Skamania Public Utility District boasts big savings with Advanced Metering Infrastructure

Along the border between the states of Oregon and Washington lies Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Meandering past cliffs, spires and ridges, the Columbia River is set against the peaks of the nearby Cascade Mountain Range. At the base of the Cascades lies Skamania County, a small rural community known for its many recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, boating, kiteboarding and windsurfing.  

The residents of Skamania County are served by a local Public Utility District (PUD), a non-profit community-owned utility provider governed by locally elected commissioners living within the community. The Skamania PUD provides clean and affordable water and electricity to 7,990 residents.  

In 2018, the Skamania PUD sought to address year-over-year increases in system losses and labor-intensive meter reading. At the time, the PUD was challenged to quickly identify and remedy outages and address inaccurate metering which resulted in inaccurate billing. Aging infrastructure continued to be both costly and inefficient. Additionally, given the county’s location and mountain terrain, meter reading in the winter proved to be a safety concern.  

The PUD partnered with McKinstry to address these losses and develop a more effective metering strategy. Once an audit of current metering systems was complete, McKinstry facilitated several sub-contractor presentations intended to demonstrate how Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) could be designed and implemented. In late 2020, the PUD and its Board of Commissioners selected Sensus as their metering and AMI vendor with the consultative assistance of McKinstry. In 2021, permitting and design for the replacement of approximately 6,700 electricity meters and 1,500 water meters began. Construction of the 22-pole fixed network of AMI systems with advanced technologies started in early 2023.  

The use of AMI systems reduces system losses by improving electricity and water usage metering throughout the county while also using advanced technologies to quickly and easily identify and remedy outages. Using a network of AMI systems means a reduction in labor costs as real-time system and meter data are available digitally. With the implementation of these systems, it is estimated the PUD will see $128,000 in annual utility savings as well as $251,100 in annual operations and maintenance savings. Given the importance of water and electricity to county residents, the PUD’s vision toward improving these metering systems puts customer service at the forefront of their operations as a community-owned utility provider.  

The complex nature of the project from a geographical and community engagement perspective meant robust project management was essential. In addition to facilitating appropriate Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and County right-of-way permits, McKinstry worked with the PUD to develop a comprehensive community outreach plan that included two local presentations and an educational FAQ document for residents. The Scenic Area permitting is intended to develop preservation strategies to protect natural resources and key viewing areas. In order to maintain the natural integrity of the area, McKinstry partnered with a local archaeologist to perform a reconnaissance survey on two proposed pole installation locations. These sites typically resided within 500 feet of a known cultural resource or within 100 feet of high probability areas.   

The project was conducted through an Energy Performance Contract (EPC). McKinstry was selected as the PUD’s partner because of our unique approach to developing high-performing and energy-efficient metering solutions while guaranteeing energy and cost savings. The EPC provided Skamania with a cost-neutral solution to achieve significant water, electricity and operational savings while providing its residents with clean and affordable resources for decades to come.  

McKinstry is proud to partner with locally minded communities across the country and applauds the Skamania PUD for prioritizing its resident experience and bolstering the community’s energy efficiency. Home to many natural wonders beyond the Columbia River Gorge, the implementation of this high performing AMI system will allow the residents of Skamania County to focus less on how their water and electricity is getting to them and more on the beauty and recreation in their backyard.  

Location:

Skamania County, WA 

Market:

Government

Services Provided

Energy Performance Contracting (EPC)

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)

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