Smart metering has reached a penetration of around 50% or more in the US and is approaching 80% or more in many European countries, and now the pressure is on for utilities to extract value from their data over and above customer billing in order to maximise the return on their investments.
Indeed, both startups and established companies are lining up with solutions and increasingly cloud-based software-as-a-service options to support utilities on their way. One such company is the Houston-based software startup Innowatts, which following its expansion into Japan is now set to enter the European market.
Innowatts, which has gained investments from Shell Ventures, Iberdrola and Japan’s Energy and Environment Investment, has developed a cloud-based artificial intelligence-enabled predictive analytics platform, eUtility. Based on data from more than 22 million smart meters globally – claimed to be the largest single body of smart meter analytics and intelligence on energy use – eUtility disaggregates customer-level energy patterns to design customised pricing and product solutions.
In addition, eUtility provides load forecasts and other predictive insights to enable proactive customer engagement such as smart energy alerts, notifications and point solution offerings.
“The rapid expansion of smart meter deployments and IoT technology across Europe has created a trove of new data and insights on customer energy consumption,” says Innowatts’ newly appointed European General Manager, Dave Boundy, formerly with Intel Energy Solutions.
Innowatts reports having tested its solution across 4 million smart meters in Europe and intends to focus initially on the UK, Spain and Scandinavia among other smart meter-enabled regions. The company describes its solution as a “single platform for extracting smart meter insights and translating those insights into new sources of customer and business value”.
Smart meter trends
While analytics solutions and platforms present one set of opportunities for the industry as smart metering becomes more pervasive, another is in the smart meters themselves.
According to Navigant Research in its latest global AMI tracker of 2Q 2019, in developed markets there continues to be a healthy spate of new installations and second-generation upgrades. For example, since the Q4 2018 tracker, new project announcements in the US have included a 1.23m meter deployment from Ameren Missouri and a 508,000 end-point deployment from We Energies, while in Sweden Ellevio announced a 900,000 AMI upgrade. In Europe, Italy, France, Spain and the UK continue to make up the majority of regional activity, but there has been an uptick in Eastern European announcements, notably across Russia and Poland.
Developing markets also are advancing, with an uptick in project announcements across Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East. Asia Pacific is in a state of transition as China moves to second-generation metering and Japan and Korea continue their first-generation deployments, while several other markets including India, Malaysia and Taiwan offer the promise of growth. Elsewhere, pilot projects still characterise the regional landscape, though progress in areas of Latin America, particularly Mexico and Brazil, and Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, continues at a steady pace.
Second-generation smart metering
Notably the market for second-generation deployments is expected to become increasingly important over the next decade as first-generation deployments reach the end of their natural life cycles and better and cheaper technologies come to the market, Navigant points out. In addition to China, such deployments are growing across areas of the US and Europe. From a technology perspective, the development of LPWA options as well as the proliferation of managed services offerings are making smart meters more viable for today’s utilities.
Data company GlobalData estimates the global smart meter market at $7.1 billion in 2023, up from $5.1 billion in 2018, with growth driven by peak load and asset management, in addition to new technologies and new first and second-generation deployments.
“China is the largest market for smart meters and is likely to continue leading the market,” notes GlobalData Power Analyst Nirushan Rajasekaram.