Detroit, Michigan-based DTE Energy announced on August 7 that it will embark on a $350 million smart meter program that will provide accurate measurements of energy usage and allow the energy provider to instantly detect power outages.
Currently, just like other utility companies, DTE Energy must depend upon its customer base to be notified of power outages. An advanced metering system will automate that process. Should a problem in the power grid occur, smart technology will automatically notify DTE. The system can also detect problems occurring in the grid before an outage occurs, such as low voltage affecting a customer’s service. Itron has been selected to provide the smart meters and to implement the project. The first installations will occur within Grosse Ile Township and when the project is complete 30,000 smart electric and natural gas meters will be in place for performance testing purposes and evaluation of the entire system. Assuming successful results arise from the pilot run, the full scale deployment of the smart meter system will begin next year.
The project will combine communications technology with metering devices that can be accessed remotely. Customers will experience a host of benefits from the new smart meters and DTE Energy will save considerable operational costs from the enhanced power grid efficiency.
DTE Energy will also be able to better forecast consumer demand and provide enhanced customer assistance services such as the ability to help consumers use power in a way that falls into their monthly budget. With remote access of the individual smart meters installed in customer’s homes, DTE Energy can remotely turn on and off power service and will have an enhanced ability to detect device tampering or energy theft.
The project will take six years to complete at which time manual meter readings will become a notion of the past. Customers will be able to better manage their energy consumption by tracking their usage, and demand on the power grid, using a Web portal developed by DTE.
“AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) has been proven to provide wide-ranging operational and customer benefits,” says Robert J. Buckler, president and COO of Detroit Edison. “This technology will be a major driver for service quality and provide more options for our customers to manage their energy bills.”
Currently, DTE Energy must manually read 4 million meters each and every month. Oftentimes, this is an impossible task due to uncontrollable circumstances such as threatening dogs, access problems, or severe weather.
“With AMI we will be able to achieve more than a 99 percent daily meter reading rate, which will eliminate the vast majority of estimated bills,” added Buckler.
Once the testing and evaluation of the system is complete, installations will begin throughout the service areas of both Detroit Edison and Michigan Consolidated Gas, subsidiaries of DTE Energy, on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis. Eventually, every old, mechanical electric meter in the Southeast area of Michigan will be replaced with a computerized smart meter. Natural gas meters are to be retrofitted with a module that enables AMI.
Currently, the biggest challenge of the big project is performing installations and modifications at the 20 percent of homes and businesses where the meters are located inside. “We’re going to communicate early and often so our customers know when to expect us,” commented Buckler. “The technology is something we want our customers to benefit from as quickly as possible.”
With the project taking six years to complete, manual meter reading services can be gradually phased out. DTE Energy outsources its meter readers and the six year time frame will minimize the impact on workers who depend on meter reading to find other work.
DTE Energy Resources 414 S. Main Ann Arbor, MI 48104 http://www.dteenergy.com