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An Ideal Investment: AMI Provides Efficiencies for Natural Gas Utilities

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) can be an ideal investment for natural gas utilities looking to achieve safety, financial and customer satisfaction objectives. According to the Black & Veatch 2016 Strategic Directions: Natural Gas Industry report, 35 percent of natural gas utilities have already upgraded to AMI, and another quarter of the utilities are considering upgrading.

“AMI architectures deliver a more comprehensive, up-to-date billing that reflects detailed actual usage,” said Jeremy Klingel, Managing Director, Black & Veatch management consulting. “AMI also allows utilities to better monitor and maintain assets and infrastructure.”

Early adopters of one-way automatic meter reading (AMR) – a predecessor technology to AMI – enjoyed significant advantages in meter reading. Utilities were able to cut incremental costs and reduce the need for estimated billing.

The upgrade to AMI further reduces cost and time from the meter-to-cash process and may supplement advanced metering with the added feature of a remotely operated valve, which is only in the early stages of adoption by utilities. According to the survey, gas utilities that are considering or have already adopted AMI cited meter-to-cash opportunities as their most compelling advantage (57 percent).

As the cost differential between AMR and AMI shrinks, more gas utilities are considering the move either directly to AMI or as part of a periodic upgrade.

“AMR alone already solves many high-cost, meter-to-cash challenges. Utilities should look at AMI not simply as another way to further improve the meter-to-cash process, but to obtain real-time insights and analysis on the entire distribution network, which can reveal significant, costly flaws.”

Jeremy Klingel, Managing Director, Black & Veatch management consulting