Distributed Intelligence Ups Business Case For Smart Metering

Distributed intelligence is demonstrating proven value in utility smart grid applications.
Published: Mon 28 Sep 2015

“Distributed intelligence” is becoming the new norm in this increasingly interconnected world with more and more people using apps on smartphones and tablets rather than the traditional browsers on PCs as they go about their daily lives.

Now apply this same concept to the electric grid, moving intelligence out of the back office to the edge of the grid and one opens up a new level of smart grid applications potentially offering both financial benefits as well as new revenue streams.

“The premise is that the ability of different types of devices to directly share intelligence improves decision making,” Pieter Coetzee, Senior Director, Business Development, EMEA at Itron, told Engerati.

“Up to now all the intelligence has been in the back office but new network architectures and technologies are enabling us to put the intelligence where it is required in devices in the network and thus do smarter things. For example a meter could share high resolution voltage data with a nearby capacitor bank controller to better stabilize the low voltage network.”

Smart grid use cases

The Itron Riva™ platform, which offers distributed intelligence with multiple communication capabilities, was introduced in October 2014 and is being deployed by a growing number of utilities in different geographies across the world. [Engerati-Energy Sector Leads Internet of Things] And it is starting to demonstrate quantifiable benefits, says Mr Coetzee, who with Ty Roberts, Director, Electric Product Marketing, EMEA at Itron, will be presenting an Engerati briefing Value Add: How distributed intelligence and adaptive communications are transforming the business case for smart metering.

For example, case studies of European utilities have found benefits could exceed €11,000 per meter per year for use cases including direct load control, volt/var optimization, non-technical losses detection, load flow monitoring, outage detection and verification, scope and location and high impedance connection detection.

“These are additional incremental benefits that weren’t possible with the previous generation of technologies and they result from being able to do things from a utility operational perspective that have never been done before,” says Mr Coetzee.

Consumer benefits

Mr Roberts says that while these are benefits that accrue directly to the utility, they should also be seen as consumer benefits.

“If the consumer is aware that the meter in their home can provide an early warning of a hazard such as a line heating up which could be a fire hazard, that should be of significant value to consumers,” he says. “Or as another example, if a large number of electric vehicles are plugged in to charge under one transformer and the charging is staggered to avoid overload and possible outages, then that is of value.”

He adds that there is also the potential for new, as yet undreamt of apps for consumers that could be offered through the meter as a gateway to the home based on visibility into their consumption. “This is where the local computing power comes into play.”

Smart metering value add

Mr. Roberts notes that these benefits provide a clear value add to the smart metering business case and he strongly urges utilities to look at their potential.

“We are on the cusp of a sea change where decisions are being made, and with utilities deploying large projects with 20-year lifetimes in the field, these considerations should be taken seriously,” he says. “Many industries are looking at a distributed model and utilities are a perfect example, being responsible for a broad network of power delivery and a wide consumer base, where measurement is everything. For an incremental spend they can get massive future flexibility.”

To find out more about the benefits of distributed intelligence in the grid, register for the briefing.

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