Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives have something new to be proud of: 96% of the meters in Great River Energy’s service area are now smart meters, which is ahead of the curve for co-ops nationally.
All of Great River Energy’s 27 member co-ops are nearly finished installing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to replace traditional analog meters. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 81% of the meters in co-op service areas nationwide are smart meters.
“It’s exciting to see how far our member-owner cooperatives have come in the last decade in installing the pillars of grid modernization technology, but it’s even more exciting to see how much value we are all seeing from these technologies,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Information Officer Jim Jones, who was one of the founders of the collaborative grid modernization initiative between Great River Energy and its members.
AMI is a two-way communication system to collect detailed metering information, which opens up a host of benefits, including automated meter readings, billing efficiencies and outage detection. At the generation and transmission level, it offers the ability to aggregate cooperative data, among many other benefits.
Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative Member and Energy Services Manager Allison Frederickson said her cooperative completed AMI installations in 2016.
“I can’t imagine going back to not having the information AMI provides us every day,” Frederickson said, highlighting outage detection as one of the benefits of the system. “It allows us to run power downs and we can try to catch outages before members even realize they had an outage. It also allows us to identify possible hazardous situations that could start a fire or hurt someone so there are safety benefits as well.”
Frederickson also noted billing benefits to end-use members who are on their irrigation and ETS load control programs and the ability to detect tampering, which saves the membership money.
Dakota Electric Association Energy and Member Services Manager Dave Reinke cited similar benefits along with labor cost savings as a benefit of automated meter readings and the ability to disconnect and reconnect service remotely.
“AMI allows us to avoid a truck rolling every time we have to disconnect or reconnect service,” Reinke said. He also said AMI is a “valuable tool to improve the member experience.”
“When you boil it down, AMI data provides opportunities to better our member relationships, from identifying energy efficiency opportunities, improving our reliability, solving member usage inquiries, solving power quality problems or improving billing accuracy and eliminating the need to estimate readings. There are so many advantages to having AMI in place,” Reinke said.