Detroit’s DTE Energy is shooting for 2009 to have the beginnings of an advanced metering program in place that would give its electric and natural gas customers what promises to be more accurate meter readings, detailed information about energy usage and a system that recognizes power outages without customer input.

The Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) program would cost an estimated $350 million and would be installed over the next six years, DTE stated. The system would serve as a platform to eliminate manual meter reading and would enable customers to manage their bills by tracking their consumption and demand via the company’s website, DTE stated.

Robert J. Buckler, COO of DTE’s electric subsidiary Detroit Edison, predicted that the technology would be “a major driver for service quality and provide more options for our customers to manage their energy bills.”

DTE has almost four million electric and natural gas meters scheduled to be read every month, but it said some of the meters go unread because of severe weather, unleashed dogs, locked gates and other access problems.

“With AMI we will be able to achieve more than a 99% daily meter reading rate, which will eliminate the vast majority of estimated bills,” Buckler said.

After the system testing and evaluation process has been completed, installation would be done across Detroit Edison’s electric utility area, which serves 2.2 million customers, and in the Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. (MichCon) service area. MichCon serves 1.3 million gas customers in the state.

Itron, based in Liberty Lake, WA, was contracted to provide the equipment and implement the program, and initial installation is set for Grosse Ile Township, MI. Eventually Itron plans to install 30,000 electric meters and gas meter modules for system evaluation and performance testing. Full deployment of the system is scheduled for 2009 following performance tests.

DTE now contracts for meter reading services, but this would be phased out over the six-year implementation period. The company said it has met with its unions and “will make reasonable efforts to provide other job opportunities within the company.”

©Copyright 2008Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.