Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI, is an integrated system of sensors and equipment for enhanced energy metering. In practice, what AMI means is that a utility’s energy meters are connected and feeding data to the utility automatically.
People often call AMI smart meters, but that’s not quite correct. Smart meters are only one part of an AMI system — there are sensors, communication equipment, and other grid changes required for advanced metering. That’s why it’s called metering infrastructure – you need more than just meters to make AMI work.
While Manitoba doesn’t have AMI right now, many utilities across Canada have fully embraced it, as it can offer significant advantages to both customers and grid operators. Manitoba Hydro did a pilot program for smart meters from 2006 to 2009, and it was determined at the time they were not viable in the province. As part of our customer-focused commitment to being the utility of the future — and to evolve with the changing energy landscape — we may need to re-visit the idea of AMI and smart meters again. We’re not there yet. Any decisions about implementing AMI would be subject to regulatory requirements, a review by the Public Utilities Board, and customer engagement, among other considerations.
Having a smart meter in your home means three main things:
- Shorter outages. Unconnected meters mean a utility often relies on customer reports to tell it about power outages (especially small ones). Since smart meters are connected and providing real-time usage data, a utility can know exactly where power is out and when. That means less hunting and less troubleshooting, and outages can be restored quicker.
- More accurate billing. Because of that real-time usage data, there’s no need to read your meter and no need to estimate usage.
- Better information. Customers with smart meters can login to their utility accounts and see what their usage looks like as they’re using it. Want to see how much your air conditioning unit affects your bill? Log in and watch after you turn it on.
The utility-wide advantages of AMI are similar to the customer advantages above. A utility can benefit from enhanced data by recognizing where outages are and repairing them faster, by ensuring bills are more accurate, and by planning for future grid reliability as the energy landscape evolves.
In some places, utilities may choose to charge different rates depending on the time of day and demand on their system, but this method of billing (called time-of-use rates) isn’t built into AMI. In areas where time-of-use rates are implemented, it means customers can defer high-bill-impact tasks like doing laundry until off-peak hours and save money when rates are lower. In turn, the utility can manage demand on its system and may get more out of its infrastructure as a result.
- Radio frequencies. Smart meters transmit data for only fractions of a second per day and these emissions are lower than many household devices, including Wi-Fi routers, laptops, cellphones, garage door openers, and remote car starters.
- Information security. Smart meters may not send any personal data — only meter reads, meter identification, and safety information. Any data collected or sent must comply with the privacy protection standards and legislation in the area smart meters are used.