By St. Louis Business Journal

Esco Technologies Inc. said Wednesday that Southern California Gas Co. picked Escoâ¿¿s Aclara RF Systems Inc. with which to negotiate an agreement for the energy companyâ¿¿s advanced metering infrastructure project.

Southern California Gas Co., a subsidiary of San Diego-based energy services holding company Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), is the nationâ¿¿s largest natural gas distribution utility.

In April, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a $1.05 billion expenditure by SoCalGas to implement an advanced metering system in its service territory from 2010 to 2017. The utility plans to begin replacing and retrofitting an estimated 6 million natural gas meters with wireless communication modules beginning in mid-2012.

The planned wireless meter-reading system will provide accurate billing, increased customer privacy and convenience, and promote energy conservation, SoCalGas said.

Hazelwood, Mo.-based Aclara, part of Escoâ¿¿s Utility Solutions Group, provides technology to capture and analyze utility data. Aclaraâ¿¿s STAR Network system uses a meter transmission unit that reads a utility meter and transmits data via radio frequencies.

St. Louis-based Esco Technologies (NYSE: ESE), led by Chairman and CEO Vic Richey, supplies utility solutions for electric, gas and water utilities, including hardware and software to support advanced metering. Esco also provides engineered filtration, RF (radio frequency) shielding and EMC (electromagnetic compatibility) test products. The company reported $619.1 million in sales in fiscal 2009.

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