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  • thera52 thera52 Jul 13, 2007 3:45 PM Flag


    Itron girds for next big market Printer-Friendly Version
    Europeans launch national meter system change-outs to employ new technology

    By Richard Ripley

    Liberty Lake-based Itron Inc., the No. 1 supplier of automatic meter-reading equipment in North America, is striving to compete in the next big meter-reading market�technology that gives utilities and their customers two-way communication.

    The North American market for what�s called advanced metering infrastructure, or AMI, systems is expected to be $2 billion, and the offshore market is projected at $4 billion, says Philip Mezey, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Itron North America.

    Itron has dipped its oar into this potential ocean of AMI business with two field installations in the U.S. and Canada, but much of the real action right now is boiling up on the other side of the Atlantic, Mezey says.

    France plans to replace all 40 million of its utility meters with units that employ AMI technology, Spain plans to change out its 30 million meters, and The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, all are expected to do follow suit, as are Australia and New Zealand on the other side of the world.

    �This is business that we�re chasing every day,� even though Itron hasn�t built revenue from AMI into its business plan as yet, Mezey says.

    Enel, Italy�s largest power company, says that in a $3 billion project it already has replaced all 30 million of its customers meters with electronic AMI devices that take meter readings in real time and provide information on systemwide load to the company. The devices also enable Enel to curb or increase supply remotely to manage contractual relationships for power. The company says, �This innovation has enabled Enel to implement time-of-use electricity charges, which offer customers savings for evening and weekend electricity use.�

    Both newly allowed retail competition among energy providers and Europeans� strong desires to conserve energy and combat global warming are driving the nationwide metering-system change-outs in Europe, Mezey says.

    Heretofore, some European utilities read customers� meters only once every six months, or even just once a year, but utilities now must calculate closing bills and set up new billing accounts quickly as customers change energy providers, he says. AMI helps utilities do those things, he adds, while enabling their customers to take advantage of energy-saving initiatives such as rate reductions at times of day when power supply is abundant.

    Similar trends are altering the North American meter-reading market, although Itron declined for some time to climb aboard the two-way communication bandwagon, Mezey says.

    �We had been advocating against two-way networks. We were becoming �flat-earthers� arguing against two-way networks,� he says.


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