Towards smart metering in Brazil


Jerson Kelman,
Director General,
Brasilia, Brazil — (METERING.COM) — September 29, 2008 – Regulatory changes and the provision of a clear plan and timetable are among the requirements for the rollout of smart meters in Brazil, participants agreed in a seminar in the country’s capital last week.

The meeting on “Electronic metering”, which was organized by Brazil’s energy regulator ANEEL (Agéncia Nacional de Energia Elétrica), was aimed at gathering input for a future regulation to facilitate the replacement of the existing electromechanical meters with electronic meters, and brought together both local and international participants to debate the theme.

Opening the seminar, ANEEL director general Jerson Kelman explained that while in some countries, such as the United States, electronic metering is being introduced for conservation purposes, this is not the case in Brazil, which has a generation surplus. Rather the main motivation is fraud and theft of electricity, which reaches 20 percent and more in some utilities, with a total value around R$5 billion (US$2.7 billion) per annum.

“These losses are shared by all consumers, which isn’t fair. Nor is it fair to leave them to the distributors to shoulder” said Kelman. “Increasingly we are being asked for permission to use electronic meters.”

Nevertheless Kelman said he hoped the use of electronic meters would “go beyond” fraud and theft reduction. “Our tariff structure needs revising as it was designed many years ago, for example, and customers need access to information.”

Kelman also pointed out the possibility of providing a prepayment option for low income customers, perhaps along the lines of the solution introduced in South Africa with a free monthly electricity credit. “We know that prepayment is well accepted among customers who have mobile phones. Currently all consumers subsidize low income customers to the amount of R$2 billion (US$1 billion), which, considering a universe of 16 million low income customers, could result in a concession of 40 kWh per month.”

According to data provided at the seminar by the Brazilian Association of the Electric and Electronic Industry (Associação Brasileira da Indústria Elétrica e Eletrônica, ABINEE) and the Brazilian Association of Electricity Distributors (Associação Brasileira de Distribuidores de Energia Elétrica, ABRADEE), around 4 million electronic meters have been installed in Brazil so far, mainly for HV customers.

The market requires about 3.2 million meters per year, of which approximately 2.4 million meters are for new customers and the remainder for replacements, and of which in 2008 about 60 percent are planned to be electronic. Currently there are eight manufacturers of electronic meters in Brazil, with a production capacity of 5 million meters per year.

Key issues that need to be considered regarding the introduction of electronic metering in Brazil, according to the seminar participants, include the reliability of meters in the Brazilian environment, particularly in the high levels of humidity, and their lifetime, stated as 15 years compared with the 25 years of electromechanical meters, the functionalities to be included in the meters for the different groups of users, and metrological and communication standards.

Smart grid and power quality applications were also discussed and following the lead of countries such as the U.S., a call was made for a clear smart grid vision from government.

“From these discussions and further research and studies by ANEEL, an implementation plan for electronic meters with time lines should emerge,” said Jamil Haddad, professor of electrical engineering at the Federal University of Itajubá (Universidade Federal de Itajubá), in his closing comments at the event.

Closing the seminar on behalf of ANEEL, the superintendent of distribution regulation Jaconias de Aguiar, said the regulator would start working on these issues early next month and will have a plan developed by March 2009.