• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Achieving high performance with smart metering systems


Advanced metering systems are comprised of state-of-the-art electronic/digital hardware and software, which combine interval data measurement with continuously available remote communications.

These systems enable measurement of detailed, time-based information and frequent collection and transmission of such information to various parties i.e. electricity customers and the Utilities Company.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) typically refers to the full measurement and collection system that includes smart meters at the customer site; communication networks between the customer and a service provider, such as an electric, gas, or water utility; and data reception and management systems that make the information available to the service provider.

Results from Accenture’s recent utilities executive survey, conducted as part of Accenture’s Digitally Enabled Grid program on insights from smart grid and smart metering, confirms that utilities are focused on different benefits from their deployments of Smart Meters.

Smart metering is a major transformation changing the way energy and utility companies engage with their customers. Through new technological solutions, energy consumption information will be available in real time, allowing customers to benefit from different tariffs and improve energy management in the home. Utilities are also able to improve on outage management and outage restoration, Reduce meter reading costs, improved grid reliability, enhance network planning and asset management, drive energy efficiency & demand response through new tariffs, meet regulatory mandate, reduce energy theft and enable beyond-the-meter load applications etc.

Across the global electricity market, a growing number of utilities are implementing and leveraging smart metering technology. In many cases, the planned timelines for rollout are highly aggressive for example Italy has deployed over thirty four million (34) smart meters as at 2013; corresponding with the pace dictated by government regulations and emissions targets. UK has only deployed close to one (1) million smart meters with a plan to install another thirty four (34) million smart meters by year 2020.

In the Northern part of America, USA has deployed over 40million smart meters but still has close to 90million smart meters to be deployed before 2020 while in Asia, China has deployed over 150million smart meters with plan to deploy another 250million smart meters by year 2020. In Africa, the continent is still behind in the deployment of Smart Meters. Accenture is working with the likes of Eskom in South Africa on proof of concept for limited number of smart meters while it has successfully completed a phased implementation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure at same client and at other municipalities in South Africa.

Utilities face a broad set of challenges to confirm effective deployment of smart metering. Accenture’s research and insight to smart metering deployment reveals that some of the major challenges to deployment of Smart Metering are lack of supporting policy/regulation by government, lack of consumer acceptance, undefined business model & business case, lack of clarity regarding deployment approach, concerns about scalability of the solution and a host of other challenges.

One of the primary consequences of implementing smart metering technology is that it results in the generation and flow of larger volumes of meter data, greater than any previous traditional metering schemes. The need to manage this data, and subsequently transform it into actionable business intelligence, creates challenges for utilities implementing smart metering. To meet these challenges, meter data management systems (MDMS) provide utilities with a business-critical solution for storing, validating, aggregating and processing large volumes of data, in preparation for billing, settlements and other reporting and reconciliation obligations.

At its core, an MDMS consists of several elements that are common to all such systems and are designed to facilitate predefined functions. These functions are inclusive of a centralized data repository for meter readings, and adapters to collection systems that enable raw data collected from smart meters to be loaded into the MDMS, while also enabling controls to be performed. The MDMS must also have meter reading management components to validate, estimate, edit (VEE) and apply Distribution Company (DisCo)-specific or regulation specific business logic to meter readings and an engine to calculate energy usage, demand and other bill determinants.

There should also be links to downstream systems that consume processed meter data, such as billing, settlements, load forecasting, asset management and customer Web portals.

AMI data gives the DisCos information to unlock greater value. This information is only available and usable, however, if the utility has a fully functional and accessible data store. This requirement has been a key driver behind many MDMS implementations as part of smart metering initiatives. The information provided covers not only interval energy usage, but also status, events and alarms.

Building greater efficiencies into field service processes is the logical next step to implementing an operational data store. Examples of the efficiency gains available include integration with service-order management systems to automate service order creation and field dispatch—for instance, to investigate a meter tamper warning reported by a smart meter—and the ability to optimize processes when customers move premises (using the latest readings in the operational data store/MDMS for initial/final meter readings).

In addition to managing energy metering data for smart meters, an MDMS can also provide a collection of interfaces to integrate multiple smart metering infrastructure systems that use different technologies and data formats. This feature effectively decouples downstream applications from automated metering infrastructure, allowing the integration of new technologies as they emerge, and the decommissioning of old technologies, without being restricted to a single vendor or AMI implementation.

This means consumers of AMI data outputs can use the MDMS as a single, consistent interface across the various AMI systems, with data presented in a standardized manner.

An MDMS can also provide sophisticated capabilities such as meter read arbitration, meter read integrity inspection, data rejection, data aggregation, scheduling and service level agreement (SLA) monitoring across multiple smart metering infrastructure head-ends and systems. This is a key benefit of MDMS implementations in terms of technical scoping, particularly where utilities expect to deploy multiple smart meter systems to cover their territory.

MDMS can help DisCos to engage their customers, respond accurately to billing inquiries, enhance customer satisfaction and pave the way for higher rates of customers willing to pay for services rendered. It can also enable DisCos to educate customers about their patterns of energy use, associated costs and environmental impacts, and can help encourage a consumer culture of energy efficiency and conservation.

Customer web portals are commonly used to provide customers with aggregate energy usage data, detailed interval information and bill-to-date information.