Trials confirm next- generation smart metering can identify power- hungry appliances


Tom Fryers,
Commercial Director,
Cambridge, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — April 7, 2008 – As the U.K. Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) prepares to announce its conclusions on the rollout of smart metering, initial trials of a device to allow smart meters to disaggregate electrical load by appliance type are showing positive results. The system, called Coracle, has been developed by Cambridge company Sentec, a research organization specializing in the utility metering sector. It supplies real time information on the consumption of electricity from a single point of measurement, which can be taken from a smart meter or home display device.

The detailed breakdown of energy usage will provide exceptional levels of information about how energy is used in the home. Results from the trials so far show the system can, for example, identify the cost of a power shower used four times a day, every day, spot a faulty fridge’s excessive energy use and list the most energy-hungry appliances in a household, summarizing the cost of running them on a moment by moment, monthly or annual basis.

Coracle will be incorporated into smart metering products and home displays to give customers real-time feedback on the energy consumed by different classes of appliance. At the same time, utilities will be able to use the data to provide their customers with helpful updates and advice, plan new products and tariffs, and reduce operational overheads.

“People are already adopting consumer display units for energy, and the first thing most people do when they get a standard display device is to walk around the house turning things off and on to see how much energy they consume,” said Tom Fryers, Commercial Director. “Coracle gives people the full picture of their energy consumption, minute by minute. There’s no need to re-wire all the built-in appliances in the modern home to use plug-in energy monitors. Coracle analyses the energy supply to the whole house, and can learn the characteristics of the appliances in most houses by itself.

“A small amount of user feedback to personalize the results, such as naming the appliances that are installed in the house, can help to pinpoint the biggest potential targets for making savings. And it goes on working, day in, day out, as old appliances are changed out for new, hopefully more efficient ones, and entirely new products are installed.”

A small scale trial (in fewer than ten homes) has already been run for a month with a major utility and the results are promising, identifying appliances such as fridge/freezers, ovens, kettles, dishwashers/washing machines and central heating pumps. Larger scale trials are planned for later in the year, which will last for several months and confirm the performance of the technology and consumer reaction to the information. In the meantime talks will continue with manufacturers of meters and consumer display devices to incorporate the technology into the next generation of metering products, available within the next two years.