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Tasks

A modern meter reading system not only reads customers’ electric meters, but also provides data analysis tools, and means of forwarding those data to the department or company generating customer billing statements (Fig. 1). All these processes must be streamlined, cost effective, and automated as much as possible.


Types of Data

If one is interested only in retrieving dial readings once a day, that is good enough for generating billing data. If, in addition, one can get detailed information such as time of day kWh usage and demand profiles, then activities such as time of day rate analysis, true costs estimates, wholesale and retail rate calculations become possible (see Fig. 2). This enables utility companies to understand how to develop better retail cost structures, and maximize revenue. NTMC systems are capable of all this by exploiting data recording capabilities of modern RTUs. Meter resident RTUs gather data at preset intervals (15 minutes, for example), and the master downloads the data once per day in early morning hours.


Cost Effectiveness

Meter reading system cost effectiveness is determined by several factors, including cost of initial investment, cost of each meter reading before the system was installed, and increase of revenue generated by the utility company as a result of better understanding their customers’ demand profiles, and better resulting cost structures. All but the first of these depend on circumstances at the company using the system. Initial investment costs can be minimized by employing a hub-and-spoke arrangement depicted in Fig. 3, where a small number of repeater RTUs (in blue color) is used to relay meter reading commands to a large number of less costly meter reading RTUs (in orange color). This approach uses the proven technology of message routing. The meter resident RTUs can be relatively close to repeaters thereby reducing their cost.


More

on how MREX, the NTMC meter reading module, implements above can be found here.

 

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