So, let’s say that you have made the decision as a utility to go completely AMI or you have load profile meters on your commercial and industrial accounts. Or, you are a customer that has an AMI meter on your home or a load profile meter on your business. What do you do with that data? How do you analyze that data to save yourself, your company or your utility money?
How to manage the data
If you are a utility and you have just gone the AMI metering route or are thinking about it, one of the things that you need to consider is how to handle all of the data that will be coming in from those smart meters. Depending on how you decide to setup your reading, you could have readings coming in daily, hourly or even every few minutes. That is a ton of data!
You basically have two options to manage the data from your AMI metering system. The first option is to handle all of the data yourself. The question that you have to ask yourself is, do we have the knowledgeable manpower to manage this data? The keyword here is knowledgeable. To keep all of the data onsite you will need data servers to hold all of that information. Do you have people who not only are knowledgeable enough to manage these servers, but have enough free time to manage them? If you do then this can be a great option for you as a utility because there will be no call center when there are problems. You can just call your tech and hopefully have it fixed very quickly.
The drawback to having everything onsite is just that, it is onsite. You will have to have a place to put it and install all of the infrastructure to feed it. Such as all of the power and networking cables that it will need to be fully accessible to your computer system. You will also need to have someone tie all of the data into the billing system or other system that you use to view the data so that it will be useful.
The second option is to have all of the data stored offsite. Most major AMI metering companies now offer this as a part of their AMI metering package. They will host all of the data and it will be available to you via a web portal. This can be a great option for smaller utilities who do not have the physical resources nor the personnel resources needed to handle all of this data. They can generate reports and things that you need based on parameters that you give them. The biggest concern for most people is data security. The companies that offer these services use top notch security protocols so you can rest assured that they take very good care of your data.
These companies also offer services to make them integrate seamlessly with your billing system. This can be great for utilities who do not have the personnel to do this. The biggest drawback to have all of the data offsite is that sometimes it can take a little bit longer to get a problem resolved because everything has to be done over the phone. However, most of the time the people who are available to handle these problems are very knowledgeable about the system that they are working on and can have the problem taken care of very quickly.
How to analyze the data
Now that you have decided where you are going to store the data, you have it integrated into your billing system, your AMI meters are sending back their readings, the next thing that you want to know is how to analyze all of this data. This data is known as load profile data. This concept is not new and it has been available for many years on the high end meters for commercial and industrial customers.
When you first begin to look at load profile data you want to see if you can distinguish a pattern. Most of the time for businesses you can just about guess what time they open and what time they close based on the readings. You can view the readings in a chart with only numbers or you can view the data as a graph. I like to view the graph first and then go and look at the numbers that correspond to the changes on the graph.
Let me offer a scenario. Let’s say that a customer is complaining that their bill is way too high and there is no way that they are using the amount of electricity that the watthour meter says they are. So you go and you pull up their load profile data. Let’s say that the AMI watthour meter was setup to report on 15 minute intervals. So, we get a graph of the usage every 15 minutes of the day. What you need to do is look at the graph during times that you know that they are sleeping to see if there is a constant load that does not go off. There will be spikes during the night when the A/C comes on and off and when the water heater comes on and off and you will see these right away. What you are looking for is something that is constant. If you see this then look at it during the day and see if it goes off then. If it does not then they need to track it down and turn it off. They could be having a problem with an appliance that does not go off.
Another scenario is with a commercial and industrial customer. This one involves demand. A customer calls you and tells you that there demand is way too high and they want to know how they can lower it. If you do not know what a demand meter is click here.
Look at the load profile data for that customer and show them when things are starting up. They may be coming in first thing in the morning and turning all of the their machines and A/C on all at once. This can cause their demand to be high. One of the things that they can do to reduce their demand is to stagger when they turn everything on.
As a customer
As a customer load profile can be useful because it gives you a map of your usage. You may not realize you are leaving things on all day that do not need to be on. It may show you that it is time to update that refrigerator from the 1980’s to a more efficient model because it runs all day. It also may help you decide that you really do not need that deep freezer because you rarely use it and it uses a ton of energy.
Using load profile data can help reduce energy and save you money!