Metering America – Utilities want their money back

Recently I participated in Metering America conference in San Diego, CA. After a week passed and I had my chance to think it out, I’d like to share with you what new trend is visible.

All the events that I took part in last 2 years had a clear message “Moving to Smarter Grids and smart energy resources is essential to successful growth”. Specialists from all the countries were actively discussing the technologies, communications, software development. AMI pilots have been rolling out. It was not clear then how we are going to use those cutting edge technologies to earn money but it looked like no one cared. Then finally they all started to talk about Smart Grid applications as a way to have money back. But with growing amount of pilots and deployments (more or less successful) it become clear that a new problem arises – Utilities just cannot have enough financial impact on top of existing SmartGrid environments: not a single Demand Response program, for example, can provide ROI enough to payback investments into HAN infrastructure required. At least I haven’t read about financially successful rollouts (correct me if I’m wrong).

At Metering America this problem was extremely clear for me – there is no clear vision of what to do next in terms of SmartGrid evolution. Both Utilities and Consumers are tired of SmartGrids as a concept, they both want it as a business instrument. Utilities clearly need a way to start returning their investments and there is no general trend for now of how to initiate this return.

So, Utilities were talking about Asset Management instead of AMI rollouts, because they see real money lost in poor EAM processes, Utilities talk about easy-to-deploy solutions on top of their brand-new metering infrastructures. And vendors need to create immediate answer to this new (actually, well forgotten old one) issue. We’ll see how it is going to happen.

PS. This year Metering America was not so great in scale, as I expected. If they won’t make something to correct this, next year I’m going to skip this event.

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