In the first phase of a contract that could mean a lot more work over the next seven years, Raleigh-based Elster is taking smart meter technology to the hometown of Elvis.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water – the largest public provider of three utility services – picked Raleigh-based Elster to launch a smart grid contract. The initial phase is worth $10 million, and the project itself will require “multiple phases” over the next seven years, an Elster exec told WRALTechWire.

Elster is one of several smart meter and smartgrid technology firms based in the Triangle.

The contract was awarded Friday.

Elser is the lead on the project, so all contractors involved will be “working for Elster,” the company said. “It’s all rolled into one contract,” Mike Caranfa, Vice President Sales Operations and General Manager of the US East and West Sales Regions, Elster Solutions

How big could the contract be? The first phase involves 60,000 “endpoints” for the various water, gas and electric meters. The utility has more than 1 million of those endpoints, also called service points.

So could Elster win future phases? Caranfa said yes. 

While the deal is a big one, it’s not the largest, Caranfa pointed out. However, since the project covers multiple types of services, he stressed it is “exceptional.”

“This is certainly a large and important contract for Elster, but we have several larger deployments in Arizona (Salt River Project, and Arizona Public Service), as well as significant deployments in Ontario, Canada,” Caranfa explained.

“What makes this contract exceptional is both the size, and the fact that Memphis provides electricity, water and gas services. Single service utilities and dual service utilities are much more common in North America.

“Elster’s EnergyAxis system is able to process and manage meter information collected from all three utility types using a unified communication network and a single software head end application. Elster has already deployed several dozen multi-utility systems with electricity and water or electricity and gas. We also have several three-service deployments, but MLGW is the largest three-service public utility in the United States.”

The first phase is expected to be completed by the end of next year. 

MLGW chose to use the EnergyAxis system to collect data from meters, provide analysis, reporting and network management. Elster says the Memphis utility will be one of the first utilities to use its “grid performance system.”

Additionally, the Elster solution will include a prepayment system that would allow the utility to permit pre-pay customers to obtain service without having to pay a deposit. The system also is designed to help consumers “better control utility usage and costs.” 

Elster is incorporating technology from Exceleron and ABB Tropos as well as other firms in the smart utility package.

“Memphis Light, Gas and Water invested many years evaluating technology and system providers before selecting Elster Solutions,” said MLGW CEO Jerry R. Collins Jr. in announcing the deal. “We anticipate that Elster’s system will enhance operational efficiency, improve billing accuracy, and expand customer service opportunities.”

Elster has already deployed the EnergyAxis solution at 65 sites in the U.S., including 11 in the Tennessee Valley.

Elster has over 110 active EnergyAxis deployments worldwide, including 65 in the US, 11 of which are in the Tennessee Valley. The company operates in some 130 countries worldwide. 

The multi-national firm bases its U.S. operations in Raleigh.