AMI metering is not all that different from AMR metering in that it is a metering infrastructure that is used to simplify the process of reading meters. The difference is that with and AMI metering system you gain the ability to communicate wit the meter in real time. This offers you the ability to send commands to the meter and to retrieve information very rapidly.
AMI stands for Automated Metering Infrastructure and that is truly what it is. AMI metering systems are more than just meters. They are communications networks that not only provide a path to bring back the meter readings but they provide a way to gather and analyze the data that can be provided by the new more sophisticated meters that are now available.
For instance, one feature that is available for an AMI meter is remote disconnect. Remote disconnect meters have a breaker inside of them that can be controlled remotely. This can be a perfect solution for customers who are turned on and off frequently as well as residences that have a high turnover such as rental properties or apartment complexes. The remote disconnect feature allows you to enforce your non-payment policies without having to step foot on the customers property.
The remote disconnect feature also allows things such as current limiting. Current limiting is useful when you have customers that cannot pay but it is too cold to turn them off. The current can be limited so that only essential appliances can be used, such as their heating systems. This can also be useful to create rates for people who cannot afford to have high bills. If they can keep their current use low their power will stay on. If it gets too high the meter is cut off and is reset just like a breaker.
Another use for the remote disconnect meter would be in residences that are hard to get to or have dogs. Many people now like their privacy and as such they build their privacy fences. Many times this is done after the home is built and without the knowledge of the utility. So, meters end up being behind locked fences. Many customers are happy to open the fence for you but often times you will need to schedule an appointment.
Also, customers do not like opening the fence just so that you can go in and turn them off. They do not mind opening it however when you are turning them back on. People also really like their animals. While not all dogs are dangerous, you never can be too careful with strange animals. Some people even tie their mean dogs near the meter base so that nobody will go near it.
AMI metering systems are also capable of doing automated reading. This is very helpful because it allows the utility to schedule when the meters are read. This saves time because they can be scheduled to be read overnight so that first thing in the morning they are ready to be billed. The meters can also be set up to read on specified intervals. This provides the utility with interval data that can be useful in planning as well as customer complaints. It can be very helpful to provide customers with detailed information of their usage. Customer service reps can also provide this service over the phone.
Real Time Reads
Since AMI meters are two way they can be pinged for reads at any time. This allows the utility to save sending someone out to get a read. This is useful when someone moves out and the power is transferred into someone else name. This is common for apartment complexes because they like to keep the power on so that they can clean, do maintenance and show the apartment to someone else.
AMI metering companies normally offer some sort of customer portal with their AMI system. This allows the customer to log on and view their usage. This is a great service to have for a utility especially since more and more people are tech savvy. There have been studies that have shown that when customers have the ability to monitor their energy usage through customer portals they use less energy. While this may not necessarily be good for the utility, it makes their customers happy.
Different Rate Structures
AMI meters offer the ability to employ new rate structures that were not available before. One of the biggest is becoming prepay. Because of the remote disconnect feature customers can now prepay for their electricity. This can be very helpful for both the customer and the utility. If the customer is paid weekly, they can pay weekly. When the balance gets low the system will send the customer and alert that they are almost out of energy. They can then pay a large or a small amount based on what they have or they think that they will need. This also can eliminate the bad debts of a utility company because the company will be collecting the money up front.