ERC firming up regulation on smart meters

Published May 23, 2022, 3:02 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

With the aid of foreign consultants, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is firming up the regulatory framework that will guide power utilities in the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), or what is generically called “smart or intelligent meters’ in a modernized and digitalized power sector.

“We have consultants on this – it’s ongoing and the experts are actually making use of their experiences abroad; because AMI is advance in other countries but not in the Philippines, so we decided to get consultants, we cannot just do it on our own,” ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera said.

The funding for the AMI regulation-setting had been extended by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which engaged RTI International as its consultant under the US Government’s Asia Enhancing Development and Growth Through Energy (EDGE) Initiative; and that is done in collaboration with the USAID’s Energy Secure Philippines (ESP) endeavor.

Then for the AMI study and regulation component, RTI had in turn engaged Energeia as its consultant – and that company is into research advisory services.

“It (AMI) is the subject of a study right now, so we have not finalized, but we already tapped some assistance from the international funding agencies,” the ERC chief noted.

The country’s distribution utilities (DUs) are already programming massive scale rollout of AMIs because these smart meters could provide higher efficiencies and greater reliability in serving their customers.

At this point, however, it is the regulation aspect from the domain of the ERC that has been in catch-up mode when it comes to the digitalization of the restructured power industry.

For Meralco, in particular, it is lining up the rollout of at least 2.0 million AMI meters within its fifth regulatory reset spanning from 2023 to 2026 – and that will command aggregate investments of more than P19 billion.

As pointed out by relevant industry stakeholders, AMI will enable “two-way communication between the meters and the utility’s head-end systems, which makes grid become more reliable, efficient, and intelligent.”

According to Meralco, the other advantage of AMI versus the traditional meters is its ability to undertake “remote reading and disconnection/reconnection,” which had been very crucial especially during the lockdowns at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, such could result in reduction of operating costs of the power utilities.

Meralco similarly stipulated that AMIs are ideal in the management of outages or brownouts, “since the system can directly pinpoint areas without power, as opposed to sending crews to physically patrol and survey the area.”

Further, tamper detection can likewise be done swiftly as smart meters have this feature that can monitor any irregularities in consumption flow.

And for the customers, the major gain they can have with AMIs or smart meters would be programming their targeted consumption; because intelligent meters could give them more frequent data on the status of their electricity usage; hence, they would know exactly if their power use have been surging or if they have been logging savings.