Interoperability, or the ability for grid components to speak the same language through common protocols and application programming interfaces, is fundamental as utilities move into the next stage of development in dealing with system upgrades and regulatory game changers.
Not only must new systems be interoperable but they must also communicate with the legacy systems that have served as the backbone of operations for decades.
With this in mind, interoperability has been key to implementing a smart grid strategy, says Richard St Clair, Managing Director EMEA/APAC at Elster, who with Bernd Schumacher, Managing Director of Elster Energy ICT, and Ronald Hermans, Product Manager Alliances & CX at Elster, present their approach and solutions in an Engerati briefing, Elster: Providing Growth Through Interoperable Solutions.
Interoperable by design
Mr St Clair says the basis of Elster’s smart grid strategy has been “interoperability by design” as the company has built out an end-to-end solution based on its core metering technology. “We have added an advanced communication capability with a data communication gateway, and on top the software solutions and services to support an end-to-end chain.”
This effectively enables Elster to offer a one-stop shop for a smart utility solution. “Each utility is different and requires different solutions for their deployment needs and with this end-to-end capability and understanding the complexities of integration, we are able to meet their requirements.”
Core metering platform
Mr St Clair explains that Elster’s approach was to introduce a modular communications strategy, enabling integration and mixing and matching of different communication technologies on the metering platform. These have a full range of single and polyphase smart meters to draw on, making them suitable for all markets (currently numbering 130 countries in the world).
“This provides a very flexible platform to address developing needs,” he says. “For example, we have deployed all of GPRS/GSM, Wireless M-Bus, Ethernet, PLC and RS485 at some scale across multiple customers across multiple markets and attached to multiple metering technologies.
“We don’t believe one size fits all and can also deliver our expertise as a service.”
G3-PLC as an international solution
When it comes to communication, Elster regards PLC as the gold standard, as the network is owned by the utility and therefore has a low total cost of ownership, states Mr Schumacher, continuing that the company has selected G3-PLC for its international solution.
There are two main reasons for this, he outlines. Firstly, it is a mature and cost effective technology with a high level of security, and with full IPv6 communication is enabled to play a key role in the smart grid and in the wider context of the Internet of Things. Secondly, there is a merging under way of G3-PLC with the IDIS technology, which should provide a very strong combination.
“IDIS uses SFSK modulation which is relatively low speed, but is backed by the most comprehensive information model and number of supported use cases. G3-PLC with DPQSK is robust and also supports home area networking and customer interfaces. We believe a combination of these is a winner, providing the best use case support as well as robustness and security,” says Mr Schumacher.
Results from a performance evaluation of the G3-PLC solution at 13 sites with more than 500 metering points gave a greater than 99% read rate, indicating that “the technology works and is ready for mass rollout.”
Software solutions and services
In the briefing Mr Hermans focuses on the Connexo(r) solution offering multi-vendor data collection and scalable data management. “The aim is to enable simplified and unified decision making, while also growing a partner ecosystem in terms of data collection and data management and enabling add-on of value added services.”
“We summarize this as unified utility intelligence.”
Mr Hermans states that Connexo, which is designed to respond to the changing energy market, offers features including flexible deployment, smarter operations and agile evolution. “The Connexo platform is based on a robust core, Pulse, supporting both Elster and partner apps. These include the Multisense data collection app, NetSense RF mesh data collection app and Insight data management app. Potential partner apps could include prepayment, non-technical losses or utility analytics.”
In addition Connexo comes with a range of training, support and maintenance services.
To learn more about Elster’s end-to-end utility solutions, register for the briefing.