Smart metering is still a big topic for European utilities even though most realise their deployment is merely a part of the energy company’s digitisation journey not the end.
But it’s been a long road and so it was celebratory today to hear the word ‘scale’ being used at European Utility Week in relation to national rollouts. Deployments are finally reaching critical mass.
Trilliant announced this week it has connected more than four million smart devices in the UK, including gas meters, electric meters and in-home displays.
Meri Braziel, Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, told Engerati in a video interview that the company has deployed 4.2 million units as part of the British Gas rollout.
Trilliant supplied its platform, which allows RF technologies including 5GHz SecureMesh WAN, 2.4GHz SecureMesh NAN, LTE/GPRS and 2.4GHz RPMA to communicate across the varied terrain and needs of the energy company.
School of hard knocks
‘Scale’ was also the word of choice for Ferry Cserép, CEO of Netinium, when describing Dutch utility Alliander’s rollout during an interview in the Engerati studio.
Cserép says a lot of learnings have come out of the “smart meter school”. Alliander changed the communication technology a few times not to mention going through the courts to be able to proceed with the rollouts.
Moving beyond the meter
So infrastructure is laid and smart meters are online prompting the question ‘What is next’?
Maher Chebbo, president of ESMIG, told us in a video interview that the organisation is aware the conversation has certainly moved on beyond remote reading and even past energy savings and customer engagement.
The organisation now refers to itself a smart energy association and “the focus has changed to look at smart energy management and the data and services we can deliver in the last mile to the customer,” said Chebbo.
As well as helping member states to reach mandated rollout deadlines, ESMIG is also helping EU states without meter programmes to realise the cost-benefit analysis of a smart meter rollout by factoring in the business case of potential energy services.
Scaling up and marginalisation
Scale is good but with it comes the need to ensure that all customers are able to access the benefits of the technology and are not marginalised through barriers.
One project which had prominence at this year’s European Utility Week, is UK Power Networks’ EnergyWise. The initiative, which scooped a gong at the European Industry Utility Awards in the Best Community Energy category, is focused on testing methods to reach families living in so-called fuel poverty in London, estimated at 10% of English households.
A team, funded by Ofgem, invited 1,352 families living in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, east London, who were mainly from ethnic minority groups and living in low energy efficiency housing.
Dr Giulia Privitera, Innovation Engineer at UK Power Networks, told Engerati that "the project had achieved an impressive 40% responsive rate with 538 people signing up to project. The main reason to register was they were interested in receiving an energy saving device and smart meter.”
While the team is still analysing the data from the pilot project, one aspect of the approach stands out - using a team from the local community to explain the benefits to customers face to face and engage them in wanting to save energy and money.
The stage is set - let the smart meter journey begin.