SaskEnergy AMI meters offer precision consumption information
By Martin Charlton Communications
Paying bills for services we use is just a fact of life. But with SaskEnergy’s AMI System, the process has been made a little easier.
SaskEnergy’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) System is the foundation for providing affordable, timely and actual billing information for its customers. The AMI system automatically collects, transmits and manages actual consumption data used in customer billing and other business critical processes.
“SaskEnergy plays a vital role in providing natural gas service to the province of Saskatchewan. Our customers expect us to deliver safe, reliable and affordable service. They also expect their bills to be based on actual consumption, not estimates. Our Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) System allows us to deliver just that,” explained Dana Kostyk, P.Eng., Senior Engineer, Gas Measurement Integrity at SaskEnergy.
Prior to AMI, meters were manually read only once every three months, meaning two-thirds of customer bills were based on estimates. The adoption of AMI technology has improved billing accuracy by significantly reducing the need for estimates and eliminating issues associated with manual reads such as inaccessibility to premise and human error.
The implementation of AMI also has resulted in a reduced number of vehicles travelling for manual meter readings and tenancy changes, as well as reduced customer service call volumes, all of which have helped SaskEnergy to reduce operational costs and keep their rates affordable.
Full-scale deployment of SaskEnergy’s AMI solution began in 2013 and was substantially completed in 2018. Currently, 99.3 per cent of SaskEnergy’s more than 399,000 customer meters are read via the AMI system.
Here’s how it works
Throughout the distribution system, meters are used to measure natural gas usage at individual premises. The AMI system uses a module attached to the index drive of the meter to collect time-synchronized interval meter data reflecting natural gas usage during a specified time period (typically hourly, daily or monthly).
The module transmits this data up to six times daily to a series of fixed receivers, similar to cell phone towers. From there, the information is transferred through data collectors into a meter data management system and finally through to SaskEnergy’s billing system.
The deployment of the AMI System has the potential to deliver some enhanced benefits to customers and the province. The AMI system can collect, send and transmit more granular data than traditional meters (hourly data). By leveraging near real-time interval usage data,
SaskEnergy can identify and rectify mechanical failures with equipment or identify other situations like loss of service.
“In January 2018, 4,500 customers in the City of Melfort lost natural gas service as the result of a line hit. We were able to use interval AMI data to help identify impacted customers so that service could be restored,” Kostyk added.
This is just the beginning
With nearly 399,000 meters across the province sending configuration and read information to the databases, one could understand the wealth of data being received.
“Access to data is the key to the future,” explained Kostyk. “We’re still in the process of understanding all of the data we are receiving. There really is an endless opportunity to use the information to improve our operational efficiencies. Customers could potentially benefit in the future as well by having access to more granular information on their natural gas consumption.”
“Also, with advances in technology that are now available, we’ll be able to leverage our AMI network for far more than metering data. In the future, there is the potential to use the AMI network to monitor pressure, temperature and pipeline cathodic protection levels, among many other parameters.”
“I think we’re just beginning to understand the capabilities of the system and information,” she said. “In the future, with the help of analytics, SaskEnergy will be able to leverage our AMI system and all of this data to continue to improve our operation.”