We are seeing a lot of activity in the European smart metering market such as leading Austrian distribution network operator Netz Burgenland Strom’s ongoing rollout assisted by Landis+Gyr.
While a lot of these deployments are set to satisfy regulatory stipulations, they are also laying the foundation for a new level of digitisation that will enable the energy services of the future.
While the smart meter itself can save the consumer some money in the short term, it is becoming clear that the device has more to offer both the consumer and the utility over the longer term.
With technological advances, such as greater intelligence and multiple communications options in smart meters, the array of potential benefits is being expanded on both the customer and utility sides of the meter. It is no longer just about accurate billing.
Building a digital platform
We see three key impact areas of smart metering but at its fundamental level, it is the cornerstone for building a digital platform for the new energy system.
Impact one: It allows for much greater insight into the low-voltage (LV) network, described until now as the ‘blind spot’ of utility operations. Smart meters serve as a kind of LV network sensor when it comes to real-time management of energy supply and consumption.
Impact two: It is fundamental to enabling the grid-edge revolution where all manner of generation and consumption devices will become actors on the LV network. Smart meters at the grid edge are an enabler of digitised grids, ensuring the highest level of connectivity and data exchange.
Impact three: It enables new digital energy services that are starting to emerge.
Impact one: Illuminating the low voltage network
For most of the utilities’ existence, the grid edge served only one purpose - consumption.
That is changing. Electric vehicles, solar panels, battery storage, micro wind to name but a few are transforming the fundamental dynamic of the power grid from a unidirectional flow to an omni-directional paradigm.
In this new world, the distribution system operator (DSO) faces new challenges of coordinating the activity of multiple grid edge devices while ensuring an uninterrupted electricity supply. It is for this reason that visibility is required at all levels of the power grid.
Thierry Pollet, Head of Product Management Smart Grid at Landis+Gyr, confirms: “It starts with using digitisation to create visibility at all levels of the power grid.
“Utilities already have this capability at higher voltage levels, but implementing it at lower voltage levels will make all the difference.”
Grid digitisation at lower levels enables the capture of key voltage and current parameters in addition to power quality and non-electrical values.
Utilities can then leverage all data inputs with advanced techniques such as machine learning and grid analytics. This opens up considerable opportunities for new and improved services to end consumers.
Monitoring solutions on the LV network will help deliver distribution intelligence that enables utilities to predict and balance electricity supply and demand leading to improved asset management and reduced operational costs.
Impact two: Turn on the grid edge
Utilities realise the benefits of digitising the grid edge by using open standards that drive down the total cost of ownership and enable integration with future applications.
This need has led to the formation of industry associations such as Interoperable Device Interface Specifications (IDIS) to create open standards to move away from proprietary and incompatible systems.
IDIS is committed to specifying how the existing and evolving standards are used in products and to provide the necessary testing environment required to achieve interoperable products.
IDIS members commit to developing interoperability-tested IDIS products and making these available in the market.
Landis+Gyr devices and systems are interoperable and IDIS-certified. The company’s work with Netz Burgenland Strom is a good case in point.
The Austrian DSO has already installed over 20,000 smart meters from Landis+Gyr that are certified by the IDIS Association and the G3 Alliance, and are approved by the Austrian calibration authority for the settlement of electricity costs.
The second phase of Netz Burgenland’s mass smart meter rollout will see the deployment of 180,000 devices within its service territory by 2019.
The Landis+Gyr smart meters are equipped with the Consumer Information Interface that enables use of third-party applications for end consumer engagement.
On the system level, an example of open smart metering software architecture is Landis+Gyr HES, a head end system that provides a communication and data collection layer between the smart meter infrastructure and the utility’s IT systems.
The Landis+Gyr HES system enables secure communication to the smart metering infrastructure, and is interoperable with third-party devices based on IDIS standards. Furthermore, the IEC interface of HES allows easy integration to further utility systems.
Impact three: New digital services
It is our belief that the DSO will be the enabler for new digital energy services. In most cases, they may not end up owning these services but will be compensated by providing the data and connection layer.
We have already seen some innovative solutions in the field, like that of Austria’s Wien Energy where prosumers who generate electricity can use it to charge their cars anywhere on the network through a smart card.
Eneco, a Dutch utility, recently partnered with Tesla to build a virtual power plant made up of Powerwall batteries housed in people’s homes. This would not be possible without a robust digital control layer.
Vendors like Landis+Gyr are offering utilities tools and services to innovatively utilise energy data and to develop new services for end consumers while managing the core business securely and efficiently.
Landis+Gyr’s advanced analytics package provides visualisation, and planning and grid management capabilities using near real-time metering and grid sensor data.
It also allows for better revenue protection, asset management, optimisation of renewable integration and improving reliability and power quality.
Only when the DSO sector has clear real-time visibility on the LV network can it begin to manage the complexity of a distributed and digitised grid.