The history of the use of smart meters in Estonia begins in 2007. After the acquisition of the electricity network from Fortum, it was found that the level of losses at some substations was as high as 20%-25%. Replacing existing meters did not give any tangible results. It became clear that there were physical connections beyond meters. The search for such in a private area or in the house itself would have definitely lead to problems, especially legal ones.
It was decided, therefore, to install measuring points at the border of the properties. It was clear that the increased consumption for some of the customers would cause protests, so the meter readings were to be as close to real time as possible.
We examined the ADDAX smart metering system already working in Narva, on VKG networks. Using a medium voltage network for data transfer and free software made the system more attractive compared to other offers on the market and we decided to install a pilot project. Turning to ADD GRUP with the request to install a pilot project, we were very pleasantly surprised with both the level of qualification of the specialists and the extremely friendly attitude to the clients. We still maintain good relations.
As a result of the pilot project, network losses decreased to 2%. In principle, we were satisfied and continue to work with ADD GRUP planning to gradually replace the other meters reaching legacy age.
Certainly, things were not absolutely ideal and in one instance a number of meters – 300 pieces – broke down in a relatively short time, due to a defective part. To the credit of the ADD GRUP company, there was never a question of replacing and repairing the meter at the manufacturer's expense, including in the post-guarantee period. This attitude gives the consumer a sense of confidence in the supplier.
But life does not stand still, and the European Union has adopted a directive on the introduction of remote accounting for all consumers by 2020. The Estonian government had established a more stringent deadline - 2017.
Since Imatra Elekter's networks were part of the Fortum group at the time, an international tender was conducted to further introduce a remote metering system. ADD GRUP was the winner, leaving behind very strong competitors. One of the main arguments in evaluating the results of the tender was the previous positive experience with ADD GRUP.
In the tender, a new 7th generation meter was proposed. Due to strong competition, the pricing models of mobile operators has fallen, and we have chosen to move away from the medium voltage network as a communication channel in favour of the GSM network.
At the moment, all clients of Imatra Elekter, about 25,000, are provided with smart meters. The system provides billing data collection of about 99.5%.
I will not describe the advantages of remote metering as these are known to all, but I will focus on the bonus that the network company received after installing smart meters - namely, the ability to record events and network parameters. To be honest, we used to have a poor idea of what actually happens on the network. Too many factors, such as parameters and defects of the network itself, as well as equipment and modes of consumption of customers, were unknown to us. Periodically, complaints were received about burned electronics from alleged overvoltage in the network. Smart meters configured accordingly now monitored the network and identify problem areas. Based on the analysis of the data obtained it is now possible to conclude whether the claim is justified and if there is a need to repair or renovate the network. Measurement of the maximum power of the consumer allows you to estimate the real load in the network and to direct investments exactly where they are currently needed.
Smart meters turned out to improve not only the accounting but also the quality of the network service itself.
By the way, the pilot project from 2007 is still working.
Written by: Vladimir Beldjajev, head of network services in Viimsi region, Estonia, Imatra Elekter AS