- Itron and Utilismart on Thursday announced they have begun offering a turnkey metering and data solution to smaller utilities in the United States and Canada that may not need or want to pay for a full two-way advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) rollout.
- The new service combines Itron's cellular meters with Utilismart's data and meter reading services, and can provide interval consumption data, daily usage reports and submetering solutions for commercial and industrial customers.
- "There are a lot of utilities, especially smaller ones, who either can't afford yet or aren't interested in going to a full two-way automation network," said Tammy Zucco, area vice president, Americas sales - indirect channels for municipal utilities and smart cities at Itron.
Roughly two-thirds of electricity meters across the United States, as of 2020, had "smart" capabilities including integrated data processing and two-way communications, according to Guidehouse data. Utilities may reach about 90% AMI uptake by the end of the decade, experts say.
AMI is widely considered a foundational part of the energy transition that can help utilities turn growing electric vehicle and building loads into flexible grid resources. But they come with a cost, and may even be overkill in some use cases, said Zucco.
There are 60,000 electric, gas and water utilities across North America, according to Zucco, including thousands with less than 5,000 meters on their system. "All these different flavors ... and they may not have the justification" for buying a multi-million dollar advanced metering system, she said.
The partnership with Utilismart aims to bridge a "gap" between expensive AMI rollouts and the Automated Meter Reading systems that many electric utilities with smaller territories use and which can be read through radio devices.
The solution is an "alternative, fully hosted and operated meter reading and data presentment model that also addresses growing submetering needs" Miro Karlicic, vice president, business development and innovation at Utilismart, said in a statement.
A full AMI two-way network could give utilities full coverage over their entire territory, wherever they serve customers. "Of course, it costs money to have a communication network," Zucco said, and the use of Itron's cellular meters allows a targeted approach to "high-value" commercial and industrial customers.
"It really is customized to each utility: what they need, what their appetite is for technology, and what their budgets are for technology," said Zucco.
Itron already has an installed base of "several hundred" utility customers for its cellular meters, said Zucco. The partnership with Utilismart will make it available to more utilities because it will include "a very economical dashboard analytics tool, on top of what we're already doing. Whereas before ... they had to do their own integration, they had to figure out how to see the data. It wasn't as refined of a solution."