How to extend AMI to improve grid visibility

With insight from the EDP Inovgrid and Hydro One AMIO projects in collaboration with CGI, we explore the innovative use of AMI towards active grid management.
Published: Mon 17 Sep 2018

Energias de Portugal (EDP) Distribution ranks among Europe’s major electricity operators and serves nearly 12m customers in Portugal, Spain and Brazil.

As it moves towards the smarter future, EDP identified some core improvements it wanted to see in its distribution operations, including improved efficiency and quality of supply, as well as enabling distributed generation and electric vehicles (EVs).

To enable these developments EDP knew it would need to increase its network intelligence, supervision and control capabilities and created an initiative called InovGrid, introducing advanced metering infrastructure improvements to spearhead these changes.

To launch this change, EDP partnered with local companies, like global IT and business process services provider, CGI, which implemented its AMI solution Sm@rtering and changes to the existing legacy systems, and has so far seen success from its endeavours.

Hydro One is Canada’s largest electricity transmission and distribution service provider, serving 1.3m customers across Ontario.

Hydro One was one of the first utilities in North America to deploy smart meters on large scale more than 10 years ago, but these have been mainly used for billing.

As part of the Distribution Modernization Program, Hydro One launched the AMI for Operations project (AMIO), supported on CGI Sm@rtering solution to leverage its AMI infrastructure capabilities to support the outage management process.

Launching an AMI infrastructure

The EDP Inovgrid project alone sought to support six million customers located across Portugal, starting with a smart city initiative in Évora, after which the technology was rolled across the country.

With the initial stages of the project seeking to improve smart metering, distribution management and the integration of microgeneration and EVs, the smart grid seemed to natural place to start.

Monica Vaz, Manager, Smart Metering at CGI, gave insight to the project. “It was a really interesting and complex project, and it was one of the biggest innovation projects in that area of Europe, selected by the Joint Research Center (JRC) as a leading smart grids reference. Besides the delivery of the solution itself, CGI was  heavily involved with the project partners in the whole process, including solution design and initial monitoring.”

So how does an AMI platform actually serve to enable and improve network services?

The answer, of course, is through enhanced data collection and utilisation from a wealth of more intelligent sources.

Smart meters are a fundamental enabler of smart grids, but the rise in the technology brings with it its own challenges - a lack of standards and many different manufacturers and protocols, new types of data (such as load profiles, events, quality of service, etc.) at unprecedented high volumes, and of course the integration of smart grid technologies such as micro-generation and electric vehicles.

To combat these difficulties, EDP, like other distribution system operators (DSOs) must implement new and flexible MDM architectures.

“One of the key points of the Inovgrid project was the integration of data and information. The MDM doesn’t integrate just with the commercial system, it also interfaces the outage management systems, the GIS, et cetera. That’s really how we can leverage the benefits; with high levels of integration between new and existing legacy systems.”

The Sm@rtering solution and AMI platform utilised in the Inovgrid project collects and stores data from all meter readings, including events and quality of service measures, using different communication protocols and integrating them with EDP technical and commercial systems and thus allowing more intelligent decisions to be made by operations.

Vaz says: “One example of the advanced functionalities that are now available is the ability to check the meter status to understand if it is communicating or not, before sending a crew into the field, resulting in a better customer service and operational savings.”

The benefits for distribution system operators (DSOs)

Improving the network for all stakeholders

The DSO also gains massively from events data and energy management opportunities, wherein they can reduce network losses and operational or maintenance costs, as well as optimising network control, investment and reliability.

This is therefore in line with the needs of the regulators and national economy, whereby increased market efficiency, competition and reliability can be attained. Furthermore, the consumer access to renewable energy and penetration serves to assist in reaching challenging sustainability targets.

However, the beneficiaries of these changes go beyond the DSOs and its efficiency itself, driving to improve energy consumption control and reduce costs for its customers, also increasing the flexibility of tariffs and adding value added services. The benefits of the Inovgrid project can be summarized in the following picture.


EDP’s journey to digitalisation has brought new requirements for the AMI solution. Vaz explains how the DSO is starting to use Sm@rtering for further grid applications: “With EDP, we’re now doing a phase two of the project with more focus on the monitoring and control of the system, and using this infrastructure to go above and beyond in terms of grid management and fraud analysis. We’re working on configuring more innovative and advanced uses.”

Leveraging an AMI infrastructure in Canadá – The AMIO project

Hydro One initiated a supplier and application consolidation in 2012, and selected CGI IP as one of its strategic suppliers of operational solutions to improve the efficiency of the outage and workforce management processes, under the Advanced Distribution System program.

Despite the gains obtained on optimisation of these processes, the outage detection, confirmation and restoration relied heavily on customer notifications, even though Hydro One had already completed its smart metering program.

The AMIO project extended CGI IP implementation to include the Sm@rtering module and leverage the AMI infrastructure for operations.

Vaz was responsible for delivering the Sm@rtering solution for the AMIO project, and she identifies AMI reliability and IT/OT integration as the main challenges of the project.

AMI Infrastructures enable utilities to have a complete view of its distribution network, as occurs in Hydro One, as well as the ability to send notifications when there are power outages or restorations. However, usually it is not though a high availability communication network, meaning central systems only receive a percentage of the messages sent by the meters.

Vaz says: “The AMIO solution has the ability to filter false positives and correlate the meter notifications based on grid connectivity to predict the device that caused the problem, therefore identifying the outages faster and with better accuracy. The solution can also identify unrestored meters and inform the crew before they leave the site.”

The main benefits expected for the AMIO project are reduction of unnecessary service calls, faster detection and restoration of nested outages and reduction in overtime for seasonal account power out calls, which represent important savings but above all contribute to improve the quality of service.

Watch the webinar

For more insight into this project and the capabilities of AMI beyond supporting smart metering, join CGI’s upcoming webinar, ‘Enhancing active distribution network management through AMI’, featuring Monica Vaz and Alex Bettencourt, Distribution Modernization Program Manager at Hydro One.