Newmarket Hydro Ltd. has signed up for a system that a reseller said will allow electricity meters to “”talk”” to one another and that represents a new concept in the industry.

The utility said it will implement the EnergyAxis

system, developed by Elster Electricity, LLC, of Raleigh, N.C. and being re-sold in Ontario by Olameter Inc. of Newmarket, Ont., between fall and the end of the year. Newmarket Hydro will be Elster’s first customer in Canada.

“”There are other companies that have technology, but this is kind of a newer technology”” using a mesh network,”” explained John Forsyth, director of business development at Olameter.

“”If you have a residential meter and you install it, it’ll find a collector. It’ll find a way to get back to the utility, but it kind of bounces from meter to meter without having having to install other devices around to do that.””

Newmarket Hydro considered other meter providers, including Ozz Corp., Itron and a pay-as-you-go system that a British company supplies for Woodstock Hydro. It chose Elster because of the EnergyAxis’ bi-directional communication, said Paul Ferguson, president of the utility. Its pilot project will last until 2007.

“”Typically, in an AMR (automated meter reading) application, all that the meter does is report the recorded usage or the metered usage,”” Ferguson added. “”The whole intent of our pilot project with Olameter and Elster is to look at what functionality is there and how we can use that functionality.””

Because EnergyAxis is capable of marking interval meter data, or hourly data, “”that makes it flexible to any pricing regimes that the provincial government may — or the Ontario Energy Board — may design in the future,”” said Ferguson.

Under the plan, Newmarket Hydro will transfer ownership of its electricity meters to Olameter, which will provide capital expenses, manage the meter network and provide the utility with data for billing, Ferguson said. He added Newmarket Hydro will determine the benefits for customers under this regime.

Yet, Olameter argued the advantage for utilities is they are spared the risks associated with using new metering technologies. Forsyth said Olameter has told Newmarket Hydro and other utilities they can then direct their unused capital funds for improvements in energy efficiency.

This year, the Ontario government announced a smart metering infrastructure to help conserve energy and cut costs. Its plan is to install 800,000 smart electricity meters by the end of 2007 and install smart meters for all Ontario customers by the end of 2010.

Smart meters are said to enable greater participation from a range of consumers in the electricity markets, and can improve the links between wholesale and retail systems allowing for more efficient use of energy resources.

“”They’re going to implement some rates that, depending on the time of day you use power, the rates could be higher,”” explained Forsyth. “”And then in the off-hours, when there’s less demand on the system, the rates could be less expensive to encourage people to shift some of their load from the busy times to the non-busy teams.””

Forsyth said smart meters are an important part of the government’s energy-conservation plan to balance the supply and demand of energy in Ontario. Although there’s a connection between this strategy and last year’s power outage in Ontario, he said the government has been talking about this idea for a while.

Much of the incentive is based on the fact that no one is building new energy-generation infrastructure in the province, and the government has a mandate to get rid of all coal-fired plants, he explained. He said to offset this generation loss, the government is promoting energy conservation and load shifting.

The Ontario Energy Board has started a process to establish guidelines on the definition of, and capabilities of, a smart meter, the way utilities will deploy them, and how they will recover the costs of equipping every consumer with this new meter, Ferguson said. He plans to relay to the government insights from Newmarket Hydro’s pilot project.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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