London Hydro prepares for smart meters

London Hydro has to deal with the wild ups and downs of the deregulated utilities market in Ontario, but now it has SAP’s utilities solution on its side to keep one step ahead of smart metering.

The Ontario government’s smart metering initiatives have utility companies scrambling to get the proper hardware and software installed to handle the incoming data. Said Cathy Tough, director of energy and utilities for SAP Canada: “Ontario has one of the most interesting energy marketplaces in Canada, with Ontario and Alberta the most advanced in terms of deregulation and smart metering. The business transactions formulas are regulated and the transactions are continuing to change and evolve.”

According to Mridula Sharma, London Hydro’s director of information services, the utility wanted to get a head start on compliance with the smart meter requirements. “We were also looking for a more integratable solution that was scaleable and flexible,” she said. “We wanted to be prepared for future growth, as well as to enhance business process workflow.”

London Hydro had been using a rickety custom-built system for some time, and was in the market for something that could more ably handle such up-to-date necessities as time-of-use billing and demand-site management.

It put out the call last September, and then narrowed the field to a dozen candidates, and then, finally, down to three: SPL Solutions (which is now owned by Oracle), another custom-built solution, and SAP for Utilities.

In the end, Sharma found SAP’s customer information system (CIS) to be the most flexible. “It was actually utilities-based, too, so you could use it right out of the box with no customization,” she said. In a province like Ontario — with its very specific regulations governing utilities — Sharma wanted to stay away from having to write any code. But the program also allowed her to format the specific bill layouts that she required. “Our toolset is easily configured,” said Tough.

London Hydro is going with an outside party for the actual implementation, because, said Sharma, it wanted to reap the benefits of an SAP partner with plenty of experience with utility software implementations. Wipro Technologies will be handling the roll-out, which is due to wrap up by June 2008. Once in place, the system will prove invaluable in managing the smart metering, allowing the data to flow between the government’s central smart metering data repository, London Hydro…and the customer’s bill.

The future now entails almost a year of working on this implementation, and, if it is a success, offering the CIS set-up as a template to other energy vendors in the province, who could run the program in a shared or hosted environment situation, according to Tough.

In the meanwhile, London Hydro is also exploring the application’s integration capabilities with London Hydro’s other applications, from geographic information systems to outage management systems. Sharma plans eventually to consolidate the utility’s systems onto one ERP-based SAP platform, adding HR, financials, and operations modules to the mix. “They’re all intertwined, so then there are no integration challenges that might be there with other products,” she said.

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