Echelon’s NES System: A Future-Proof Platform


The NES system – based on intelligent electricity meters, IP-connected data concentrators, and scalable system management software – is more than an automatic meter reading system. Such systems offer only limited meter-reading functionality over proprietary, often one-way communication modules that are retrofitted to conventional electricity meters. Instead, the NES system is a complete energy services platform that supports many functions beyond metering. Through its open, bidirectional, and extensible infrastructure, it offers features that can bring benefits to every aspect of your utility’s operations – from
metering and customer service to distribution operations and value-added business – at minimal incremental costs, and often at no cost at all.

 NES Meter Family


The NES system, which is built to last for more than 20 years, is designed to economically grow with and adapt to your business. It lets you offer a variety of commercial and consumer services, as you need them, over the same meters and the same infrastructure. The NES meters that you install today will live for decades, defining the future services you can offer your customers, determining your opportunities for future cost savings, and helping you effectively react to market and regulatory changes. In other words, the NES system is a future-proof system – a flexible, upgradeable investment that will last for decades, allowing you to support today’s environment as well as adapt to tomorrow’s challenges.


The NES system supports automatic, billing-cycle-based meter reading; time-of-use metering; on-demand reads; and load profiling. Automatic reading can be done even daily, if you like. All meters support time-of-use metering based on four tariffs for various times of day. But NES meters provide much more than meter reading; they offer an array of built-in features that you can choose to use today, or adapt and use later as your needs change. The beauty of the NES system is that you can remotely manage the meters – connecting and reconnecting service, activating features, downloading new tariffs, and performing many other functions – all through the NES System Software. You can even download updated firmware.

Since the NES system provides a complete, always on, two-way network, meters are accessible at any time, day or night. Such remote management is not only convenient, but also cost-effective: You may never again have to send technicians to the field to disconnect, reconnect, troubleshoot, replace, or upgrade meters. The more times you can avoid visiting the meter, the more money you save. Here are some of the advanced control features built into NES meters.


NES meters can be ordered with an optional built-in relay that you can use to control external loads such as water heaters. You can control the state of the relay on demand or based on the tariff table; the switch can be turned on and off at different times of day to coincide with low- and-high tariff periods. This lets you use the NES system in place of time clocks and ripple control systems in some applications. Remote service conect/disconect NES meters automatically support remote service connect/disconnect through an integrated disconnect switch. The system also provides options such as lifeline disconnect; instead of shutting off all power to a customer, you can set a maximum power allowance. Any consumption beyond a utility-specified amount of time will cause the meter’s integrated disconnect switch to trip. Letting  elinquent customers have nominal amounts of power for a finite time period, instead of shutting them off completely, can greatly increase customer goodwill and in some cases satisfy legal requirements. The same integrated disconnect switch can also be used to enable prepaid metering and load limiting.


Vattenfall AB, one of Sweden’s largest utilities, recently selected Echelon’s NES system to deploy the largest installation of a modern, intelligent metering infrastructure since Echelon’s groundbreaking project with Enel in Italy. Vattenfall has contracted for 300,000 NES meters with an option for as many as 400,000 more. In total, this represents approximately 13% of the entire Swedish residential market. In an effort to give consumers more accurate bills and promote energy conservation, Swedish legislation has required utilities to transition to monthly reading of all residential meters by 2009. Further legislation, currently under discussion, would require utilities to inform customers of power outages and possibly even provide compensation for very long outages.

By choosing the NES system, Vattenfall will not only meet current regulatory requirements but will also get a system that, thanks to its builtin features, can help provide better customer service, optimise distribution, save energy, and meet future regulatory changes.  Erik Nordgren, who leads the Vattenfall AMR project, says it was easy to choose the NES system. “NES offered the basic technology that we needed at the right price and from the right combination of companies working together,” he says. “And on top of that, we get all of this extra advanced functionality.” The meters that Vattenfall is buying not only include a rich set of base meter functionality, but also include advanced features such as a built-in disconnect switch and direct load control relay, which Nordgren says the company plans to use in the future. “Although our main focus is currently to deliver meter readings, having a solution with optional functionality is important to us, as it offers us greater flexibility,” he says.

Vattenfall selected NES Value-Added Reseller (VAR) partner Telvent as the prime contractor to supply the NES metering system to its customers. (The NES VAR programme lets utilities choose a smart metering system from a diverse source of suppliers.) “We have created a relationship with Telvent that will serve us for at least five years as they operate the system, plus an option to extend the operations contract further,” says Nordgren. “It’s not just about the meter purchase and installation, but the service, too. “We didn’t want to work with a meter supplier that’s trying to be a system supplier,” he says. “Telvent, together with the NES system, provides a complete system, and that’s what we need.”


NES meters can act as a prepaid meter – in which credits are loaded over the network, eliminating the need for a local card or coins – without having to change meter hardware or firmware. Load limiting Each meter has a programmable power threshold that you can set remotely through the NES System Software. If a customer exceeds a specified threshold for a specified period of time, the meter opens its integrated disconnect switch. By reducing the threshold in a number of customer meters, you can intelligently curtail load over a large area, thus avoiding blackouts or brownouts, reducing your peak energy costs, and eliminating or minimising the use of environmentally unfriendly peak-generation plants.

The NES system also offers a number of features, such as power quality measurement and outage detection and reporting, that can help optimise your distribution system. Power quality measurement All NES meters collect power quality data such as sag (under-voltage) and swell (over-voltage) occurrences, and the duration and  number of power outages. Using the meter’s load profiling capabilities, you can also obtain perphase voltage and current, power factor, and line frequency. Collectively these power quality measurements
enable a number of distribution network-related services such as load balancing, capacity planning, and the opportunity to charge for and verify different quality of service levels. Outage detection and reporting Each NES data concentrator polls a set of meters several times a day, gathering status information and checking the health of the meters. If a data concentrator detects an outage during this process, it reports it to the NES System Software, which reports the event to the rest of the utility’s data centre. Likewise, when service is restored, this information is reported to the NES System Software so the utility can verify it.

This eliminates the need to re-dispatch service teams to complete outage repairs that weren’t fully fixed during the first service call. Outage reports benefit both utilities and consumers, serving as a proof of service or a lack of service respectively. As consumers become more concerned about power quality issues, we can expect more regulations in this area in the future.