The Struggle for Benefits with Smart Meters

Compteur_HQ copySome utilities are struggling to achieve the benefits expected in their business cases written years ago, while facing unexpected costs. What happened?

Over the years, I was involved with, or looked at, smart meter installations on 3 continents. I see 3 types of causes for the missing benefits:

  • Early technology choices, often with unreliable telecom system causing irregular reception of reads. One utility I visited has to replace the communication modules in over 100,000 meters, which will cost millions of dollars.
  • Lack of appreciation for the need to have systems to manage millions of smart devices. Many utilities are flooded with thousands of meter exception each day, unable prioritize. Data is missing or too unreliable for later use.
  • Inexperienced organization and undefined processes. Managing smart meters is a new business for utilities, unlike any other activities they conduct. Problems pile up, customers are not billed.

The industry and its vendors are slowly learning how to manage fleets of smart meters in a reliable way, but it is often a struggle. In my experience, an open mind, a willingness to get to root causes and a focus on solutions are required ingredients for success.