The City of Fredericksburg Texas Realizes Benefits of Metering Automation
Fredericksburg is located approximately 80 miles west of Austin...
ABOUT FREDERICKSBURG'S MUNICIPAL UTILITIES
Fredericksburg is located approximately 80 miles west of Austin, in the Texas Hill Country. In 1940, the City of Fredericksburg (City) became a municipal utility when they purchased the electric utility system from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). The City’s water and sewer system was built in 1936. Prior to that time all residences and businesses received water from private wells. At the present time the City of Fredericksburg supplies water to all customers from City owned wells. The City’s water system is rated superior by regulators in Texas.
FREDERICKSBURG CUSTOMER BASE
Fredericksburg’s municipal utilities serve a population of about 10,000 which consists of 5,220 electrical and 6,050 water service accounts. Since acquiring the electrical utility in 1940, Fredericksburg’s focus has been on providing superior customer service, with excellent reliability, while maintaining reasonable rates in Texas. The City of Fredericksburg bills their electrical customers for kWh usage only; there is no billing for demand. For water service, the City has a tiered rate structure based on consumption.
Fredericksburg has seen tremendous growth over the last ten years and the number of multi utility meters has increased dramatically. Consequently, the City’s two meter readers could no longer keep up with manually reading an increasing number of meters. During the budgeting process for the 2005 fiscal year, the City decided not to add a third meter reader, but to evaluate the benefits of using a partial or fully automated metering system. The drivers for turning to smart metering automation were to:
• Reduce meter reading costs.
• Reduce the time needed to read meters so that earned revenue more closely matches billed revenue every month.
• Improve customer service.
In 1976, the Texas PUC established regulations which set boundary lines for where utilities can operate within the state. These regulations allow Fredericksburg to expand their water service because it does not have competition outside its current city limits. However, the City is restricted to providing electrical service only to customers within its electric service territory because it is surrounded by another utility provider. Therefore as areas are annexed and the city expands, the City is able to provide water service to those new areas, but not electrical service.
The challenge that Fredericksburg faced was finding a smart metering system that would allow them to read both electric and water meters on demand. Daily reads are important in helping customers analyze consumption and being able to read every meter on the same day results in the same billing period for all customers. Additionally, the system had to be capable of handling water meters that were located outside their electrical service areas. This was a key driver in selecting a smart metering automation system.
ELSTER ELECTRICITY'S ENERGYAXIS® SOLUTION
To meet the challenges they faced, the City of Fredericksburg selected Elster Electricity’s EnergyAxis System. The EnergyAxis System utilizes a controlled wireless mesh network that is self registering and self healing. The network provides two-way communications between the meters and the Metering Automation Server (MAS).
The first phase of their city wide deployment was completed in the first quarter of 2006. Full deployment will occur in two more phases over the next two years or less.
The EnergyAxis System has enabled the City of Fredericksburg to read all the meters installed in the first phase on the same day, resulting in the same billing period for those customers. It also gives the City the capability to collect daily electric and water meter readings. This data can be used to assist customers in analyzing their consumption, promote conservation, and help the City identify power losses in the system and possible water leaks. It will also enable the City to comply with new Texas laws that require utilities to collect data to provide to customers in near real time.
Having the capability to obtain daily water meter reading in the areas where the City is limited to water service only is a great advantage. The new subdivisions tend to have higher water usage and generate the most customer inquiries. The daily reads will help the City’s representatives better analyze consumption for these customers.
By reading all of the meters on the same day and closer to the billing date the City was able to significantly reduce the difference between earned and unbilled revenue. With the EnergyAxis System, the City is able to bill customers for the same period that the City is billed by its wholesale energy provider. This will enable the City to match costs and revenues more closely and determine distribution losses within its electric and water systems.
Fredericksburg will be able to pay for the system with the additional revenue realized from improved business operations and eliminating the billing cycle float on revenue created by manual meter reading.