The Clean Energy Package (CEP) in Europe and similar initiatives around the world are advancing the smart energy transition. This transition is accompanied by a significant change in the role of smart meters in the DSO’s business case. It’s a little strange to think of ‘old views’ and ‘new views’ for the smart metering business case, but the reality is that the concept has been around, practical, and deployed for over a decade. . However, there has been a transition in the role of the smart meter.
The CEP is a major element of this evolution because it formalizes the role of the smart meter at the heart of the smart energy transition. By aligning with the concepts of CEP, a DSO can leverage its investment in smart meters and generate more business value.
Of course, that requires that they’ve made the right technological investment in the first place. The EU’s latest benchmark on smart meter business case shows that the smart meter itself is not the only major part of the investment; communications, operations and maintenance, IT and security are also important investments. DSOs that take a ‘low cost’ approach, whether on the smart meter or supporting technologies, will have problems taking advantage of this wide range of business advantages and will struggle. to comply with CEP (and similar).
So, if the “low-cost” approach does not correspond to the CEP, what are the characteristics of the smart meters that will suit the CEP, and through that, help the GRD to justify its investments in smart technology in the low voltage grid? .
This is what we are trying to find out.
Old points of view, new points of view and the CEP
Smart meters are in their second decade as active participants in low voltage grid energy management. The old vision of smart meters focused on their contribution to the automation of the metering and connection / disconnection process:
The “old view” was:
As the capacities of smart meters increase (these are minicomputers in the consumer’s residence); new benefits have appeared, and now form a “new vision” of smart metering:
The CEP adds other requirements that DSOs must meet in order to carry out the energy transition:
- Increased capacities to support demand response
- Increased security capabilities
- Increased civic engagement
- Possibility of managing energy production
- Wider use of data in distribution efficiency analysis and retail offerings
- Consumer rights to apply for a smart meter.
The last point directly concerns the volume of smart meters to be deployed. All the other elements concern smart meters because they provide these functions for the pro-consumer.
New Drivers and Benefits for the Smart Meter Business Case
The EU has produced an interesting document: Comparative analysis of the deployment of smart meters in the EU-28. This provides a smart meter business case analysis as DSOs evolve, mature and better understand how smart meter enables smart energy transition and CEP delivery.
This section, and the following ones, provide references to some of this insightful article.
The first interesting result is an overview of the business drivers of smart meter deployment, as summarized below. This shows that more DSOs are focusing on digitization, agility and flexibility and waste reduction and equitable energy supply when examining the role of smart meters. Compare that to ten years ago when it came to billing and logon / logoff automation. The potential of the smart meter is increasingly recognized.
It’s also interesting how this translates into business benefits. While DSOs recognize that the ‘old view’ of smart meters still dominates, many DSOs see the emergence of new business advantages to support them in their business case. There is a clear correspondence between these benefits and the business case factors listed above.
So not only are business drivers developing and aligning with CEP, but we are seeing the resulting business benefits become widely accepted by DSOs.
IT, communications and security
An interesting change resulting from the business drivers of CEP is that the smart meter is no longer the dominant consideration on the cost side of the business case equation.
While the capital and operating expenses associated with the investment, deployment, and meter reading are still significant, IT, communications, and security actually dominate. Obviously, the role of these elements of architecture is well understood and recognized.
It is more than simply recognizing that the smart meter is a mini-computer connected over a WAN that accidentally ends up at the customer’s premises. This is to recognize that smart meters must be treated in a very concrete way within the framework of the IT infrastructure of DSOs. Considerations such as configuration, version, issue, SLA, security, and incident management are now more important to stable network operation than regular physical maintenance.
This is a profound transition for an industry which, until a few decades ago, used mechanical meters.
Sustain the business case
Benchmarking the deployment of smart meters in the EU-28 Also presents an interesting summary of the business case for European countries. Countries above the line shown below are making a positive business case, while those below have yet to improve. In general, it is important to develop strategies to increase the benefits obtained for each country.
Recognizing the smart meter as a major cost item, and reflecting that IT, communications and security now also play a dominant role, we need to consider how the costs of these items can be reduced.
With the “old view” of benefits being widely exploited, it becomes important to understand what we need from the technology to activate the business drivers and the additional benefits that flow from CEP initiatives.
Main features of advanced metering infrastructure solutions
Now that we understand the drivers, benefits, and costs of the business case, and the importance of increasing the performance of the business case by making AMI deployments more attractive to DSOs, here are the key ones. AMI capabilities to activate CEP:
• Communication excellence – It is about providing more information more reliably and at a lower cost. Proven ability to communicate across real infrastructure is of critical importance to AMI
• Detection of security threats – While protection strategies are well developed, it is now increasingly important to have effective solutions to detect and respond to threats
• Possibility of upgrading smart meters – Smart meters will be deployed for at least a decade, and a lot will happen during that time. The ability to update configuration and firmware over the network, and at considerable volume, is of critical importance. IT version and configuration management practices become more important than building physical counters
• Demand control in the smart meter – The smart meter must have options to control consumer demand. This brings new products to the market and allows the DSO to reduce peak and trough fluctuations.
• Asset Management – With insight into power flows and topology, DSOs can be more precise in sizing transformers to reduce overloads and unused capacity and handle demands. This provides a better return on investment and reduces revenue loss due to SAIDI / SAIFI violations.
• Home connectivity options in the smart meter – This is the key if the consumer wants to commit to the smart energy transition. Many applications are available that rely on connectivity to the meter to utilize the massive volume of information it captures on consumer-side supply and consumption characteristics.
• To analyse – Generic analysis solutions are available everywhere. What we need are analytics solutions that combine energy engineering with AI and generate actionable and timely business insights. In other words, specialized analyzes provide immediate value.
• Operational tools – Maintaining an infrastructure of hundreds of thousands or millions of devices in operation is complex, especially when each is a minicomputer. Specialized tooling can be used to reduce the load on the metering operations center staff, allowing them to focus more on medium and long term improvements.
NES AMI solution
NES provides AMI solutions integrating the latest technologies since the first deployments of smart meters in Europe.
The smart meters provided by the NES are fundamental components enabling DSOs to achieve the objectives of the CEP.
To know more, visit www.networkedenergy.com
Jon wells has 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, working in the similar smart grid industry a few years ago. During this time, Jon focused on helping network operators manage their distributed technology infrastructure; provide management solutions and also help them develop business cases. He is able to bring the experience of the telecommunications industry into the smart grid arena, quickly drawing on parallels to assess opportunities for cost reduction, efficiency improvements and improving the customer experience and using it to develop relevant and practical business cases for DSOs. Jon has held managerial positions in technical consulting, business consulting and business development and is currently Vice President of Customer Solutions at Networked Energy Services.