November 2, 2021

How HECO Maximized AMI for Regulators and Customers

In 2015, the legislature for the State of Hawai‘i passed a landmark energy bill – HB623 – that would convert 100% of the state’s energy portfolio to renewable sources by 2045. The bill, aimed at creating sustainability and economic independence, specifically established the following guidelines for renewable electricity resourcing:   

  • 30% by Dec 31, 2020 
  • 40% by Dec 31, 2030 
  • 70% by Dec 31, 2040, and 
  • 100 by Dec 31, 2045 

To achieve these aggressive milestones, Hawaiian Electric has had to institute myriad of measures that address these objectives from a number of directions, including peak shaving, conservation, the incentivization of distributed generation, etc.  A prerequisite for many of these initiatives was the implementation and rollout of advanced metering technology throughout the service territory. 

Serving three separate counties that are spread out over five islands, Hawaiian Electric faced the additional complication of dealing with varied standards, requirements and processes across its operations.  As an example, the company was using a total of 200 meter programs to support all of its metering, billing and other requirements.  The enrollment of a customer on a specific program or rate often required that a truck be rolled to reprogram the meter, and the total number of customer and meter programs meant that the process was fraught with complexity and delays.  Prior to AMI, the company was dealing with multiple meter technologies.  

Starting in September 2019, Hawaiian Electric commenced a large-scale transformation project with the goal of unifying and optimizing its operations on new-and-improved AMI technology.  From a technical standpoint, the project implemented/refined and integrated the following solutions to support AMI: 

  • AMI meters and network 
  • Head end system 
  • Meter data management solution 
  • Customer information system (SAP, with AMI enablement) 
  • Customer self service 
  • Energy portal  

The success of the project, however, would hinge upon more than just technology. Hawaiian Electric, with the help of Utegration, took the opportunity to standardize business requirements, technology standards and business processes across the different divisions and multiple islands. 

The most notable example of simplification and optimization is the reduction in the total meter programs from two hundred down to just four. Combined with the ability to remotely reprogram the new meters, the foundation is now set for Hawaiian Electric to deploy more AMI meters much more quickly, offer new and innovative programs to help meet the state’s 2045 mandate, and enroll/activate the customers on these programs without incurring delays and additional operating expenses. 

Other improvements in customer experience, operational efficiency and revenue optimization include the following highlights: 

  • Meter events—the ability to automatically and remotely detect meter/service issues that can impact safety as well as revenues, and the ability to auto-generate service orders to address the issues 
  • Billing accuracy and flexibility—the ability to bill all customers using interval AMI data that can support any number of new DSM and rate programs (Hawaiian Electric is uniquely collecting five-minute interval data for all meter classes so as to support all future demand response requirements) 
  • Customer experience—the provision of detailed usage data to consumers to support enhanced cost-management capabilities 
  • Remote disconnections and reconnections—the reduction of truck rolls to effect turn-ons and turn-offs, the safeguarding of revenues at “inactive” premises, and the capability to support other (future) operations improvements as well as customer satisfaction initiatives 

This AMI project is part of a larger overall grid modernization effort that also includes upgrades to reporting and analytics as well as the implementation of a new advanced distribution management solution.  Hawaiian Electric also plans to roll out various types of field devices such as fault indicators, VAR controllers, and smart switches 

The end of the story for Hawaiian Electric and the State of Hawai‘i has yet to be written, but the results so far are extremely encouraging.  After having deployed only 5,000 AMI meters during the three prior years, the project has helped to quadruple the deployed meter count to approximately 20,000 within the span of just three months. Hawaiian Electric management is looking at ways to further accelerate the deployment process, with the aggressive goals of 47,000 deployed meters by the end of 2021, and 210,000 by the end of 2023. 

In the bigger picture, Hawaiian Electric exceeded the mandate of 30% renewables by the end of 2020 (ending the year at 35%).  Much work and innovation lies ahead if the company is to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045.  The good news is that Hawaiian Electric is well-positioned to do so now that it has paved the way for a successful advanced meter rollout and cleared some major hurdles to DSM, rates and distribution management innovation.