System integrator/provider – is it possible?


By Boris Stemberger, Ph.D. Senior Consultant, Iskraemeco

As energy policies worldwide are being increasingly driven by environmental and deregulation issues, they can be effectively implemented only if they rely on the so-called smart grids and advanced metering infrastructures (AMI). Since the new energy policy can be implemented only if AMI is in place, massive roll-outs of system meters with adjacent two-way communications are undertaken, forecast and mandated. This has been recognised by the EU Third energy package where 80% intelligent meters are to be installed in the network by 2020. Furthermore, it also defines guidelines for supplier changes, energy consumption information and service quality level monitoring which are very difficult to meet without smart meters.

Energy policies and the introduction of AMI technology have a significant impact on Utility business that need to be significantly redesigned and restructured. Most of European governments have announced regulated rollouts following general EU policies to accelerate the implementation of AMI. In Iskraemeco, we have noticed that in other countries the most advanced utilities are designing their own systems with available interested vendors. The major replacements of old meters with smart ones are not just a logistic issue, but also a financial one, representing a major investment for Utilities.

Large amounts of consumers and generators are to be connected into a network in order to provide a sufficiently extensive amount of data. These data are transferred, stored and processed. Then the results trigger particular decisions within the Utility Business Intelligence (BI) and the decisions are used to control the entire network up to the single customer and his particular devices and appliances. How can we understand the holistic approach ? Business intelligence is unique to the Utility. It must generate value from AMI (everything within the BI ring) for the customers and for the business. The benefits result in the improved Utility operations like the ability to provide the best level of customer services, to improve the reliability of the service and so increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. The utility itself can also benefit in better asset investment and resource planning, identification and reduction of system losses as well as better forecasting and purchasing processes.

Customer circle

It is much easier said than done, especially because all the existing meters have to be replaced by smart meters, communications must be enabled and actuators must be installed. All these are intelligent devices which apart of being properly physically installed need proper embedding software for parameterisation and basic operation. The network must ultimately operate reliably within the prescribed availability in order to enable business intelligence to be implemented and system integration to be accomplished.

The amount of business in system integration for Utilities is unbelievably huge. It is also new and many are attracted by the bright prospects it seems to promise. The first to rush into system integration as main contractors with the Electricity Utilities are software design companies. With their experience gained mainly with telecom operators they bet on the strengths which mainly rely on their mastering of processes called Billing and Customer Relations Management (CRM). These main contractors then further subcontract the metering and communication network in order to offer the turnkey solution for the Utility.

The next one who can aspire main contracts in System Integration for electricity utilities are meter designers and manufacturers. They bet on their experience gained in deploying smart meters networks along with the two way communication and consumers actuation. Because they understand the very core of the Utilities business they are able to set definitions of processes as part of the new Business Intelligence for the Utility. By subcontracting Billing, CRM and some other SW design they fit to offer the complete turnkey solution.

It is ultimately the Utilities’ business to decide which one of the two types of partners is less risky in terms of building, maintaining and enhancing their future business. Both types of bidders certainly take full responsibility and guarantee for the job done, but the second one implies much more first-hand guarantee since it masters the network as the crucial and most sensitive element of the system. There is no doubt that in terms of risk reduction the smart meter designers and manufacturers with strong references in metering and networking should be considered as first choice main contractors for Electricity Utilities System Integration.

Iskraemeco proves to be one of the reliable potential partners for Utilities looking for system integrators. Backed up by a financially strong owner, a strong financial balance sheet, ownership of the know-how and previous experience as system integrator, Iskraemeco offers value-added services such as remote data collection, remote connect/disconnect, pricing options including prepayment services, interactions with customers (e.g. in-home displays, websites, call centres), management of consumption patterns, load control and other custom-designed services that fit to build the right Business Intelligence System of a Utility. The intelligence throughout the electrical grid can dramatically reduce outages and faults, improve responsiveness, handle current and future demand, increase efficiency and manage costs.

The new functionalities extending into the energy consumer homes (Iskraemeco home displays, web&mobile applications, etc) enable the consumers to make more informed decisions about their energy consumption. This fits their budgets and their life-styles and in general it also supports current societal movements – initiatives, in which citizens, governments and companies work together to make more efficient use of energy in order to create more sustainable communities. Iskraemeco places a significant importance to design interface modules for various business intelligence systems.

Iskraemeco billing solutions offer reliable and configurable services such as total consumption billing or billing of pricing options. It takes care of the whole business process from data collection, invoices issues and verification of payments. We employ our expertise in the partnership with our customers to assist them achieve successful business results.