Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Recommendations for handling smart metering deployment

As smart metering gathers momentum, utilities must take extreme care to ensure deploying the new monitoring technology does not come at a business loss.

This suggestion has come from global management consultancy Arthur D. Little.

Until recently, many utilities have been reluctant to make the substantial investment required in order to deploy smart metering. However, rising costs of operation and improvements in fraud protection, along with increasing demand from environmentally-concious consumers, means that many more utilities companies are now ready to seriously consider the investment, highlighted the consultancy.

In its new report, Advanced Metering Management (prepared by Arthur D. Little's Energy & Utilities practice), the consultancy says implementing smart metering requires large-scale investment, necesitates a complex deployment process, and can have significant impact on a utilities key business processes. In order to be successful, utilities have a major task ahead of them in defining and planning custom approaches to making smart metering a cost effecitve and efficent part of their operations.

"Smart metering is nothing new, but as the current regulatory and consumer climate makes it more attractive for more utilities to consider deploying such systems, it is important they identify their strategic objectives and assess all risks before commencing," said Stephen Rogers, a director in Arthur D. Little's UK Energy and Utilities Practice.

"By establishing a working technological solution and including a thorough process impact analysis in the planning stage, utilities can deploy a smart metering system successfully."

Among the key factors to be considered is the amount of money involved in the process of deploying a smart metering system. The sheer complexity of introducing smart metering within the operations of an traditional utility provider will be another key consideration. It not only involves installing a large number of meters, but also introducing brand new information management systems within the organisation and, in some cases, installing new telecommunications infrastructure. Finally, utilties cannot underestimate the impact a new smart metering system will have on operations.

The report details how mistakes made in the complex planning process for smart metering deployment will have a severe impact on the utilities provider's logistics, economic planning, and organisational design in the long term.

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