By Myrna M. Velasco
To prevent non-real time billings for consumers in the future, power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) said it will be deploying 3.3 million smart meters in the medium term.
During the company’s annual stockholders meeting on Tuesday, Meralco President and CEO Ray C. Espinosa indicated that the immediate plan which shall start next year will be completing the rollout of 145,000 smart meters both for its prepaid electricity service (PRES) and for its post-paid subscribers.
The pilot installation phase for the post-paid smart meters or the so-called advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) will just be initially at 5,000 meters; then will be ramped up in the next three years.
“Meralco has already deployed 102,000 smart meters for its prepaid electricity service. And by the first half of 2021, we would have installed a total of 145,000 meters – 38,000 more for PRES and 5,000 for post-paid. All of these services provide real-time data for the benefit of the customers,” Espinosa said.
He added the company is targeting to deploy 1.0 million smart meters more at the homes and businesses of its customers in the next three years upon the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission.
“Meralco continues to work with the ERC for the approval of 1.0 million more smart meters which are to be deployed over a period of three years. Meralco’s roadmap is actually to have 3.3 million customers on smart meters over the next eight (8) years,” the company chief executive emphasized.
The utility firm deemed that with smart meters, bill confusion such as the one arising from the “estimated billings” during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) could be avoided, because the smart meters provide “real time” readings of the consumers’ electricity usage.
Smart metering, which is a sub-set of smart grid innovation in the power sector, sets in place a system where the meter reader no longer needs to manually enter the numbers from the meter.
For the consumer in particular, one obvious advantage would be the information that may be provided in smart meters that will guide them in managing their electricity consumption –that way, they can also manage their budgets.
These are also called “intelligent meters” because they offer two-way communications capabilities between the meters and the utility as well as through the entire electricity grid, thus, enabling the utility to monitor processes or signals in the network more efficiently.
For the wider core of smart grid, it has been noted that “the data that can be captured may include those that have eventual bearing on load forecasting, load growth, asset management, outage management and other operational efficiencies that can be instituted both at the consumer level and/or in the utility’s network.
As emphasized, the crucial first step is for Meralco to modernize its electric grid; and that is a venture that it had already lodged with the regulators for approval.