JACKSON — Consumers Energy has selected Jackson, Miss.-based SmartSynch to provide the advanced metering system that will form the foundation of a grid and meter modernization program for its 1.8 million electric customers in Michigan.
Consumers Energy’s selection of SmartSynch to provide SmartMeters concluded a comprehensive process by the utility to find the best advanced metering solution for its customers.
The company’s decision to use existing cellular networks for large-scale, high performance smart grid communications, in lieu of building and maintaining a private network, comes after extensive research and testing of available industry solutions. It makes Consumers Energy, which serves more than two-thirds of Michigan across a 32,000-square-mile service territory, the largest U.S. utility to choose a cellular-based communication system for the smart meter deployment phase of its grid modernization program. The companies announced the agreement Monday at an industry conference in Washington, D.C. Details of the contract aren’t being disclosed.
Meter installation is scheduled to begin in Muskegon County in August 2012 with installation phases continuing through 2019 across the utility’s service territory. In addition to the 1.8 million electric meters, the company continues to evaluate the installation of communications modules on approximately 600,000 gas meters in areas where the utility serves customers with both electricity and natural gas.
SmartSynch’s technology creates a two-way communications system that will provide customers with detailed information about their energy usage, allowing them to better manage their energy use and their bills. Traditional meters just measure energy use and customers only get that information when they get their bills.
John Russell, the president and CEO of Consumers Energy, said the SmartSynch technology and the grid and meter modernization project are part of the utility’s focus on working with customers to help them manage their energy use.
“This SmartSynch technology provides the flexibility, security and options that we need to continue to provide excellent service to our customers and meet their needs in the future,” Russell said. “As we develop our program, it will allow us to offer new options to customers and allow them to use our system to integrate new technology — such as smart appliances and plug-in electric vehicles — into their daily lives.”
In addition, advanced metering also provides key customer value benefits, including faster power outage identification and restoration.
SmartSynch has provided standards-based, Internet protocol-enabled smart grid solutions utilizing existing cellular networks since the introduction of its first SmartMeter in 2000. SmartSynch’s smart grid products are fully certified to securely deliver smart grid data on all major cellular networks, enabling quicker, easier, more scalable and strategic smart meter deployments for utilities.
“With this decision by one of the most respected and well managed utility organizations in the country, the advantages of utilizing existing cellular networks are now indisputable,” said Stephen Johnston, SmartSynch’s CEO. “Consumers Energy thoroughly evaluated and tested various technologies, and objectively chose our cellular model. Only cellular networks offer the bandwidth to support the smart grid applications of today and those that will inevitably surface as smart grid technology rapidly evolves.”
Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.