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Experiences with Aging AMI Infrastructure?

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Program Leader, *a major utility*

Experienced Energy Program Management Leader with a demonstrated history of leadership in the electric utilities industry as well as in product design and engineering companies.

  • Member since 2020
  • 16 items added with 4,179 views
  • Dec 7, 2020

For many utilities, AMI infrastructure has been in place a number of years.  For some, you may even be approaching end of life / replacement conditions.  For those utilities with a number of years on this infrastructure, has anyone had challenges with needing large scale replacement of the meter or a module of it before the expected end of life condition?  If yes, what failed and what did you do about it?  Thank you!

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Typically the failure is not in the actual meter, but in either the communications card, or the processing card (if separate). These were both new components added to the meter to make a "dumb" meter a "smart meter". In most cases is it a heat related failure of a chip or soldier joint. They typically discovered in the annual batch sampling or from having to replace the meter for non-communications or data that is communicated but does not make sense. Another failure is in pushing firmware to the meter and having the meter become non-responsive.  

In some meters, if it is firmware related you can push new firmware locally with the optical port. Some manufacturers have developed low power RF devices that can push firmware to the meter locally. This can typically solve 15% or so of the issues. 

In other hardware related issue, it may be batch related, and if it is, the problem can be solved by replacing the batch - if it is on the cards, the base meter is fine and can be brouhgt into the meter shop and the card(s) replaced. In the few cases where it is meter related or latching relay related (disconnect) the whole meter will need to be replaced - make sure you do a root cause analysis and keep track of which batch the meters were out of. This  will help identify the batch issues and the extent of the problem. 

The IRS has set the lifetime of AMI at 15 years, and if your system is approaching that age (or past it) you should be seriously thinking about a next generation meter. That next generation meter should have far more bandwidth, less latency, more firmware space and if a HAN - then it should be a WIFI type HAN and have a firewall to go with the HAN.

I wil be happy to take a call if you think that is useful - no sales pitch.

Daniel Ohlendorf's picture
Daniel Ohlendorf on Dec 17, 2020

Thank you Doug, appreciate the insights

Most utilities have requirements to inspect metering as part of the normal course of business and regulatory requirements.  Failures and replacements occur on an annual and as needed basis to avoid most large scale issues.

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