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TMCnet's Smarter Utility Week in Review

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August 11, 2012

TMCnet's Smarter Utility Week in Review

By Cheryl Kaften, TMCnet Contributor

In Smarter Utility news this week, two meter manufacturers hit significant milestones in sales and deployments, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has chosen a new tactical communications provider.

Zug, Switzerland-based Landis+Gyr, known for advanced metering and smart grid technology, celebrated a key achievement in July: The company has now built and shipped more than 10 million Focus AX meters in North America. The AX has been deployed at many large U.S. projects. Utilities such as PG&E (News - Alert), Pepco Holdings (PHI), United Illuminating, Oncor, AEP Texas, CoServ Electric and Woodruff Electric Cooperative are using the meter to bring advanced functionality to their ratepayers.

Itron Inc., based in Liberty Lake, Washington, announced on August 6 that DTE Energy has installed 800,000 Itron endpoints to date – including smart electric meters and gas modules – in its Southeastern Michigan service area. This marks a significant milestone for DTE Energy’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project – a key component of the utility’s SmartCurrents initiative, which aims to modernize DTE Energy’s electric grid, improve distribution system reliability and efficiency, and empower electric customers with more information about their power usage. Detroit-based DTE Energy’s largest operating subsidiaries are Detroit Edison, an investor-owned electric utility serving 2.1 million customers in Southeastern Michigan; and Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. (MichCon), a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan.

The project is being funded, in part, through an $84-million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Smart Grid Investment Grant – matched by DTE Energy – which has enabled the company to accelerate the deployment of meters. The company’s original objective was to install 600,000 meters by 2012. 

Aviat (News - Alert) Networks, a provider of microwave networking technology, has announced that AT&T Government Solutions has named it to provide tactical communications equipment to the Department of Homeland Security. The contract has the potential to earn the company $3 billion over five years. DHS has awarded contracts to 30 companies for off-the-shelf technology so far under the Tactical Communications (TACCOM) program. Under the contract, Aviat will design, build, install and maintain microwave communications facilities for DHS and other federal government agencies, including the White House Communications Agency and the Departments of Interior, Justice and State.

The global market for substation automation will expand from $2.7 billion in 2012 to $4.3 billion in 2020, according to a new report from Boulder, Colorado-based Pike Research (News - Alert). Until recently, substation equipment has been allowed to deteriorate over time because utilities did not have an incentive to replace it. In fact, there have been strong disincentives to upgrading this pivotal infrastructure, including: a reluctance to compromise current service by experimenting with new technology, no additional market share to capture by introducing a “better mousetrap,” and the inescapable fact that upgrades will be expensive. However, now, due to a convergence of key technology developments and the widely perceived threat posed by climate change, the time may finally be right to bring about grid modernization.

Finally, Telit Wireless (News - Alert) Solutions, a provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) modules, has achieved Zigbee PRO and Smart Energy software certification for its software stack. The certification indicates that Telit’s stack is fully compliant with specifications from the ZigBee Alliance, one of the industry's leading standards bodies for wireless short-range devices. ZigBee Alliance is created to advance the cause of devising and maintaining standards for interoperability of devices over low-power short range radio, highly suitable for power-sensitive or battery-operated application areas, such as smart meters and smart homes. Telit’s ZigBee product line is augmented by its other lines in cellular and GPS technology, and by a full complement of value-added services, including global cellular connectivity.

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