The county’s electricity requirements are met by Benton County Electric System (BCES), whose 38 employees work to deliver power to more than 10,000 customers. BCES’s philosophy is to offer fair and equitable rates for all. To accomplish this, BCES began an initiative five years ago to install automated metering infrastructure that would collect meter data every 15 minutes.
Having near-real time access to this data would allow BCES to better respond to customer needs, expedite engineering analysis, and provide holistic data of the electric system for a cost-based rate design.
The company would be able to remotely connect and disconnect services, monitor power outages across the county, and offer new services such as prepay. Moreover, reducing its reliance on manual meter checks with automated meters promised to save countless travel hours for BCES’s staff.
The company faced several challenges in rolling out its automated metering infrastructure due to the patchy and unreliable cellular coverage typical of
rural and remote locations.
Scott Owens (BCES) explains: “We initially adopted a hybrid connectivity model for our meters, connecting our collectors on our fiber-optic network in certain areas, and private cellular networks in others. However, there were gaps in the network where neither of the two services were available or feasible, meaning that some isolated meters still had to be read manually, draining time and resources. We needed a connectivity solution that would enable us to fully utilise the integrated automated metering infrastructure.”