Smart meters are playing a critical role in creating the future smart grid and enabling the integration of new technologies and innovations across the network. As the power grid begins to offer a broad platform for integrating new energy services and technologies, the ability to connect legacy assets and systems and integrate new ones is of the utmost importance.
The rapid growth witnessed by utilities has led to the proliferation of data assets, IT infrastructure and diversified business processes within the industry. Utilities need a way in which to manage, maintain and track utility assets and resources. There is a need to integrate and maintain multiple data repositories, address operational data integrity issues and ensure regulatory compliance.
The data collected by smart meters opens the door for even more integration of new resources and new energy services for customers and vendors are beginning to recognise the market potential in systems integration and additional services from that process.
Offering more than just meters
We think that Kamstrup is winning its smart meter contracts based on this and is planning on expanding its data management offering, thus providing utilities numerous operational benefits and cost savings. Recent (large) contract wins are testament to the fact that Kamstrup has a highly competitive setup – not just in terms of producing high quality meters but also in terms of meter installations as well as the reading and hosting of meter data.
Kamstrup has just been awarded a contract by a Norwegian consortium of four power utilities to supply a smart metering system that includes, meters, communication and central systems, as well as integration. The contract involves a hosting agreement with Kamstrup.
The agreement ensures continuous, stable operations for the four companies and means that they will not have to make costly investments in IT hardware or establish unprofitable operations departments.
The Norwegian consortium consists of Guldbrandsdal Energi, Valdres Energiverk, Eidefoss and Vang Energiverk. Over the last few months, Kamstrup has signed similar agreements with other Norwegian utilities including Energi Nett, Smart Strøm Nordvest and Dalane Energi, as well as DONG Energy.
Importance of integration
Utilities are connecting new resources to the power grid. In addition to providing bidirectional metering of energy flows for resources such as rooftop solar and storage, smart meters also provide greater visibility into what is occurring at the edge of the network.
Grid operators are using the AMI communications network to provide situational awareness of distributed resource operations. By better understanding the dynamics of intermittent resources on the grid, utilities can manage the grid more efficiently.
Connecting AMI systems with demand response management and distributed energy resource management systems is also underway or planned.
This convergence provides the foundation for integrating and managing the increasing number of distributed resources at the edge of the network. As more distributed resources are developed, visibility at the individual or feeder-level becomes ever more important.
A digital grid platform supported by AMI allows for proactive monitoring and management of distribution network conditions and the sustainable integration of new resources.
The most basic operational savings from a smart meter is the reduced need to send an employee in a vehicle to a customer site to read the meter.
In addition, the ability to remotely connect and disconnect service means that customers receive much quicker service when moving in or out of a residence.
Generally, operational savings gained through smart meters should be passed on to customers through lower rates on their electric bills as they occur through yearly rate adjustments. These savings will eventually offset the costs of the smart meters.
Other advanced operational efficiencies empowered by smart meters include the application of data analytics to help utilities “see” what is going on in the field. By using a variety of analytical tools that cross reference customer billing and information systems with the meter data management system, utilities are identifying and resolving theft leads and unmetered current – all of this results in savings.
Helping utilities stay ahead
With utilities having to stay ahead during the energy transformation, it is critical that they have access to the right tools. Vendors like Kamstrup are realising that utilities need more than a smart meter. They need a wider platform of services to compliment the technology. So, it makes complete sense that Kamstrup, a successful smart meter provider, also offers to manage other parts of the utility business so that the full benefits of the meter technology are realised.
This is exactly why Kamstrup has divided the business into several focused units, according to Jesper Daugaard, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing.
These include the development of high quality meters that offer innovative functionalities for the utility of tomorrow. Functionality of meters can be altered remotely after installation, thereby protecting customers’ meter investments. System and data infrastructure is another business unit, as well as service, hosting and operations support. Data analytics is a growing focus area for the company as well. Mr Daugaard told Engerati that with these growing business units, Kamstrup is able to provide ‘competitive power’.
He explains, “We are broadening the horizon and delivered the first hosting solution as early as in 2005.Today 70% of our new solutions are sold with hosting. Kamstrup is one of the few vendors in the industry that can provide a valuable end-to-end solution. The Dong Energy tender shows that we not only provide an excellent solution, we are also competitive. Utilities that focus on data security, performance and TCO at the same time as part of their smart metering strategy will find a good fit with the Kamstrup solutions.”
He points to the fact that some utilities consider flexibility as highly important. To cater for these utilities, Kamstrup often collaborates with other vendors in order to find the best possible solution . He explains, “It’s important to place the customer in the driver’s seat and let them choose the solution that meets their individual needs.”
According to Amit Narayan, CEO of grid data analytics startup AutoGrid, utilities have two to three years to find ways to capture the value of data received from smart meters. If they don’t snap up the opportunity now, consumer-centric companies moving into the home automation field like Google and Apple for instance will take advantage of this valuable market space.