Since 2018, PRECorp has been implementing plans to replace the current automated meter reading (AMR) system (and meters) with a more robust and feature-rich advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) system.
The work has reached a critical phase where the testing and pilot installations are perfected and a planned roll-out to the entire PRECorp membership will begin later in 2019 and throughout 2020.
Members in Crook and Weston counties will be the first, followed by Campbell County, then Sheridan and Johnson counties. Members will receive notifications that work is being done to install network equipment and eventually, new meters.
The new AMI system comes with an improved solid-state meter and a two-way communication network. This receives readings like the older AMR system, but can also transmit signals to the cooperative when it is experiencing a problem.
Like when there’s a power outage.
The AMR meters perform as intended, but are approaching the end of useful life. Industry suppliers no longer support these meters with parts and repairs.
The new AMI system is the current industry standard. More specifically, PRECorp will be installing an integrated system of meters, communication networks, and data management systems that enable two-way communication between PRECorp and its meters.
"Moving to the new industry-standard for meters and communications will save the cooperative money in the long-term, can be implemented without having a negative impact on rates, and will provide for improved service to our membership," said PRECorp VP of Member Service Jeff Bumgarner. The AMI system and meters record member usage and report that information back to PRECorp, just like AMR systems.
However, the AMI meters can also respond to requests or send information on their own, such as voltage readings, allowing the cooperative to verify or be notified of a member’s power outage.
"Reliability is expected to improve with features such as advanced outage reporting and improved voltage monitoring," Bumgarner said.
This can save members money by avoiding an unwarranted trouble call when a breaker has tripped or by allowing members to notify the cooperative of a verified outage.
With this level of information, we can pinpoint the members affected, more quickly diagnose the location of the problem, and speed up restoration of service.
Today, the AMR system captures and records daily member usage, which the cooperative provides to members enrolled in Smart-Hub, the cooperative’s online member portal, under the "My Usage" tab.
The AMI system will provide additional benefits as well, like the capture and recording of usage data.
The AMI system will be capable of capturing usage data more frequently, several times daily, and the usage data retrieved will contain individual readings that are captured every 15 to 30 minutes, providing better data to members to help diagnose high-use events or simply better understand and manage their electrical usage. The detailed usage data will also enable the possibility to develop optional flexible pricing plans, like time-of-use plans, where members who shift usage to off-peak hours of the day can save even further.
PRECorp members have indicated in surveys and direct communications with the cooperative that they want more information and control over their energy consumption and costs. It all starts with a way to measure electricity use on the system in more frequently and in greater granularity. Finding out 30-days later is like trying to drive your car using only the rear-view mirror. Timely measurement is the first step toward that goal.
Some might be wondering if investing in the new AMI system will have a negative impact on rates. "Your rates will not increase because of the AMI project," Bumgarner said. "PRECorp has been planning for the need to upgrade the meter reading system and will begin retiring the old system as the new system is phased in."