified a challenge in determining the Time of Use rate structure that balanced both the customer and system benefits intended from implementing that rate plan. They learned that the daily rate structure timing (i.e. when the different rates were in effect each day) had to be adjusted to help customers transition to dynamic rates more gradually. Other jurisdictions have found that having multiple rate options provides customers with more opportunities to capture value from AMI and increase their awareness of energy costs.
Digitizing meter data introduces a wealth of possibilities for innovation and new customer services. It also introduces a new set of challenges. The questions of who owns the data and, separately, who should have access to the data have implications on the types of meter data management systems that need to be in place. Issues of cyber security and privacy received varying degrees of public attention across the cases presented in this book. In some cases, AMI was deployed before there was broad customer awareness of potential privacy and cyber security risks. These issues have, however, been at the forefront for privacy commissioners and regulators in some of the jurisdictions making early moves on AMI. Privacy By Design_ (PbD) principles, created by the Ontario (Canada) Privacy Commissioner, are a best practice for AMI design that have been adopted in jurisdictions around the world. Unanimously passed and adopted as an International Framework for protecting privacy at the International Conference of Privacy Commissioners in 2010, PbD continues to publish on emerging issues for smart grid and “big data.”
The primary purpose of most Meter Data Management Systems (MDMS) is to ensure that meter reads are validated, estimated and edited to ensure accurate and complete billing. Beyond the aspects of billing and customer use of meter data, countries can benefit from analyzing meter data with other data sets to draw important insight into the effectiveness of current programming and regulation, and into future policy needs. It is possible to leverage further value from meter data while maintaining privacy and security issues. These issues are being explored where jurisdictions have access to MDMS data sets (noting the privacy concerns discussed above).
The business cases presented in this book for investment in AMI included one or more of the capabilities listed below. In many cases, these benefits were anticipated, but in others, they were discovered during or after deployment.
The forward-looking business case for AMI goes beyond the direct effects to billing and is linked to the potential to leverage value from other smart grid capabilities enabled by AMI. While direct benefits such as remote meter reading, remote connect and disconnect, or reducing losses can pay for the costs of implementation, the business case is not limited to these benefits. It is important for jurisdictions to consider the leveraged grid-side benefits when assessing the case for investment in partial or full AMI capabilities. New billing options, new rates, distributed generation with smart inverters, demand response controls and smart appliances are all examples of smart grid technologies that are anticipated to leverage further value from AMI. AMI can also facilitate the integration of multiple energy flows. So-called “smart energy networks” explore the possibility of integrating energy and resource uses such as electricity, heat, transportation and water in an integrated way for the customer. Future case books will explore the advancements and potential costs and benefits of implementing these integrated systems, enabled in part through AMI.
Table 1: AMI deployment by participating ISGAN country