“AMI touches and forever changes the following areas in the utility business”

Exclusive interview with Ashley Maistry, Senior Manager – Smart Grid Delivery Lead, Accenture, South Africa and expert speaker at the Ashley Maistryupcoming African Utility Week. Accenture is a returning platinum sponsor at the event.

1.) Please can you give us some background of your work in the metering field?

To date I have been involved in multiple large AMI programmes and projects in South Africa. This includes all phases including feasibility studies, business case development, conceptual designs, pilots, implementation, and subsequent stabilisation. During this time, I played roles ranging from leading project workstreams to overall programme management to subject matter advisory.

2.) How has AMI changed the way utilities work today?

It’s been business as usual for 40 plus years in the distribution space… AMI has reached out to influence the operating models and turned them around in way not seen before. If ever there was a digital disruptor in the Distribution business, then AMI is it. You can call it revolution rather than evolution. AMI touches and forever changes the following areas in the business: metering, beyond the meter and into the customer’s home, two way communication between the meter and the utility, new utility systems, big data (and analytics), customer engagement and new channels, new tariffs (time of use, critical peak, etc.), new processes, people and training to support the new devices, etc…..

3.) What are the main challenges for utilities implementing this?

The larger Utilities have typically gone the traditional route of buying the technology and services and implementation under capex models. This approach has had degrees of success to date and offers a number of benefits to the Utility. Amongst others, these include specific technology choices and standards, internal skills development and thus banking all the resultant benefits. However, we have seen a number of significant challenges arising as a result of this approach….And while this model can work well for larger Utilities, the medium to smaller scale Utilities in South Africa will struggle to find the capital. The basket of products an d services include large commercially off the shelf systems, field (metering) devices as well as the purchase of professional services. The way forward is to buy AMI as a Service (AMIaaS) through an Opex model thus matching Revenue with Expenditure.

4.) Any particular projects that Accenture has been in involved in South Africa/Africa that you are excited about?

We have an AMI Programme that we have been involved with for almost two years where we have been involved from the Planning, Analysis and we are now moving into Detailed Design phase with our client. This AMI programme could provide a twist in that the Utility is keen to assist its local smaller Distributors (Municipalities) by offering the infrastructure to them as a service thus reducing their licence fees (licence fees are typically linked to number of metering points – more metering points, the lower the cost per metering point) and sharing those benefits with the smaller distributor thus creating a win-win for all. It could change the landscape and approach for larger and smaller Utilities thus creating a new model…watch this space!

5.) What will be your message at African Utility Week?

AMI has been possible for large utilities. Alternatively, if you are a large utility looking to explore a new route to achieving the benefits of AMI and at the same time have a significant requirement to rationalise your capital spend, then why not explore a new model of AMI as a Service. This model could also appeal to smaller utilities that require similar benefits at a lower entry point. I invite conversations in this space.

6.) What are you hoping for in the discussions at the conference?

To challenge leaders in this space to look at doing things differently. AMI changes the utility internally with new technology, processes and people impacts, so why not change the way you buy it. I challenge utilities to rather look at buying business outcomes and bank business benefits!