New Advanced Metering Infrastructure Offers
Promise of Greater Service Abilities, Insights
While gearing up for a busy day of energy audits in the month of May, United’s energy advisor Ryan Hoerner uncovered an abnormal usage pattern at one member’s home.
Hoerner had four energy audits scheduled for the day. Even though he hadn’t left the office yet, Ryan knew, thanks in part to new technology, that one of the stops on his schedule would require some troubleshooting and detective work.
“The member was using over 60 kWh a day, when they normally used around 20 kWh a day for the time of year,” Hoerner said. “They were using over .6 kWh every 15 mins, which is over 2.4 kWh per hour. So, I knew they were pretty much three times their normal usage amount, and the usage never ceased. The data showed that something had failed in their house, and I had to find out what.”
Hoerner’s energy usage insight and visibility was made available due to United’s new Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project. For more than a year United has been changing out the current second-generation power line carrier (PLC) meters, for which the manufacturer discontinued parts and support available in 2019. United is now replacing the older units with a new cutting-edge wireless meter (Click to read more).
In a side-by-side comparison, old and new meters are both digital processors that record kWh usage, and they can both communicate their working status and their readings by receiving and sending information remotely. Because they operate as both microprocessors and transceivers, they can increase efficiencies for the cooperative and its members through their data throughput and analytics capabilities.
They help the cooperative keep costs down by reducing the need to send out crews. Also, they improve service reliability, power quality and electric safety, billing accuracy and a host of other functions that the older, gear-driven mechanical analog meters never could.
“Having access to more granular energy usage data has been an asset to our Energy Solutions team,” Hoerner said. “The new metering technology allows us to dig deeper into energy usage patterns and uncover issues that might have been undetected. And now we’ve gone from having the ability only to monitor daily kWh usage data to also being able to see usage data for shorter 15-minute intervals.”
There was no mistaking the fact that the member Hoerner was going to visit had an energy usage issue. The member’s abnormal usage pattern first showed up on a variance report prior to sending out the monthly billing, and one of United’s member service representatives immediately alerted the member of the higher-than-normal usage.
That conversation led to the energy audit request, and Hoerner was on his way to determine what had caused the problem.
Deployment of the latest Landis+Gyr advanced metering infrastructure in the coming years will arm the cooperative and its members with a vast new range of service options and enhancements, as well as provide the means for integrating United’s system operations with contemporary grid developments as they occur.
The new meter immediately reports any outages to the Outage Management System instead of having to rely solely on members to report the outage. Once the technologically improved meters are installed systemwide, United will have a more immediate indication of the source of a system outage, as well as how many members are affected.
That capability will aid the cooperative in dispatching crews more quickly to the outage source thanks to this advancement. Similarly, when an outage is restored, United will now have the ability to verify all meters have been restored as each meter reports its status back to the co-op’s system operations department.
Members are still encouraged to report their outages, but the data collected from the meters allow United to see the whole picture and be more precise on dispatching of crews and restoration efforts.
After arriving at the member’s home, Ryan had the member turn everything off in the house to determine a baseline. He then discovered that there was still a considerable amount of power going through the meter. The load was consistent with what the meter data indicated.
With the help of a thermal imaging camera, it didn’t take Hoerner long to turn his focus on an electric breaker in the shop that was glowing red.
Even though nothing had been used or operated in the shop for several days, the breaker was still red, indicating power was flowing through it. Hoerner discovered a wiring problem that required the help of a licensed electrician to repair.
The member was able to turn off and leave the breaker off, Hoerner said, which stopped the flow of energy. The usage in the home returned to normal, and Hoerner was able to verify this from the office with the more modern meter data, both daily kWh and 15-minute intervals. Not only did the data allow for a faster diagnosis of the problem, it also aided verification that the issue was resolved.
Over the years, United’s Energy Experts have helped countless members like this one uncover unexpected equipment failures. The additional meter data that the new meters provide add another dimension to the range of analyses Energy Experts can perform in combatting energy waste.
“Our Power Supply team is finding more and more ways to utilize the meter data afforded by the new AMI network,” stated Hoerner. “In addition to the energy usage data provided by the meters, we are also utilizing the 15-minute voltage data for processing DG installation requests. It helps us determine if the member will see any high-voltage issues in the home when a solar system is adding power back to the grid. We are just scratching the surface on these types of data. I could definitely see this meter change-out opening the door to some very interesting program offerings for our members in the future.”
United welcomes the opportunity to help its members find the best ways to waste less energy.
For additional information regarding a free home energy audit and to get a closer look at personal energy usage, members are encouraged to contact a United office today.