With this contract, Hydro-Québec is entering a new stage in the development of a smart grid, which, in the long term, will cut costs to customers.
Hydro-Québec selected Landis+Gyr through an open request for proposals. "The globally recognized firm Landis+Gyr will provide a comprehensive end-to-end solution, thus guaranteeing the integrity of the entire metering system. This advanced metering infrastructure will reduce our operating costs and thus benefit all our customers, while making it possible to gradually introduce new functions in response to their needs," said Isabelle Courville, President of Hydro-Québec Distribution, at a press conference. "Hydro-Québec is pleased that a centre of excellence will be established in the greater Montréal area, as announced by Landis+Gyr today," she added. Under the contract signed with Hydro-Québec, this centre will employ up to 75 people, but its staff could reach up to 200 if contracts are signed with other Canadian utilities.
From 2012 to 2017, the implementation of remote meter reading will lead to the elimination of 725 positions. These cuts will chiefly affect meter readers, whose services will no longer be required with the new technology. Under the terms of the various employment contracts in effect, all permanent staff affected will be assigned to other jobs unless they retire over the next five years.
Benefits to customers
This technological platform will provide practical benefits to customers. Billing will be based on actual consumption and never estimated, as is sometimes the case now. Customers will no longer have to fill in meter-reading cards when they move. Remote connection will be possible, which will also be very convenient when people are moving, for example. And Hydro-Québec will no longer have to go on customer premises to read meters, causing much less inconvenience, especially to residential customers with indoor meters.
Economic spinoffs for Québec
Combined with the establishment of the centre of excellence, the rollout of an AMI platform will create employment for skilled workers in every region of Québec and will lead to the development of home-grown expertise in metering and smart grid applications.
The purchase, installation and operation of next-generation meters will save $300 million over the next 20 years. An initial investment of $100 million is required to set up the underlying AMI.
Worldwide, over a hundred public utilities are in various stages of AMI implementation. In addition to remote meter reading, this scalable technological platform will ultimately support a range of new functions, including outage detection, personal energy management, demand-side management, as well as remote service restoration and interruption and handling of electricity theft.
Hydro-Québec (hydroquebec.com) will be running three pilot projects over the next year, from June 2011 until May 2012, before rolling out the new meters throughout the province. The pilot projects will run in Boucherville (6,000 meters), Montréal (19,000 meters) and the regional county municipality of Memphrémagog (2,000 meters). The company plans to install meters throughout the province as of 2012, starting in the greater Montréal area. The rollout in the rest of the province will continue until 2017.
Hydro-Québec will file its full application with the Régie de l'énergie [Québec energy board] in the next few weeks.