The large scale wireless mesh AMR/AMI solution


alexander merkulov

Conference: Smart Metering Canada 2007
Location: Toronto, Canada
Presenter: Alexander Merkulov and Vladimir Rizberg
Abstract: Presented by Alexander Merkulov and Vladimir Rizberg at Smart Metering Canada 2007

JSC Petersburg Sales Company is responsible for the billing and revenue collection for all electric energy sales in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, and the St. Petersburg region.  The company has over 1.4 million residential accounts, nearly two thousand employees, and operates 70 payment centers throughout St. Petersburg and the region.  The company’s electricity sales exceeded 2,900 million kWh in 2005, for an annual turnover of 400 million Euro.

In the residential sector, the Company has had a number of long-standing business challenges, including technical and non-technical losses.  The Company currently employs an “honor system” for billing and collection, in which the customer is responsible for reading the meter, visiting one of the 70 payment centers, stating the reading and paying the bill.  The Company concluded that an AMI system would lead to a reduction in technical and non-technical losses, while shortening collection cycles and increasing total collections.

The Company was initially agnostic to the choice of communication technologies, focusing on the Total cost of ownership of AMI systems.  However, after conducting several pilots based on both PLC and RF technologies, the Company concluded that implementing large-scale PLC systems is impractical given the unpredictable condition of the local grid.  An RF mesh solution appeared viable because the high density of meter end points in apartment buildings creates an ideal topology for formation of mesh networks.  After an initial pilot of 736 points in one apartment building, the Company extended the pilot to 27,000 points in 84 apartment buildings. 

The Company has had a positive experience with the RF mesh system that it had selected.  Such features as network self-configuration and self-organization, as well as many other advanced features of the system has led to a rapid roll-out and low installation and maintenance costs.  Total cost of ownership of AMI systems is not well understood by utilities.  The cost to deploying and maintaining a communications network for an AMI system is as significant as it is for deploying and maintaining any very large communications network.  A self-configuring and self-organizing (Plug & Play) network makes a significant difference in the total cost of ownership of an AMI system over its useful life.