Bringing Data to Life

This article appears in the March-April 2012 issue of Public Power Magazine.

by Susan Ryba

Fountain Utilities in Colorado views the smart grid investment grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy as a means to offering customers tools to make informed power and water purchasing decisions. The foundation of the “Fountain Utilities Smart Energy Connections” program is that customers be empowered by having accurate, near real-time information about rates and consumption to make informed decisions relative to their lifestyle and personal needs.  Therefore, an investment in advanced metering infrastructure is only one component of the development planning. To Fountain Utilities, the delivery of accurate and timely consumption information to customers requires the coupling of its AMI deployment with the meter and operational data management system from ElectSolve Technology Solutions & Services Inc.

In affiliation with Hometown Connections, ElectSolve is delivering to public power systems the uCentra™ Operational Data Management System. This next-generation meter data management system (MDMS) provides an integration platform for AMI, AMR, SCADA, CIS, OMS, EA/GIS, demand response, and distribution line management systems. ElectSolve offers a centralized solution for operational data management, analysis, and reporting and provides a full 360-degree view of all operational data. ElectSolve integrates data from the systems of several vendors currently allied with Hometown Connections, including Elster, Milsoft Utility Solutions, Survalent Technology, Cogsdale, and N-Dimension Solutions. Along with improving utility operations, the ElectSolve system gives customers web-based tools to learn more about their energy use habits and lower costs.

“From my perspective,  ElectSolve’s capability offers so much more than delivering data from the head end of the AMI system to our billing department,” said Tom Black, Planning and Engineering Manager and Smart Grid Project Manager for Fountain Utilities. “ElectSolve’s web portal tool offers our customers and our customer service representatives the ability to view consumption information in a very precise and easy to understand manner. In more than thirty years as an energy professional, I have never been as impressed by a software interface and data presentation. ElectSolve brings the data to life.” Black added that he will welcome the ability for customers to access their consumption data via the Internet or on in-home displays, making the data accessible to everyone.

Ultimately, Fountain Utilities will use ElectSolve to access all of their legacy information systems, including SCADA, OMS, and engineering analysis. As the deployment unfolds in 2012, Fountain will be using the ElectSolve system as the repository for all data on the electric and water distribution systems.  Tom Black stated, “It’s the hub-wheel concept, with ElectSolve collecting our data in one location, for the utility staff and our employees to access on demand.”

According to John Fortune, President and CEO of Bolivar Energy Authority in Tennessee, the utility was looking for a platform to integrate its AMI, SCADA and GIS systems and to manage the huge amount of data the AMI system produces. Fortune said, “We chose ElectSolve based on recommendations of our colleagues in Columbia and Cleveland, Tennessee, who have been using the system for several months, as well as on the recommendation of our meter vendor, Elster. The cost of the ElectSolve system was also much lower than other systems we looked at; it’s definitely designed for smaller systems!”

For Georgetown Utility Systems in Texas, as its fifteen-year-old metering system is reaching the end of its useful life, the staff is focusing on a lifecycle replacement of the current AMR system.  “Our goal is to provide our customers with the ability to access their own data to make more informed decisions,” said Walter Koopmann, Technical Services Manager.  “Our top priority is to enhance our current conservation programs, such as AquaMessenger, which is a program that allows customers to be notified at various thresholds of their water usage so they can better manage their resources. ElectSolve is the filter that we have chosen to decipher the vast quantity of data for our customers.  We want such capabilities as conducting daily meter reads and offering time-of-use rates. Therefore, to us, there is an absolute requirement to include meter and operational data management with our Elster AMI deployment.  We cannot perceive of limiting our project to an AMI deployment alone, when ElectSolve can capture and present all utility data on dashboards and through web portals for the staff and customers to view and use.”

To GUS, the ability of the Elster and ElectSolve systems to incorporate data from water and electric meters is a major advantage.  Leticia Zavala, Utility Billing Office Manager, explained, “Water conservation is big news here, and the Elster/ElectSolve package is one of the few able to integrate data from multiple utilities.”

Regarding the service and support from the ElectSolve team, “We give the staff at ElectSolve an A+,” said Sandra Arnold, AMR System Operator. “We are continually amazed by their knowledge of our needs, as well as their project management approach. We will be required to run our old metering system, which is an amalgam of a fixed network and mobile applications, in parallel with our AMI system as we work through our meter upgrades. We trust ElectSolve to collect and present the data from our old and new systems simultaneously, without a hitch.”

Susan Ryba is a marketing consultant for Hometown Connections.

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