Smart Meters Offer a Significant Business Case for Africa

The smart meter has a lot to offer Africa and financiers and utilities need to understand its true benefits for it to be harnessed effectively
Published: Sun 13 Jul 2014

You can have a significant business case and increase your operational efficiency if you use the smart meter as a sensory mechanism. This is according to Mark Ossel, Board Member and Treasurer, OSGP and Vice-President of Energy & Utility at Echelon Corporation, who spoke to Engerati at the African Utility Week.

The benefits

He explains that powerlink communication helps utilities communicate with smart meters throughout the day and gives them great insight into the infrastructure. Through this link, utilities can assess the physical topology of the grid, knowing which meter is connected to which transformer. This helps utilities improve their asset management. Open smart grid protocol (OSGP) is popular in Europe because of high performance levels and reliability.

Echelon has a lot of experience in commercial properties in Africa. Through powerlink, utilities can read meters daily and do settlements, monitor pre-payments, and complete applications in a very advanced way.

Based on good marketing communication and education, consumers can save a significant amount of energy. Ossel points to a project where 50,000 consumers can save up to 17% energy because of the implementation of flexible tariffs and consumption awareness.

No reason to lose

The business case for smart meters is there, explains Ossel. It is fast becoming an asset as it helps detect non-technical losses, assists with revenue recovery, and it creates an opportunity to increase electrification levels. This is especially relevant in sub-Saharan Africa where levels are extremely low.

Ossel says that there have been numerous enquiries regarding smart grid and smart meters from Africa. An increasing number of meter manufacturers are approaching Africa.

Says Ossel: “There is a business case with no reason to lose. There is proven and reliable technology on the market-it’s just the financing of projects which can be a hurdle. Financiers and utilities need to understand the benefits of the smart meter. They should not focus on the cost-saving aspects of billing and reading of meters alone. The benefits of asset management, revenue collection and addressing non-technical losses should be understood.”