This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
Drought is a major concern in the American southwest, especially in the summer months. When it comes to water conservation, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority saw the importance of deploying a smart grid infrastructure, while also taking a customer education approach.
The water authority is the largest in New Mexico, and is a political subdivision of the State of New Mexico that administers the water and wastewater utility for all of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. It serves a population of more than 634,000 people via approximately 203,000 water meters. The utility faced a series of challenges that led up to its deployment of smart grid infrastructure and a customer engagement strategy.
Residents were using 205 gallons of water per capita in 2001, causing an impact on an area prone to drought. The water utility also faced business-process challenges. The water authority read 94 percent of its water meters manually – meaning the authority faced data collection costs, and customers’ bills were not as accurate. Furthermore, the utility’s customer-service staff needed the exact data to serve customers better, and utility administrators needed access to detailed reports that would help them go forward in key planning decisions.
The water authority is completing its smart grid infrastructure, and has chosen MeterSense and CustomerConnect – Harris Utilities’ meter data management and customer engagement solutions.
The water authority chose MeterSense to establish its MDM solution. MeterSense is a scalable, configurable solution that quickly manages and intelligently interprets growing volumes of critical smart meter data. Designed on an open framework, MeterSense integrates with any customer information system and provides customer engagement and analytics tools to maximize smart grid investments, tying them into the utility with configurable, intelligent workflows.
CustomerConnect is an engagement solution that transforms the way utilities interact with their customers. Designed in close collaboration with a range of consumer groups, the solution will give customers direct, web-based access to account information and insight into resource use.
When fully implemented, MeterSense will provide superior analytics to rapidly interpret and capitalize on smart meter data. Since smart meter data is loaded with business intelligence, MeterSense analytics will swiftly decode meter data, give utility decision-makers insight into individual system and overall utility performance, inform precise forecasting and enrich strategic planning.
Katherine Yuhas, the water authority’s water conservation officer, says that using MeterSense “means we can drive down unaccounted consumption – from system leaks, for example – and further support time-of-day watering restrictions.”
While the largest water utility in New Mexico is deploying its smart grid infrastructure, it will also want to make sure its customers know the importance of water conservation.
CustomerConnect will allow the water authority’s customers to view their consumption patterns on a near real-time basis; compare their usage and rates; and customize, schedule and receive fully customizable usage reports that are delivered via e-mail, text or telephone anytime they want them. They also can change their basic account data, create personal goals and budgets with reminders and updates, and download targeted educational material to learn about and enroll in resource-conservation programs.
Customers will be able to access even the most granular levels of account data. Consumption history will be retrieved and displayed on a near real-time basis to give customers the most accurate picture possible of their usage patterns. Data will be displayed in graphic or tabular formats and is fully customizable by the consumer to ensure perfect clarity. They will be free to opt in to demand management programs and receive personalized reports on the money they are saving day-to-day. And they will have absolute freedom to configure and control their resource consumption choices.
Norm Daigle, executive vice president of Harris Utilities, SmartWorks, says this implementation will prove that any utility – water, electricity or gas – can realize significant benefits from robust, integrated smart grid solutions.
“The water authority clearly understands its role as a steward of the environment,” he says. “Together, MeterSense and CustomerConnect are enabling the utility to build on great successes and protect a critical natural resource.”
The water authority will introduce the hardware over the next five years, and plans to implement MeterSense and CustomerConnect by the fourth quarter of 2012.
Edited by Brooke Neuman