Since the first electricity network was created in the late 19th century, metering has been essential to enable adequate monitoring of the service. In those days, electricity supply was not available the whole day – it was mainly used for lighting in the evening. Meters were mostly time-of-use monitors, but have been improved continuously since then with the expansion and stabilisation of electrical grids.
Today, more than 100 years later, a similar paradigm change can be noticed in the modern energy market. Whilst traditional meters recorded pure energy consumption of an always-available energy source, new metering technologies enable time-of-use energy products and create individual benefits for each customer. Smart metering is the key, and a challenge to energy companies, meter manufacturers and system providers.
FROM AMR TO AMM
Automatic meter reading has been the standard in Europe for C&I customers since the early 1990s, but meters in residential homes and small commercial facilities were still read manually. The utilities’ trust in the reliability and long-term stability of mechanical Ferraris meters prevented the early success of solid state devices in Europe.
Italy’s ENEL was the first mover. The countrywide Telegestore project with 27 million metering sites introduced a new generation of metering solutions. A fascinating vision was born: online contact to any meter in the grid at any time. This opened the gates for new energy product solutions, with instant process settlement for offering, balancing and billing.
Other countries followed suit. The Benelux supplier NUON started a project with similar technology, but a slightly different approach – NUON’s main interest was to test the process integration of these new technologies. What additional benefit can an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system offer with online meters connected?
Scandinavia made the move in 2004. New energy regulations in Sweden forced utilities to prepare for online customer change management services. Energy customers should not be prevented from changing their supplier because of operational problems with contracts and data settlement. Metering data had to become an online asset, available for processing whenever a customer required an invoice.
CHALLENGE AND GOALS OF AMM
The main goal of today’s automated meter management (AMM) systems is to become a lean process, integrating metering data into the utility’s billing and data management processes. A simple example is the management of customer change. When a customer changes his energy supplier, the old contract has to be settled and the new one must start from the day of the change.
Without an integrated AMM solution, the completion of this process chain requires several manual processes. The billing system (the billing department) issues a meter data request to the metering department; the meters are read some time later; and the data is settled and exchanged to generate the invoices. With an AMM system, access to the meter is available at the time the customer change request is being processed by the system, so all enquiries can be handled online and without queues in the processing sequence.
In addition, a complete electronic process chain reduces the potential for errors in the data management sequence. Whilst paper and pencils were being used to write down metering data in the manual era of data collection, with an AMM system all figures and events are stored and handled electronically, and manual errors are reduced significantly.
All these positive effects led to an overall cost reduction in meter reading, data collection, billing and data management processes for utilities. First movers such as ENEL report annual savings of more than 500 billion per year using this technology, and return on investment is achieved within four years.
But the commercial aspect is not limited to pure cost savings. AMM helps to realise potentials that are kept ‘sleeping’ in the utility’s network grid. Flexible tariff handling in the meter and online response capabilities introduce new energy products and time-of-use tariffs. The revenue structure of the utility can be adapted to the individual cost structure of the network operations and the energy generation and purchase situation. Looking at ENEL again, the Telegestore project has led to several new options for load-oriented residential customer contracts. Before AMM, the variation was limited to a low load and a high load offer only. Today, Italian customers can select between several daytime, weekend time, working time and family structure-related offerings – the product range is not far away from the flexible selection that telcos offer today.
But while most of the European players have a common view of the goals of the new technology, the methods of implementation and the main drivers vary from country to country. Whilst the eastern European countries need to replace a major part of their meter park because of old age, the southern European utilities are focusing on reduction of non-technical losses. The Nordic countries are mainly driven by regulatory requirements and the decisions of their governments, whilst central Europe focuses on a replacement of the good old Ferraris tradition. And Germany combines AMM with a move towards a new switchable meter mounting technology. The only exception seems to be the UK, where metering decisions appear to be driven by cost considerations.
SMART METERING OFFERINGS TODAY
GÖRLITZ has set up a broad portfolio for smart metering solutions in all customer application levels – residential, commercial and industrial. A central data management turntable is able to handle all kinds of meter relevant figures (such as load intervals, register values, totalisers, tariff markers and load limit parameters) and communicate directly with radio meters, powerline
EMETRION NET – RESIDENTIAL AMM
The EMETRION net is the most widely used AMM meter technology in Europe – the Echelon-powered measurement device is installed at more than 20 million sites. A narrowband powerline communication makes meter reading easy and cost efficient. The meter technology has been in practical use since 2001 and was adapted to meet the operational requirements in force at the time. Today, the meter offers a perfect combination of cost-efficient mass production and value-adding metering functionality.
The EMETRION net meter is available in a single phase or threephase version. An interval data memory can store up to 8 different data registers with a flexible integration period, and offers memory space for up to 24 months of historical data storage. An internal supply breaker can be controlled remotely with internal load limit markers. For the integration of additional energy sources such as gas, water or heat meters, an M-BUS-compliant expansion interface is available. The data communication is done with narrowband powerline communication. Data concentrators link the meter domains to the central IT servers where all meters have automatic repeating functionality, so that communication distances of several kilometres can be reached in real field installations.
The data communication to the central IT is achieved using PSTN, GSM, mid-voltage powerline, optical fibre, Ethernet© or leased lines. With the EDW3000 metering system as a data centre, the EMETRION net solution offers direct IP access to any meter from the utility’s central CRM/ERP solution.
EMETRION IQ – COMMERCIAL & INDUSTRIAL AMM
Today’s international energy conferences present AMM as mainly for residential customers. This is just a costdriven way of viewing the solution. From the point of view of a utility’s revenues, the C&I meter segment is more interesting. ENEL, for example, measures only 40% of its total energy revenues with the residential metering system. About 60% of its energy revenues are measured and collected with C&I meters and the GÖRLITZ C&I metering system, reading roughly 200,000 interval data meters every day. And these figures are valid for most European utilities and countries where the commercial and industrial customer segment provides the main revenue share.
GÖRLITZ follows the same approach for both the C&I and the residential segment, and the system is a unique solution covering both requirements in one. The EMETRION IQ meter is a completely Internet communication- based metering technology for C&I customers. It offers an internal integrated communication adapter. Accuracy classes are available from 0.2 up to 2.0. The meter is easy to install and standardised to fit into most application cases. It was developed with the support of utility metering experts, and its design is optimised for long-term maintenance-free field operation. The meter concept is defined with an international approach, so it can be used everywhere in Europe.
Reading the EMETRION IQ meter is possible with any kind of Internet communication software – for example, Microsoft Outlook® or a standard webbrowser. The data design is based on an XML file construction using OBIS definition codes.
SKALAR – EXTERNAL AMM IP METERING T
he functionality that the EMETRION IQ offers as an integrated meter product can be adapted to work with any existing meter with the SKALAR. This is an external Internet expansion to existing meters, and offers the flexible IP concept of the EMETRION IQ to all competitive metering devices today.
The communication process of the SKALAR is identical to the EMETRION IQ concept. It is designed as an external meter modem in a separate housing, ready to be mounted on top of the meter’s wiring area. For WAN communication, adaptors are available for PSTN, ISDN, GSM, GPRS and Ethernet. Meter communication is achieved with the simple FLAG protocol or DLMS®. For meters with no serial data interface, the SKALAR offers up to six digital pulse inputs.
It is based on European needs, and the software design differentiates pure metering applications from added value functionalities. The SKALAR offers all basic metering functionalities in its standardised operating system, and has a JAVA®-based application layer on top where users or system providers can create their own procedures.
EDW3000 – AMM METERING SYSTEM BASE
Implementing an AMM solution is not simply installing meters in the field. As the main objective of the solution is automation of the utility’s metering and billing processes, a central link to the IT world is mandatory for a successful AMM project.
EDW3000 represents such a link. It operates as a central quality and communication platform between the meter park and the IT services of the utility. It connects meters in the field to central IT processes and makes quality data available to post-processing applications.
The system design is state-of-the-art for modern IT systems, separated into scalable modules and based on Microsoft .net technology. It combines flexible meter data collection functionality with continuous validation on a job oriented basis. It fits perfectly with modern Exchangeoriented system designs, and can operate directly with actor-controlled servers such as SAP’s XI handling.
The major advantage of the software design is its almost unlimited scalability. All individual processes and jobs can be related to individual threads and servers, so there is no design-related limit to the application size and volumes that are processed in real installations. The Dutch utility Essent, for example, operates all its interval data meters with the system, and the data volumes that are handled exceed the amount of data that all the residential meters of ENEL or EDF could ever produce in complete AMM solutions. So the system is well able to handle any European requirements, today and in future.
What we see as AMM field technologies today is just the beginning of a wide range of metering solutions for the next decade. Utilities that have installed large projects have learned the advantages of an automated meter park – but they have also recognised the limits of existing technologies and the efforts needed for maintenance and field service to keep an installed base up and running.
One major disadvantage of all solutions available today is the inflexible construction field groups and the relation of meters to concentrators and IP backbones. And there is no real standard available in terms of interoperable communication.
Next-generation solutions are in the pipeline. A new residential networking solution from GÖRLITZ will integrate powerline-based communication and radiobased communication, to combine the advantages of both solutions in one system. And a new design concept for data concentration and collection will make fixed routing configurations obsolete. AMM will become as simple as using a mobile phone, without any configuration needed either centrally or in the field. EMETRION plus is the next generation solution for AMM and smart metering. Pilot projects will start at the end of 2005, and the new technology will be in production from early 2007.
AMM is already in use today. Several technologies are now available for residential and C&I applications, and implementation will depend on the needs of a customer’s business case. The key to success is an integrated process solution, rather than isolated field mounting of pure devices. The future will introduce another trend for more automation, and the need to operate energy networks cost efficiently will lead to more intelligence on site. Using the example of the mobile phone business, the solutions will require more automatic handling and less central pre-configuration. GÖRLITZ will use its leading role in meter data communication in Europe to set the standards in AMM applications in the years to come, on the base of today’s existing ready-to-usesolutions.