States across the country, including Connecticut, are evaluating potential advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) deployments that will dictate the grid-edge technology that utilities have at their disposal for the next two decades. In that time, the energy landscape will change dramatically, with rapid decarbonization and proliferation of distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicles (EVs). Given that coming transformation, regulators should approach AMI as an operational tool that is critical to run the clean, distributed electric grid – not just as a way to bill customers.
At Utilidata, our platform leverages AMI data to improve outcomes. We have proven that using AMI data to inform voltage reduction strategies can save customers $1-$2 per month, largely canceling out the consumer charge for new AMI meters. We also built the industry’s first third-party software application that resides on an AMI meter, processing real-time meter data to improve grid operations.
Given this expertise, we have a unique perspective on what it takes to execute an AMI deployment that drives more efficient operations today, and lays the technical foundation for the dynamic grid-edge of tomorrow.
In our view, there are five foundational capabilities regulators should seek when evaluating AMI deployments (which we recently shared with the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority):
- Visibility and Awareness: AMI must enable full operational visibility of the grid, all the way down to the meter, with a real-time power-flow model that can accurately map system topology.
- Grid Investment Planning: AMI should be utilized to conduct distribution system planning and modernization by leveraging substation-to-meter data to model various penetration rates of EVs and other DERs.
- Optimize Power Flow and Utilize DERs: AMI must enable utilities to optimize power flow to the edge of the grid, extracting value from DERs, reducing the cost of integration, enabling smarter demand management, and driving energy efficiency.
- Anomaly Detection: AMI must enable the predictive detection of anomalies on the distribution system, like trees touching wires, to help prevent power outages, fires, or security breaches.
- Resiliency: Meters should be able to isolate a customer or community with DERs from an outage, allowing customers to keep the lights on and take more control over their energy security.
These capabilities will be needed to efficiently and reliably run a highly-variable, distributed, two-way distribution grid. As part of any AMI rollout, regulators should require that utilities plan for and pursue these capabilities. This includes choosing meters with the technical capacity to drive these results, including the right amount of data capture and computational power. Therefore, in addition to specifying what outcomes an AMI rollout must deliver, regulators should inquire about these technical capabilities and push utilities toward future-proofing this significant investment in grid edge computing.
Today’s AMI proceedings in Connecticut and elsewhere will help shape the grid edge for the next two decades, a critical period of transformation for our electric system. Setting clear requirements and expectations regarding foundational capabilities in the initial AMI approval is essential to ensure that utilities choose technologies that deliver the most value for customers and ensure a smooth transition to the modern electric system.