AMI investment: paving the way for new services


By Olivier Rochon, Actaris

In addition to traditional meter reading and meter management services, investment in Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) offers two-way communication between the utility provider and the smart meter, allowing the introduction of new services.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), often seen as an enhancement of Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), provides two-way communication between the utility provider and the smart meter, enabling remote management, load disconnection, reduced operating costs and a shortened billing cycle. Moreover, utilities can develop the potential for additional services, which will help them enhance their market differentiation and develop further sources of revenue.

Such new value-added services are based around the increasing trend of AMI evolving to Smart Grid features, fuelled by a host of market drivers, which include:

  • The postponement of investment into distribution network grids by operators who are constrained by budgetary and environmental factors
  • The elimination of blackouts via load shedding and demand response programmes
  • A reduction of non-technical losses
  • Management of micro-generation capacity
  • Energy saving initiatives.

It is therefore predicted that AMI will facilitate the integration of new services such as energy efficiency, demand response programmes and renewable/distributed generation. It can also act as a catalyst for improving utilities’ customer service strategies.

Worldwide, the issue of energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important. The key to improving efficiency is customer awareness – the consumer needs to be aware of energy usage and this must be the starting point for more elaborate energy management services.

AMI can play a key role in developing end user energy awareness by connecting the utility operations to the consumer. This can be achieved through a home area network (HAN), using the smart meter as a trusted gateway for delivering direct load control, demand response and dynamic pricing programmes. HANs consist of smart energy meters, in-home display units and load control devices equipped with latching relays or smart thermostats connected via a secure wireless network.

Interval data collected by AMI can be used for price-based demand response programmes – changes in electric usage by end-users in response to changes in the price of electricity over time.

Actaris meter

Actaris’ new Smart
Metering platform

The growing amount of micro-generated renewable energy used within distribution networks requires tools for monitoring energy generated by independent producers in real-time. AMI delivers hourly measurements of energy exported and real-time monitoring of micro-generated energy fed into the grid from renewable energy sources. It can also trigger alarms when the renewable energy ratio reaches a pre-defined threshold.

Potential new services can be delivered through AMI Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). These can provide significant energy storage capacity and power the grid in times of high demand. AMI can also monitor the energy used to recharge the vehicles. This could derive an attractive source of revenue for utility providers, particularly if batteries are recharged during offpeak periods.

Actaris has developed a new range of smart electricity meters to address the needs of utility providers who require a reliable and cost effective AMI solution. As part of a comprehensive, endto- end Smart Meter offering the new ACE4000 electricity meter will enable many of the new services sought by the utilities and energy providers in 2009.

  • Multi-utility & sub-metering applications will be conducted through an interface allowing billing registers to be retrieved from other Actaris or third party metering devices, including gas, water or heat meters, via either a wired or wireless connection
  • Consumer energy use awareness will be increased via a remote display unit. This display unit has a wireless connection to the meter using an open standard protocol, ZigBee Smart Energy Profile, with the meter acting as a trusted energy gateway
  • Services for energy management will be delivered via Smart Thermostats and Load Control Units bound securely to the electricity meter and utilising the Smart Energy Profile
  • Demand response events can be received from utility head end system by the smart meter for switching off domestic equipments during peak tariffs in accordance with the customer-subscribed programme
  • To enable the new ACE4000 meter range to meet all potential challenges in the future, its firmware for metering applications, security algorithms and HAN applications can be upgraded over-the-air. Furthermore, the WAN meter communication module can be replaced in the field and its WAN and LAN communication networks both have upgradeable bandwidths.

Selecting the appropriate AMI solution is imperative to allow utility providers the maximum amount of control when managing distributed energy resources, whilst improving energy efficiency and facing the future that the Smart Grid represents.