Victoria AMI technology trials reviewed


Melbourne, Australia — (METERING.COM) — December 18, 2007 – Trials of AMI technologies in Victoria, Australia have confirmed that there are technologies available that are suitable, from the perspective of communications performance, for a state-wide rollout, but further developments of these technologies are required before deployment across the range of Victorian environments can occur.

These are among the conclusions of technology trials conducted in the state over the past year with the aim of assessing the support of the envisaged AMI functionalities across the range of geographic areas by the available communications technologies. The Victorian government initiated a project to deliver AMI to all state electricity consumers taking supply of less than 160 MWh per annum and it is planned that more than 2.5 million smart meters will be installed over a four-year period starting at the end of 2008.

The trials, which were conducted under the guidance of a Trials Working Group (TWG), involved a range of technologies, including power line carrier (PLC), distribution line carrier (DLC), mesh radio and GPRS, and participating utility distributors and retailers included SP AusNet, CitiPower, Powercor, Alinta AE, United Energy Distribution, Origin Energy, Red Energy and Victoria Electricity.

From the PLC trials it was concluded that there are PLC systems available that are suitable for further investigation for the Victorian rollout. However, concerns were noted regarding the potential “headroom” should future communications bandwidth requirements increase significantly. In addition, a number of technical issues were identified that require further investigation and resolution; principally related to voltage “flicker” and “harmonics”.

Similarly the DLC DLMS technology trials broadly concluded that whilst available communications bandwidth may potentially be adequate to meet the requirements of the functionality specification, there remain a number of concerns regarding headroom for any future growth in communications bandwidth requirements. Likewise in the DLC LON technology trials, current communications bandwidth limitations were observed and further investigations are required to establish whether these constraints can be mitigated. However, it was generally noted that the communications overhead imposed by the LON protocol was lower than that for the DLMS protocol.

In the cases of the mesh radio and GPRS technology trials, both were also generally concluded to have sufficient inherent communications bandwidth to meet the requirements of the functionality specification.

In its report on the trials the TWG says that the majority of vendors involved in the trials have expressed their ongoing commitment to the AMI project, either indicating a number of areas where there is scope to improve the performance of their technologies compared to those systems trialled or presenting “roadmaps” for the further development of their technologies to better meet or exceed the minimum AMI performance requirements. Moreover some vendors have already indicated that they will progress immediate improvements to better demonstrate system performance against the requirements of the functionality specification and the minimum AMI service levels specification.

“The Department remains confident that there is an ongoing commitment by vendors for adapting/ improving existing commercial technologies to satisfy the requirements of the Victorian AMI rollout.”