By 2020, nearly one billion smart meters will be installed globally. Smart meters may be the closest thing to a panacea for utilities as they reduce outage restoration times and costs, quickly identify deviations, and calculate utility network power loads correctly in near real-time. With more than 700 million in place today, the real work is just beginning. The deluge of data generated by smart meters must be mined to seize their incredible potential.
In this article, I’ll walk you through many of the revolutionary opportunities opening to utilities as a result of AMI.
My colleague Davide Roverso has previously written an article on how smart meter data can be turned into gold with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. I urge you to check it out here.
Consumer Awareness and Electricity Production
Because energy prices from a consumer’s perspective remain constant throughout the day, few end users put any real thought into when the use electricity. Smart meters, however, allow us to transform from indifferent consumers to conscious ones, well aware of when and how we consume electricity. For utilities, an increased consumer awareness can translate into the opportunity to redistribute loads to defer grid reinforcements.
As an extension of this, we’ll see more and more end users turning into prosumers – end users who not only consume electricity but also produce electricity for their own consumption purposes – through solar power or other energy forms. Smart meters will recognize both consumption and production in a network and regulate power input. It will eventually be possible to store energy through battery technology.
Smart Meter as an Alarm
Smart meters offer an array of alarm safeties for utilities. If power goes out or drops to low voltage levels, smart meters immediately notify the utility, providing previously unknown network voltage insight. AMI enables utilities to pinpoint the exact smart meter without power, resulting in faster fault recovery and reduced outage costs. Smart meters can provide exact power plant down-time data.
Smart meters will warn if it’s tampered with. They will also alert if it’s improperly installed or if there are other deviations.
Improved Grid Load Insight
Few utilities have instrumented their transformers in a way that gives them actual information on grid loads. When AMI roll-out is complete, identifying if load is correctly distributed between transformers will be easy. It will then, for the first time, be possible to ascertain remaining lifespan and transformer strain.
Armed with this insight, further opportunities emerge. Utilities can see if transformers are being under- or over-utilized. In the long run, this allows for precise calculations of components in the grid based on the actual and factual grid load mapped through the AMI infrastructure.
Finally, AMI installed at larger industrial end users, gives them the proper data basis to ensure the correct load on air-conditioning and ventilation facilities, engines, and electric heating. By measuring electric supply quality, end users can then ensure the right loads on critical equipment, prolonging component lifetimes.
In sum, the advantages of AMI infrastructure investments far exceed what is apparent at first glance. As more and more devices are installed, it’s up to the utility sector to take advantage of the data it generates in the best possible way – both for their own and their end users’ benefit.