smart metering

Today, the most developed countries are investing huge amounts of financial resources in order to get a smarter grid, writes Patricio G. Donato, Independent Researcher of the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) in Argentina.

These investments are focused mainly on automation in distribution, remote reading of energy meters and the implementation of renewable energy generators.

The advances have been immense, but sufficient progress has not yet been made on issues as dynamic/intelligent demand management or energy storage in large quantities and for long periods of time. In the case of developing countries and, in particular, South America, the smart grid scenario is lagging behind, but there is a positive trend towards encouraging the implementation of projects related to the implementation of smart grids.

The electricity grid of Argentina, one of the biggest of the region, has started its evolution to the smart grid by means of many independent and not coordinated pilot projects spread across its geography. A brief review of the present situation is summarised as follows:

Armstrong

In the small town of Armstrong (~15000 inhabitants), in the province of Santa Fe, is the first integral smart grids pilot project of the country, started at the end of 2012. This project, supported by the Energy Secretariat of the Nation, the ANPCyT and the BID, includes a deployment of 1,000 smart meters, the generation of 500kW from renewable sources (photovoltaic panels and small wind generators), and the SCADA systems for the automation and monitoring of the medium voltage substations.

The smart meters deployment was divided among four different suppliers and combining two different communication schemes (cellular network and power line communications). This pilot project is actually running in a complete way.

Salta

A smart metering experience is taking place in a district of the city of Salta, capital of the province of the same name. In this case, a deployment of 1,800 smart meters is carried out with the financial support of the ANPCyT, and the collaboration of the UCASAL and the Energy Secretariat of the province. At present, there still remains a percentage of the smart meters to be installed.

General San Martín

The province of Mendoza is running one of the largest smart metering projects of Argentina. In General San Martín, a medium size town (~50,000 inhabitants), 4,500 smart meters have been installed in the context of a project financed by UTN, FONARSEC and the companies ICSA, Edestesa and Emesa. Those smart meters are bi-directional, that is to say, are adequate for distributed generation (the province of Mendoza is one of the pioneers in the use of distributed generation in Argentina), and for the use of power line communication technology.

Centenario

The town of Centenario (province of Neuquen, ~35,000 inhabitants) is the place where another integral smart grid project is developing. The electric energy supplier of the province, EPEN, has installed 5,240 smart meters in the town and, in the short term, will provide photovoltaic equipment to different buildings and homes in the central area, as a step to a extended distributed generation scheme.

Although the implementation of smart meters began in Centenario, it will continue in the town of San Martín de los Andes and Aluminé, up to a total of 14,300 smart meters between the three cities.

Trenque Lauquen

This town of the province of Buenos Aires was chosen by the working group composed by the National Energy Secretariat, ADEERA, INTI and CAMMESA to carry out a smart grid pilot project. The objective to compare different technologies in information processing, communications and demand management as well as various types of low power distributed generation sources: wind, solar, etc.

Buenos Aires

The capital city of the Argentine Republic and the cities of the suburbs, comprise almost six million energy users, constituting 40% of the country's total users. The electricity distribution is divided between two main companies, EDENOR in the north sector, and EDESUR in the south sector.

EDESUR announced that it is deploying a pilot project of 5,000 smart meters to be installed before 2018, as a first step to a massive deployment that will reach all users in its coverage area (more than 2,5 million smart meters). This massive deployment is part of a five year investment plan of EDESUR and, when completed, it would be the most important installation plan in all of Latin America.

Cooperatives

Apart from the deployments carried out by electric energy companies and/or cooperatives with the financial support of national and international organisations, Argentina has developed an uncoordinated but important process of installation of smart meters. This phenomenon has occurred mainly in electric cooperatives of small towns with rural and semi-urban demographics, where smart meters began to be installed due to a question of facilitating the consumption reading processes of users located in the far downtown area.

According to reports from different sources, there are more than 30,000 smart meters operating in small inland locations such as Vicuña Mackenna, Las Varillas, Justiniano Posse, Freyre and Gaiman. In all these cases, the smart meters were first installed in rural environments, with the aim of reducing reading times and costs for these clients, and due to the success obtained, the installation continued to the central area and surrounding neighbourhoods.

In many of these cases, the use of smart meters by rural users avoids the cooperative having to spend many hundreds of kilometres of displacement for the meter reading. In this way, cities that are not in the area of major urban centres have placed themselves at the forefront in the process of transforming the electricity grid into a truly smart grid.

The future

Smart meters are the key devices for the implementation of a real smart grid. The present scenario in Argentina is the existence of many pilot projects of limited scope, without a global coordination between them. However, their geographical dispersion, together with the economic and regulatory changes in the energy sector, makes a promising scenario for the inevitable evolution of the electricity grid.

It is expected that this process will be accelerated as systems already installed demonstrate their usefulness and the improvements that can be achieved in terms of reading, maintenance, remote connection and disconnection costs, etc.

The recent approval of national laws to regulate distributed generation, the promotion regimes for the use of renewable energy sources, and initiatives to improve the supply of electric energy are key factors that drive the development of smart grids and smart meters in Argentina for the coming years.

About the author

Patricio G. Donato is currently working as Independent Researcher of the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and Adjoint Proffesor of the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata (UNMdP), Argentina. He received the degree in electronics engineering from the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco (UNPSJB), Argentina, and the Ph.D. degree in electronics from the Universidad de Alcalá (UAH), Spain.

He leads a line of research on Smart Grids within CONICET and UNMDP, focusing primarily on issues related to the measurement and evaluation of power quality problems and also signal processing applied to the detection of signals in noisy environments, such as powerline communications (PLC). In this sense, he has directed several doctoral theses and published scientific articles, in addition to lecturing courses and conferences on the matter. It is currently focusing its attention on studying the evolution and impact of the Smart Grids on the Argentine electricity system.

 

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