Smart metering taking off in Latin America


Luciano Gonzalez,
Manager AMI,
Elster Argentina
Colonia, Uruguay — (METERING.COM) — April 8, 2009 – Smart metering is taking off in Latin America as utilities in countries across the region launch pilot projects, a recent vendor seminar revealed.

But unlike the United States and Europe where energy conservation is driving large scale rollout, in Latin America the technology is being deployed for specific applications such as loss reduction or load management among specific categories of customers.

“We have found in discussions with utilities that there is a lot of interest in AMI, and that it offers the capabilities they are looking for,” said Luciano Gonzalez, head of integrated systems at Elster Argentina.

In Argentina, for example, Buenos Aires utility Edenor is currently in the process of rolling out a pilot project for real time monitoring, control and management in substations and among the largest clients with Elster’s Meridian system and Alpha 2 meters. The pilot will comprise 27 points at five substations, nine large customers and at a regional interconnection. Based on the pilot the plan is to expand the project up to around 5,000 points.

However, a key barrier to the widespread development of AMI is the absence of regulation – in Brazil the development of regulation for electronic metering is currently under way. Consequently cost also becomes an issue, with the development of the business case problematic.

Around South America AMI pilots are currently running in Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and Brazil. In Venezuela, for example, there are three pilots running using the Meridian system. The new Electricidad de Caracas has 4,350 points for load management and substation automation. Electricidad de Valencia has 120 points to address quality of service issues. Seneca (Sistema Eléctrico del Estado de Nueva Esparta) on Isla de Margarita has 40 points for load management, particularly during the high tourist season when generation struggles to meet the demand.

In Peru there are two pilots running. In the first Electro Sur Medio launched a 75 point pilot using cellphones as modems in Pisco and Ica for monitoring of losses at substations and monitoring of large clients. Subsequently a second pilot has been introduced by Seal (Sociedad Eléctrica del Sur Oeste) in Arequipa where the nature of the terrain makes meter reading complicated and costly. The pilot is being run at 25 large customers and will be expanded to more than 200 customers, with data transmission both terrestrially and by satellite. Seal expect cost recovery of its project investment in under a year.

In Colombia a small pilot was run from Elster Coltavira’s premises in Bogotá. A second pilot has been introduced by the Manizales based Central Hidroelectrica de Caldas (CHEC) for load balancing among large clients. Initially comprising 20 points, the project will be expanded up to 13,000 points in two steps.

“The culture of AMI is not well developed,” said Gonzalez, reminding that the benefits which must be factored into the business plan are more than the replacement of a meter reader with remote reading. “AMI complements energy saving and energy efficiency measures and optimizes energy use.”

A full report on this seminar will appear in the forthcoming Smart Energy International América Latina Issue 1 2009.