Landis+Gyr – broadened horizons encompass smart communities

Jon Stretch,
Executive Vice
President EMEA,
Landis+Gyr AG

Exclusive interview with Jon Stretch, Executive Vice President EMEA, Landis+Gyr AG. Landis+Gyr and Toshiba are joint platinum sponsors at Metering, Billing/CRM Europe.

What is on the calendar this year for Landis+Gyr?
2012 is an exciting year for the industry, and for Landis+Gyr. The transition to the digital age is happening at breathtaking speed. Each day millions are using smart technology. The utility industry in EMEA is ticking at a similar speed; utilities are deploying smart metering not only as tools for exact billing, but as crucial sensor infrastructure that will constitute a vital part of the smart grid.
2012 for us is a combination of the reliable mass delivery of AMI solutions to existing projects, alongside intense sales activity to gain our customers’ confidence in winning major contracts. We are also committed to increase our customers’ ROI with one of the largest innovation programs worldwide in the development of AMI smart grid technology.

What are you most excited about currently regarding Landis+Gyr’s products and services?
Our product portfolio continues to evolve and bring with it significant innovation that will enable future smart grids. This year’s new releases offer increased upgradeability and interoperability in our residential E450 and E350 meter platforms. We are also introducing the S650 smart grid sensor, which has key smart grid functionality at transformer station level for network monitoring and network management. A highlight is the introduction of our Gridstream head-end system, and the introduction of MDUS 2.0 powered by ecologic analytics.

What makes you competitive in the market?
Landis+Gyr has over 115 years’ worth of experience in the industry. During this time, we have constantly been on the cutting edge of innovation. We also know that local characteristics determine how and in what form smart metering is deployed. We are therefore physically present in virtually all European national markets with country sales organizations.

With Toshiba, our horizons have broadened even further and now we are looking at smart communities and all that those entail.

What do you think are the main challenges in the industry?
The current challenges for smart metering and smart grids in Europe are not technical – the technology is there and ready to be deployed – but rather they are regulatory and political. The liberalized, unbundled energy market in Europe makes the regulators’ job of cost allocation difficult. The beauty of smart metering is that the benefits the technology brings are spread across the value chain – from end-consumers who are able to take control of their energy usage to the DSOs who now can see into the last “blind mile” between the substation and the point of consumption and thus optimize their network operations and investment decisions, all the way to the TSOs, generators and even to society as a whole.

However, while the benefits are spread out and long term, the costs are usually short term and concentrated with the DSO. Any cost-benefit analysis that takes too narrow view and looks only at the costs and benefit to the DSO, as the market entity investing in the technology, will be distorted. A broader and longer range view is called for. It is up to the national politicians and regulators to create the conditions and incentives for the DSOs to make investments in innovative technologies, which means allowing them to recover the costs of investment through grid use fees, etc.

Smart metering is a massive and necessary societal infrastructure development project, but it is being bogged down by arguments over how to divide the “cost pie”. Thus, utilities need an AMI architecture based on open and interoperable interfaces to be able to enable the future systems’ interconnectivity. Interoperability, open architecture and security are where our innovations are focused.

What is your vision for the industry?
Just as we have seen developments over the last few years move from automated meter reading, where there was only one-way communication between the meter and the utility, to truly smart metering with two-way communication, the industry and the technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace.

We are already moving into a multi-utility environment, and functionalities are being demanded of smart metering systems that can support not only smart grid functions upstream, i.e. to the substation and beyond, but also functions further downstream into the home with home automation, demand side response, energy management services and support for microgeneration. Eventually, we will see a further interconnection of social infrastructure. Not only will the energy supply system become multi-directional and dynamic, but it will also be integrated – or form the backbone of – a larger interconnected smart community, where energy, transportation and even security and social and personal services will be integrated.

Why do you keep returning to Metering Europe?
Metering Europe is the one event in Europe where all our customers, competitors and partners come together – it is our annual focal point. Decision makers are there to try to form an understanding in their own mind about what the next 3 to 5 years will bring. We therefore make sure that our brightest and smartest people are at the event and that we are able to show our future technologies and portray our vision of future energy management.

What will be your message this year at Metering Europe?
Landis+Gyr has evolved from smart metering to smart grid technologies. We are now talking about how to manage the last mile of the network and how the network can be operated in a smarter and more efficient way. This is the core part of our message – from smart meters to the smart grid. Furthermore, together with our new owner Toshiba, we are thinking about the next steps beyond smart metering and the smart grid, the smart community. The key topic is how the smart grid is going to affect the end-consumer’s consumption behavior, whether it is electric vehicles, load control or microgeneration. For the first time, Landis+Gyr will host a joint booth with Toshiba where we will present our collective vision of the future of energy management.