Smart meters enabling a new era for power and utilities industry

Power and utility landscape is undergoing a tectonic shift, as the demand for traditional metering systems is fading away and a massive shift toward digital technologies and smart meters is here to stay, writes Monalisa Rath, a business writer at market research firm Fact.MR

Smart meters have proved to be a boon to consumers who get the complete freedom of monitoring and regulating their power usage. Smart meters offer seamless two-way communication between consumers and their respective utilities, which helps the utilities with timely detection of blackouts and maintenance of service reliability.

As all types of utility companies continue to march towards a data-driven paradigm, investments in new and smart technologies are on a roll. With the trend of digitisation taking hold in the power and utility space, sales of smart meters are set to witness a healthy leap in 2019 and beyond.

What does the future hold for smart meters?

Smart meters are emerging as potential game changers that are revitalising the entire electric industry. Smart meters are not only playing a vital role in improving customer service but also laying the foundation for new and innovative business models. Over the next few years, smart meters will continue to gather momentum as a viable tool in terms of transforming the way how power & utility industry works.

Smart meters empower customers in terms of getting maximum benefits from new technologies, including solar PV, smart home technologies, and battery storage. Energy efficiency, billing transparency, compliance, and performance will continue to be the key customer touch points used by manufacturers for profitable gains. The global smart meters market valued nearly $10 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reflect growth at a CAGR of over 8% from 2018 to 2026.

AMI smart meters-energy efficiency at reasonable costs

While AMR (advanced meter reading) meters will continue to make their mark in the energy and utility landscape, demand for meters with AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) technology is set for a steep rise in demand. Exceptional visibility and availability at reasonable prices continue to underpin sales of AMI meters as compared to their AMR counterparts. AMI equips utility companies with real-time data of power consumption and enables customers to make well-informed choices about energy usage on the basis of umpteen factors, thereby creating a win-win situation for both the parties. Few other benefits offered by AMI meters include system reliability, reduced energy costs, and greater transparency.

How will demand for smart meters evolve?

Smart meter rollouts, predominantly fuelled by governmental support and subsidies, are being further driven by the increasing need to improve billing accuracy and curb non-technical losses. Europe is emerging as major hub spot of opportunities for the manufacturers of smart meters, for the fact that smart metering is mandatory in the UK and across Europe.

Over the next few years, emerging economies in the MEA region are estimated to be at the forefront of smart meters’ installations, as reliable energy supply & management is topping the priority charts across GCC countries. North America and Asia Pacific will continue being two of the largest markets for smart meters, with gains upheld by proactive deployment of smart grid and efforts to enhance billing accuracy.

Cellular connectivity for smart meters- Convening security, reliability, and flexibility

As utility providers seek secure, reliable, and flexible mediums to connect to and communicate with the smart meter networks, cellular technologies prove to be the best fit. Cellular technology offers effective and uninterrupted connectivity, thereby allowing the utility companies to harmoniously connect to smart meter systems, anytime and anywhere.

Cellular communication not only assists the utility companies to garner meter readings remotely but also helps in improvement of overall efficiency and simplified deployment of hardware and software. Additionally, the introduction of LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies had and will continue to have a far-ranging impact on ever-evolving uptake of cellular connectivity for smart meters.

Brands focus on crafting persuasive customer experiences

The demand for smart metering is on a constant rise, with grid modernization emerging as a focal point across energy industries. Successful and persuasive marketing of smart meters by the manufacturing companies comes down to one simple rule- “messaging is the key”. Brands are vying to convey their core values in a subtle yet profound manner to make end users believe in the promises delivered. Market players will also continue to focus on offering the best installation services by in-house technicians, so that customer convenience and satisfaction is extensively taken care of.

Smart meters will continue to be sought-after by utilities for nourishing customer-brand relationships and by customers for monitoring their energy consumption patterns. It would be interesting to see what other product innovations and developments will come to the fore in the smart meters landscape, which, in turn, would create new revenue streams for the market players.

Smart meters are the cornerstone of our smart energy system, so with energy suppliers this year set to ramp up installation of SMETS2 meters (second-generation devices that boast broader interoperability) supported by software and hardware developments that unlock the capability to install in more premises, 2019 is set to provide a major step forward for the national smart meter communications network. Equally significantly, already-installed SMETS1 meters are also set to undergo an upgrade, ensuring all devices are adopted, enrolled and interoperable with the Data Communications Company (DCC) network, a process that will see any meters that have temporarily lost smart functionality regain full capabilities.

These developments are important on two fronts: firstly, because a growing number of people will be able to enjoy the energy-saving benefits of smart meters, and secondly, with millions of more meters expected to join the network, energy suppliers and network operators will have masses of extra consumption data at their disposal. This will be used on one hand to improve energy services to consumers – for instance through the development of smart time-of-use tariffs (more on these below), and the extension of half-hourly settlement to domestic customers. On the other hand, operators will be able to use this extra data to get a more accurate picture of supply and demand, allowing them to integrate intermittent renewable energy sources to the grid more effectively.

About the author

Monalisa Rath is a business writer at Fact.MR, a Dublin-based global market research company. The information presented in this article is based on an ongoing report on Smart Meters Market by Fact.MR.