Idaho Power completes first phase of automated meter study
A pilot program using automated meter readers allowed Idaho Power customers in the Emmett and McCall areas to shift their electrical use away from those times when peak use is at its highest and electricity is more expensive.
Idaho Power recently filed a report on the completion of Phase One of the automated meter reading (AMR) project with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. Phase One included the 2005 calendar year. The commission is taking comments on the report through April 25. The report is available on the commission Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room,” then “Electric Cases,” and scroll down to IPC-E-06-01 and click on “Phase One AMR Implementation Report.”
AMR allows the company to read meters from a remote location, eliminating the need for a meter reader to enter customers’ properties to read meters. AMR also allows customers to monitor their and daily and hourly usage and shift their use away from peak demand periods, thus reducing their costs and reducing demand on the company’s entire system, which benefits all customers.
Idaho Power installed 23,474 automated meters. Of those, 10,742 were installed in the Emmett, Sweet, Montour, Horseshoe Bend, Banks, Crouch, Garden Valley and Lowman areas and 12,732 in the McCall, Lake Fork, Donnelly, Cascade, New Meadows and Riggins areas. Idaho Power estimates total Phase One project cost is $6,859,424.
Idaho Power said it had a near 100 percent success rate in collecting daily readings using AMR and 98 percent success in collecting hourly use information. The company realized $303,000 annual savings in labor costs in the Emmett and McCall areas. Billing accuracy also improved, according to the company. Estimated – rather than actual – readings were reduced by 92 percent and the need for corrected billings reduced by 45 percent.
Idaho Power did experience meter failures on irrigation pump locations using variable speed drives. The operation also had to be discontinued for some 480-volt irrigation and commercial operations due to thermal overheating. Idaho Power is working with the vendor to correct the system, but in the meantime was able to complete only monthly reads and not hourly reads on those 480-volt operations.
With the automated readers, customers who volunteered were able to participate in three energy conservation programs: Time-of-Day, Energy Watch and A/C Cool Credit.
Time-of-Day, in use from June 1 through Aug. 31, allowed volunteers to receive electricity for only 4.97 cents per kWh for all electrical use they could shift to off-peak times of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and during all hours on Saturday, Sunday and July 4. Mid-peak times, during which customers paid 5.8 cents per kWh were from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. On-peak periods, during which customers paid 6.48 cents per kWh, were from 1 to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Time-of-Day had 97 customers participate. Preliminary bill comparisons for Time-of-Day participants indicated their average bills might have been slightly less for the summer season when compared to the standard residential rate.
When customers shift to non-peak times, the electricity the company must generate or buy on the market is less expensive. Reduced power cost expenses for the company benefits all Idaho Power customers.
About 80 customers participated in the Energy Watch pilot program. The customers paid Idaho Power’s less expensive non-summer rate (5.08 cents per kWh) instead of the summer rate (5.72 cents per kWh for use of 300 kWh or more) throughout the summer, except during the company’s selected Energy Watch periods, when power was most in demand. During those periods, the rate was 20 cents per kWh. Idaho Power notified volunteer customers either by telephone or by e-mail by 4 p.m. a day before an Energy Watch period. There were nine Energy Watch periods and, according to Idaho Power, there was a “statistically significant level of peak load reduction,” during the nine Energy Watch periods. A preliminary analysis also indicates that the average residential bill was slightly higher for customers under the standard rate than for those customers who participated in Energy Watch.
About 170 Emmett customers participated in the A/C Cool Credit program that allowed Idaho Power to cycle on and off the air conditioning units of volunteer customers during periods of peak demand. The results of this program were difficult to measure because a wiring configuration gave Idaho Power the false impression that the air conditioners were being cycled through AMR technology, when in fact they were not. Further testing is under way to correct this issue for the 2006 season.
The company had to install three separated, but related, systems as no single system or vendor yet exists to provide all the technology required to meet the objectives of the project. The three systems installed included 1) a two-way automated communications system that retrieves meter reading data; 2) a meter data management system that measures hourly consumption and converted that data into billing data for those customers who participated in the Time-of-Day and Energy Watch programs; and 3) an Internet-based software system that allowed customers to access their hourly energy use through a Web site.
Those wishing to submit comments must do so by no later than April 25. Comments are accepted via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions." Fill in the case number (IPC-E-06-01) and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.