Florida Cooperative Streamlines Operations And Improves Customer Service With Turnkey AMI System From Aclara
St. Louis - Selecting an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is challenging under any circumstances. Installing it and making it work properly is even more so. That is why West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) selected a hassle-free turnkey system based on Two-Way Automatic Communications System (TWACS) technology from Aclara to meet its AMI requirements.
Turnkey systems are plugged in, turned on, and operated with little or no additional configuration. Utilities usually do not purchase advanced metering infrastructure in this manner. They buy AMI systems and meters from separate vendors and often have a third-party handle integration tasks.
In WFEC's case, Aclara provided all AMI infrastructure, meters, and software to the utility. It also handled overall implementation and configuration tasks. Under the direction of Aclara, a third-party handled installation of the system and meters. All WFEC had to do was operate the system.
Purchasing its AMI system solely from Aclara benefited WFEC by eliminating time delays in implementation. The utility needed to complete its AMI project quickly to reduce meter-reading costs, which were running $30,000 a month at the time WFEC started its AMI project.
"We knew that to realize the best return on investment we had to complete the project quickly and (recover) reduce our meter-reading costs," said Penny Hagan, manager of member services for WFEC. "We were aware that many co-ops were dealing with delayed and incomplete projects and we wanted to avoid that problem."
Another reason that WFEC purchased from a single vendor was to ensure quality. "We wanted the system installed and working," said Hagan. "We knew if we bought the system turnkey it would work."
WFEC began to put into operation the TWACS system and change out its 28,000 meters in August 2007. The $4.5 million project is on budget and almost complete, with approximately 600 to 700 meters still needing to be replaced.
The utility has already begun experiencing benefits from its new AMI system. "In replacing old mechanical meters which inherently slow down with age with highly accurate digital meters, we feel we recovered at least one percent in line loss." said Hagan. "We estimate that equates to about $450,000 a year in savings."
In addition, the TWACS system notifies the utility when there is reverse rotation in a meter or when a meter stops registering electricity flow. These conditions could indicate tampering or improper wiring. In addition, the TWACS technology monitors blinks, or short outages, on the system. Its ability to provide 15-minute interval reads is indispensable when assisting members in identifying usage on high bill complaints and opens the door to providing time-of-use rates and direct load control.
TWACS technology s a proven, fixed-network solution that uses patented technology to transmit data over power lines. It offers two-way communication to electric meters and provides for timely billing, load control, demand response, and outage detection and assessment. Utilities can manage customer data, reduce costs, and provide superior customer service with the system.
WFEC is a non-profit Touchstone Energy® Cooperative owned by its members and locally operated. Unlike an investor-owned utility, which distributes profits from energy sales in the form of dividends to its shareholders, WFEC repays net margins to its members. Revenue derived in excess of the cost of providing electricity is returned to WFEC's members in the form of member equity, or "capital credits."
As a Touchstone Energy® Cooperative, WFEC is part of a national alliance of consumer-owned electric cooperatives providing high standards of service to member-owners, large and small and to their communities. WFEC is among the more than 600 Touchstone Energy® cooperatives in 40 states delivering energy and related services to more than 18 million consumers throughout the United States. Forming the nation's largest electric utility marketing network, WFEC and other Touchstone Energy® cooperatives share technologies, resources and buying power while retaining a local presence and commitment to serve residential and industrial members with integrity, accountability, innovation and community involvement.
About West Florida Electric Cooperative
WFEC is a non-profit Touchstone Energy® Cooperative owned by its members and locally operated. WFEC serves approximately 28,000 meters, providing dependable electricity and other services at competitive prices in Calhoun, Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties in Northwest Florida. Established in 1937, headquartered in Graceville, Florida, WFEC also maintains district offices in Bonifay, and Sneads. In addition to electricity, WFEC offers local dial-up Internet service; WildBlue high-speed Internet service; Dish Network; the Touchstone Energy Home® energy efficiency program; portable, standby and PTO drive backup power generators; whole-house surge suppression for purchase or lease; Frigidaire, GE and Hotpoint appliances; EZ Pay Power pre-paid metering, and long distance phone service. Another program available at WFEC is the Green Power Choice program, an innovative program designed to protect the environment. WFEC plays a leading role in local economic development efforts, contributing to the recruitment of new industries and expansion of existing businesses through zero- and low-interest loans and the revolving loan fund (RLF.)
The Aclara brand represents the industry's leading fixed-network Advanced Metering Infrastructure technologies and Meter Data Management software serving water, gas, and electric utilities globally. Three technologies provide Aclara customers premier solutions including TWACS® Technology (power line communications), STAR® Network (licensed radio frequency), and Aclara Software™ (meter data and asset management). Over 475 utilities in nine countries rely on proven Aclara solutions to connect with their customers. Capturing data. Liberating Knowledge.
About ESCO Technologies Inc. (NYSE: ESE)
ESCO, headquartered in St. Louis, is a proven supplier of special purpose utility solutions for electric, gas, and water utilities, including hardware and software to support advanced metering applications and fully automated intelligent instrumentation. In addition, ESCO provides engineered filtration products to the aviation, space and process markets worldwide and is the industry leader in RF shielding and EMC test products.