Putting Business Needs Before Technology

By defining business needs from the outset, utilities can make more informed decisions about their technology needs for today and in the future.
Published: Fri 11 Dec 2015

Utilities are beginning to realise the value in first assessing and defining where they want to go with their business and, consequently, what they need from their smart metering solution now and in the future in order to drive the necessary efficiencies in the grid and in the organization as a whole.

Defining the business needs and the required performance level first not only ensures the right choice of technology, it also means that the responsibility – and the risk – for  delivering the performance to the required service level can be left to the solution provider.

Another important aspect to consider is the total cost of ownership. Since we’re talking long-term investments here, what appears to be minor differences in, for example, maintenance costs might end up making the cheapest meter the more expensive solution in the long run.

This is how the latest smart meter deployment decision was made by the three Norwegian energy companies Fredrikstad Nett, Follo netværk and Askøy Online, who have joined forces in Fredrikstad Energi AS. These companies have selected the Danish smart metering solution provider Kamstrup as the supplier.

Fredrikstad Energi’s functional and technical requirements have a strong focus on a future-proof solution which Kamstrup’s smart grid platform OMNIA can provide. Investment and operational costs were decisive factors.

Achieving operational efficiencies into the future

The OMNIA suite is a comprehensive smart grid platform encompassing network communication, meter data management, smart grid applications and smart meters. The end-to-end solution has a strong focus on openness, security and meter reading performance. The tool aims to fully optimize the grid as it integrates seamlessly with third party systems.

The platform enables Fredrikstad Energi to reduce costs and risks from day one and throughout the duration of the project. According to Per-Otto Lie, Sales Manager of Kamstrup in Norway, the energy companies will be able to optimise their energy supply and create an even better economic business which will also be of benefit to the consumers.

According to Kamstrup, true operational efficiencies are not achieved through the improvement of a few processes or by making one part of a system go a bit faster. Operational efficiencies require the complete system to function as one unit supporting the utility’s business processes. The OMNIA system can support features such as plug’n’play installation of meters, self-configuring and self-healing infrastructure, automated collection of meter readings and seamless integration to other business systems. All of these, combined with streamlined processes, are a prerequisite for achieving true operational efficiencies – minimizing time and effort spent on an everyday basis.

Another key benefit of a modern smart grid platform like OMNIA is that is essentially future proof in the sense that it can be upgraded as new needs arise. In a changing environment, the influx of new requirements to security, functionality, etc. is a given.

New intelligent meter plans for Norway

In the period from 2016 to 2018, approximately 85,000 electricity meters will be replaced by new intelligent meters in the three supply areas, Fredrikstad, Follo and Askøy.

A pilot project, which includes from 1,000-2,000 metering points, will be carried out in the areas in the second quarter of 2016. After the completion of this pilot project, a careful assessment is required before the final rollout is started in the third quarter of 2016.

"Besides the significantly more efficient processes for measuring and invoicing, we are now able to realise the value which was demonstrated in another pilot project in Norway, ’Smart Energi Hvaler,” says Eilert Henriksen, CEO Grid at Fredrikstad Energi.

Fredrikstad Energi is the operator of the Smart Energy Hvaler project which is a test area for smart grid systems. The project is located on islands in southern Norway. The utility aims to be at the forefront of adopting new technology to push the efficiency frontier in the energy industry.

He adds, “Of course, a lot of work processes and several IT systems now have to be adapted, for example a new central system needs to be developed which must be fully integrated with the new solution. We look forward to implementing the adaptations after New Year which will ensure our continued position among the most efficient energy companies in Norway.”

Giving control back to the consumer

To the Norwegian consumers, the rollout of the remotely read meters means that they avoid having to read their consumption themselves. At the same time, they can, to a greater extent, gain easy access to their consumption data, helping them to manage their electricity consumption better. They will be able to track their consumption hourly so that they can reduce their consumption where possible.

Self meter reading, carried out by consumers also has been a common method in Denmark. But it is very inaccurate and an administration-heavy method. Smart metering introduces accurate monthly billing instead of estimates.

The move to the more modern meters falls in line with the declaration made by the Danish Energy Agency which wants all electricity meters to be remotely read by the end of 2020. [Danish Government's progressive Smart Grid Strategy[2013].] The strategy’s purpose is to make the grid intelligent and ready for the green transition. [Denmark’s lead in Smart Grid is strengthened with Smart Meter rollout.]

Kamstrup has enjoyed much success in Norway. The firm has won a number of contracts with Norwegian energy companies including Smart Power Northwest and AMS Nord.