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Extending returns on smart-meter investment

Oct 17, 2023

Time to re-examine the use-case roadmap for new applications

AMI projects are driven by business use cases, and utilities over the years have acted on many of these while discarding others. As the next generation of AMI emerges, some of those unrealized use cases need to be re-evaluated, because energy transition, changing technology, and increasing consumer expectations mean there is now potential that did not previously exist.

Deriving the most value requires understanding the current technology landscape and the level of sophistication in deployed AMI 1.0 technology. Creating additional value depends on the capabilities of those meters.

Some AMI 1.0 meters have advanced features which support a broader range of use cases, even with some inherent limitations and less data. Other utilities, with AMI 1.5 or 2.0 systems, have newer technologies that generate more information and are able to support more high-value use cases.

In either case, the goal should be to leverage upgrade capabilities and as much data as possible to support the AMI investment. Data can impact new areas of the organization including operations, asset management, vegetation management, greater reliability and safety, customer experience, customer service, and billing. For some utilities, this will mean re-evaluating their internal operating units to ensure more cross-collaboration across all internal teams.

New opportunities

AMI also has the potential to support bigger opportunities, such as creating new rate structures for programs such as preferred times for charging electric vehicles. Careful evaluation of the upgrade capabilities of existing AMI meters will drive the potential ability to create a path forward and expand use-case value with technology upgrades to existing smart meters.

The data produced by the new meters hold the potential to solve distribution system issues caused by more climate-friendly initiatives. For example, rooftop solar panels generate clean energy but can create power quality issues with the grid. Measuring and detecting potential issues and addressing them proactively or even reactively is important to ensure the reliability and stability of the grid as more renewable sources are added.

A new customer experience

This kind of change will take time. Most utilities are built on a retail business model that has not changed in more than 100 years. Utilities will continue to be a retailer but have traditionally offered few services.

Utilities today need to change to stay relevant. Technologies are being introduced into the market and adopted by customers without the involvement of their utilities. Utilities need to increase engagement with customers and address potential issues with new technologies to keep serving their customers well – especially as new challenges arise. For example, if community-based microgrids can generate their power and provide essential energy services on their own, the role of a utility is diminished. And EV owners do not have to inform the utility company of their new car purchase, making infrastructure planning and upgrades more complex. This means it is critical and inevitable that utilities need to change business models and engage in a meaningful way with customers to make their lives better.

Finding more value

These are interesting conversations for utilities and they need to determine how they develop programs, services, and operating procedures with more of a customer mindset. Capgemini is already discussing potential programs with clients, such as remote disconnection capabilities, EV charging/discharging management, and the overarching customer journey. Connecting and disconnecting a customer’s power is a significant cost, even considering only the truck roll and qualified technicians. The next generation of meters means utilities could disconnect or reconnect with a click of a mouse, with the right procedures and governance in place. That is direct savings back to the consumer and an improved customer experience, because it can all be completed over the phone, as well as an opportunity to minimize safety concerns by requiring less vehicles on the road.

Utilities would be more quickly alerted if there is a power quality issue. For example, tree branches interfering with lines would be evident in certain data patterns, and could trigger a vegetation-management crew to visit the area with the workforce management system. This kind of proactive maintenance could prevent future outages, boost grid reliability, and lead to a more positive customer experience.

Expanding opportunities

Each generation of AMI will bring new benefits and utilities will find ways to use the data to be successful. But business silos will need to be dismantled to achieve the biggest gains. Operations have not really been involved in the first generation of AMI projects but could have benefited tremendously. Utilities need to extend conversations into different parts of the organization.

There is also an opportunity for third parties, as new technologies and service providers not affiliated with a utility, to provide valuable offerings to the end-customer by utilizing AMI data. So while the meter is recording data, the utility is facilitating the sharing this information to create a new layer of personalized services and business opportunities.

Capgemini offers clients AMI expertise, an extensive use-case library, and a holistic modernization approach to craft a roadmap that finds new opportunities and enhances ROI.

Meet the author

Mike Lang

Mike Lang

Utility Transformation Leader, Canada
Mike leads the AMI and Utility Centre of Excellence at Capgemini for Canada, responsible for offering development, delivery, and go-to-market strategy. He believes data and smart metering are the foundational pillars for a broader utility transformation in smart grid, electrification, and energy transition.

Brian Garrison

Senior AMI Sales Leader
Brian works closely with business and technical stakeholders to craft advanced AMI solutions featuring smart grid, microgrids, data analytics, load disaggregation, transport electrification, and many other areas of the utility business. Brian has the unique ability to understand customer challenges and find innovative solutions.