Advanced meters are becoming an essential tool for today’s utility. They provide a constant connection to the member and help each organization monitor the amount of energy being used at each location. As essential as these new meters are, implementation requires an overhaul of an entire system, which can be a bit tricky.

This is where the advanced metering software can provide a leg up, which is how NISC’s Meter Data Management System (MDMS) is helping Baldwin EMC of Summerdale, Ala., with rolling out the new meters.

“It’s helped us with our meter deployment,” said Alan Schott, Chief Financial Officer at Baldwin. We can determine if we’ve done exactly all of the field work that was necessary in certain cases.”

Schott says Baldwin is about 15 percent complete with their deployment of the advanced meters – they selected the Gridstream RF model from Landis + Gyr – and they’ve been able to detect a few cases of unauthorized usage through the MDMS.

“If a location should be disconnected, and we failed to disconnect the service when we changed the meter out, the meter will be listed as having unauthorized usage,” Schott said. “The MDMS allows us to ensure that we are accurately completing our meter deployment.”

Selecting the right AMI software vendor can be a rigorous process, and Schott and Baldwin detailed a number of criteria they were looking for while evaluating potential partners. Among the key traits were ease of use, quick data access and integration with their consumer information system.

“We had over 30 different criteria that we used to evaluate MDM software packages,” Schott said. “We graded all the vendors against the criteria, and NISC provided Baldwin EMC the best value, which was a combination of functionality and price.”

John Alls, product manager for NISC, was pleased with the relationship NISC has built with Baldwin and their willingness to help provide direction for where the MDMS product can head in the future.

“Baldwin has been a Member of NISC for a while, and they’re very engaged,” Alls said. “I think we were able to bring some things to the table that they needed, and they’ve been able to make some suggestions as to some cool things that we can add. It’s been a good partnership.”

The implementation was not only the first advanced meter rollout for Baldwin, but the first time NISC has integrated with Landis + Gyr’s Gridstream RF meters, though the companies have been working together for a while. Throughout the implementation process, the three players came together on a weekly basis for status updates, helping create the smoothest possible transition for the Alabama cooperative.

“It went well,” Schott said. “We’ve had some minor issues, but overall the two vendors were able to work together very well. Both vendors had a lot of interest in making sure the project went smoothly.”

Baldwin plans to complete their deployment by the end of 2013, during which time they will deploy the MDMS to their membership. MDMS has already come in handy with the customers, though.

“We’ve had some calls on locations where we have used the MDMS to provide a little bit more information about (a customer’s) usage pattern and answer some questions regarding high-bill complaints,” Schott said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of those, but we’ve had some.”