The IoT powers Smart Grids – How much do you know about AMI? The benefits of smart meters are starting to be realized, and their applications are evolving now.
Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is defined as an integrated system of meters, communications networks, both wired and wireless, and data management technologies that support two-way communication. An AMI system also enables two-way communications with customer-side systems such as home area networks (HANs), connected thermostats, in-home displays, and energy management systems The term AMI can be used synonymously with smart meters, or smart metering While smart meter deployments may be slowing in North America, the drive for smart meter deployments is strong worldwide. The benefits of smart meters are starting to be realized, and their applications are evolving.
AMI-Smart Meter Market Maturing
The AMI—or smart meter—market is showing signs of maturing as utilities look for integrated solutions beyond just hardware, though the meters and related infrastructure are still crucial. Now that deployments are more plentiful, utility managers still in the planning or pilot phase have examples of how smart meter data can be utilized beyond billing and new rate structures. Utility managers recognize that interval meter data can tie into not only meter data management systems (MDMSs), but also other operational processes, including outage management systems, geographic information systems, and volt/ volt-ampere reactive (Volt/VAR) control. The need for greater data analytics is a common theme, as well— how to make use of data in new ways that help make utility operations more efficient or enable greater customer engagement. As one vendor described the market, smart meters make it possible to use real-time (or near real-time) data to take action—something many utilities are just now starting to apply more frequently.
More Complex Billing Applications
When it comes to billing, the timelier and more accurate data emanating from smart meters eliminates the need to estimate consumption. This improves the accuracy of billing and enables more complex billing applications and rate structures, such as time- of-use (TOU) rates where customers are charged for energy depending on the time of day and the season the energy is used. For instance, a provincewide AMI deployment in Ontario, Canada means nearly all customers are on TOU billing. Smart meter data also allows for utilities to provide customers with more comprehensive billing information, such as kilowatt- hours of use and more detailed month-by-month cost comparisons.
As electricity customers grow familiar with accessing and using timely information about their consumption through smart meters, utilities hope consumers will gain a better understanding of the dynamic nature of electricity costs. Because electricity cannot be stored easily, the wholesale price of electricity can vary substantially depending on supply-demand conditions and time of day. Utilities have created dynamic pricing schemes or tariffs for larger commercial and industrial (C&I) customers to more closely reflect the dynamic nature of wholesale electricity prices. With the proliferation of advanced meters that can record usage at small intervals, more dynamic types of pricing can now be applied down to the residential level. The ultimate solution is real-time pricing, which simply passes through the actual cost of electricity to the customer. More moderate versions include critical peak pricing or peak-time rebates, which charge higher prices or reward refunds, respectively, during a limited amount of peak hours throughout the year.
Smart meters and AMI can enable programs like demand response (DR), helping utilities operate more efficiently during peaks in demand. Metering for DR purposes can be fulfilled either through a customer’s utility meter or through some manner of shadow or submetering. For residential DR, the utility meter is the main metering source. On the C&I side, some utility and regional transmission organization DR programs allow the utility meter to be the data collector on record, while others require additional, more granular meter data that necessitate additional equipment. Particularly with the expansion of AMI, hourly or subhourly data can be obtained in a timely method to meet the operational and settlement needs of a DR program.
Home Energy Management
There is a growing perception among consumers that connected devices—like thermostats, LED lighting, and smart meters—coupled with services can help them more efficiently manage the consumption of electricity or other energy resources. The growing amount of AMI deployments not only provides consumers with data and information on their energy usage, which could motivate them to decrease their consumption, but also enables them to participate in energy efficiency programs. For example, some utilities have seen how linking smart meters with smart thermostats can enable residential DR and provide customers with a way to lower energy bills and help the utilities better manage peak loads.
Support for Other Technologies and Applications
AMI deployments are also key enablers for applications such as electric vehicle (EV) recharging and prepaid billing. AMI has supported EV adoption by allowing charging stations to integrate with TOU rates, which encourages off-peak charging. Additionally, AMI metering allows utilities to analyze charging station usage and charging behaviors based on TOU, which informs utility investment decisions related to EV charging. Prepaid billing has been supported by smart metering, as well, as the meters keep track of energy consumption and can help consumers budget and better track their energy credit. For instance, U.K. utility E.ON is piloting its Smart Pay-As-You-Go prepaid option for customers with smart meters, with plans to expand it fully during 2016.
Both prescriptive and predictive analytics have become an increasingly important and necessary part of the software systems supporting AMI deployments. The insight and knowledge that can be gained from data analytics not only help utilities take more informed actions and make better investment decisions, but also enable a range of applications, such as outage management, distribution management, DR, TOU rates, power quality monitoring, grid operations management, behind-the-meter distributed energy resources (DER) integration, and home energy management.
Source : White Paper – Power Industry AMI Thought Leadership by Navigant & Huawei
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