Clay Electric Cooperative is in the early stages of implementing an advanced metering system that will improve the efficiency and reliability of its electric system and give the cooperative’s members more control over their energy use.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is a metering and communication system that enables two-way communications between the co-op’s offices and meters in the field. AMI systems provide electric utilities with significant operational and service benefits.
Here are five reasons why Clay Electric decided to implement an AMI system:
1) Provide new payment options to members.
2) Optimize maintenance and replacement operations by being able to predict where and when new infrastructure assets would be needed.
3) Improve outage detection – CEC will be able to identify outages quicker and restore power quicker.
4) Put members in control by providing daily energy use data which can help members troubleshoot high bill problems as well as manage their daily use of power.
5) Improve electric service reliability and power quality – fewer outages, blinks and surges.
For many years, Clay Electric has made adoption of new technology a part of a strategic effort to improve efficiency and maintain strong member services, as long as the new technology made economic sense and was cost-effective.
Clay Electric has been following development of the AMI program for more than 20 years. As the cost of equipment came down and the reliability of the more advanced electronic meters went up, the move to AMI at Clay became more attractive. The cooperative’s board of trustees looked at all the facts and costs and decided in early 2016 that it was time for the co-op to make the move to AMI. It was clear to the cooperative’s management that AMI will provide significant member benefits that make the investment worthwhile.
The cost of the AMI project is approximately $26 million. A financial analysis indicates the cost of this project will be offset over time through lowered operational costs, improved efficiencies and gains in productivity. The cooperative does not expect any additional costs to its members to install the new system. There is also no rate increase anticipated in association with this project.
Many electric utilities have adopted or are in the process of implementing AMI projects. Nationwide, 33 percent of all meters are AMI meters. In Florida, half of all meters are AMI meters, and among electric cooperatives, more than 70 percent of all co-ops have deployed some type of AMI system.
Clay Electric members expect more from their cooperative and expect it to use technology to provide them with information about their power usage, outages, expected time of restoration, etc.
The AMI system will provide the co-op with immediate notification when a meter detects loss of service, and it provides many features to assist in ensuring that service is restored. AMI will provide the ability to offer multiple payment and billing options. AMI enables Clay Electric to provide more data to members about their usage, which empowers them to make informed decisions about their needs. Clay Electric intends to be open with its members regarding the deployment of the AMI system. The technology is safe and beneficial. It will serve as a platform to deliver improved programs and services in the future that will help members make informed decisions about their electricity usage.
The AMI deployment is a lengthy process involving significant planning for the software, hardware, network design and implementation of the entire system. The vendor selection has been a meticulous process with a cross section of professionals from Clay Electric weighing in to ensure that service and support to members is kept as a top priority. Additionally, Clay Electric has performed thorough research on the technology, and has consulted with several utilities across the country that already are running an AMI network to gain from their experiences.
Deployment of the back-office systems and network support infrastructure will begin this summer. Installation of the remaining devices is planned for 2018-2019.