Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), or smart meters, can be either just another silo in your operations or an invaluable helping hand in outage management, enable demand response programs, and unlock novel customer analytics opportunities. It all comes down to how you utilize the generated data.
The massive deployment of AMI infrastructure is a comprehensive, time-consuming, and costly project. In 2016, estimates suggested the global investment in smart meters would be $14.3 billion for electricity and gas utilities. Although the cumulative price sums may be hefty, smart meters are an essential first step in the development of a smart, digitally enabled grid, providing smart utilities with far more than just remote meter readings and more accurate customer invoices.
Properly utilized smart meter data may unlock a world of new opportunities and insights, heralding in the age of next generation utility infrastructure operations. This article highlights some of the most important opportunities.
What Smart Meters Can Do for Your Grid Operations
- Effective outage management: During a power blackout, utilities traditionally depend on customers calling in to notify them that the power is out in a particular area. Smart meters can, however, immediately alarm grid operations centers directly in the case of a blackout. If this information is combined with other types of data, such as social media and weather data, utilities are far better equipped to manage an outage and restore power. How all this data can be utilized for improved outage management is outstandingly illustrated by the Norwegian utility Norgesnett. You can read more about what they’ve done, here.
- Improved grid load overview: Few utilities have a sufficient overview of grid loads, and most rely on outdated methods to predict electricity consumption levels during specific periods. Because smart meters generate consumer data in near real-time, utilities have a far more precise overview of the actual grid load and can manage the grid far more efficiently than previously possible. By taking advantage of smart meter data, utilities can abandon the old theoretical calculations, utilize your existing infrastructure better, and ultimately reduce capital expenditures.
- End-user flexibility and demand response: The increasing use of energy intensive devices such as EV chargers, induction ovens, etc., increase grid stress. Consequently, grids must be reinforced. With the introduction of AMI infrastructure, however, these investments can be deferred, as it unlocks consumer flexibility and enables utilities to implement demand response programs. Demand response programs contribute to more efficient energy consumption, better utilization of power grid capacity, and improved grid stability.
- Prosumer monitoring: Smart meters enable prosumers with their own solar or wind power generator to sell and feed excess electricity back into the grid. Smart meter data also gives utilities the opportunity to monitor prosumers in their network and predict the increasing dynamic they pose to the grid. Not at least, smart meters enable utilities to identify unregistered prosumers in the network.
- New customer analytics opportunities: My colleague Davide Roverso recently wrote an article on how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning provide utilities with new customer segmentation methods based on consumption pattern profiles from smart meters. By analyzing customer mass and identifying typical consumption patterns on a given day (workdays and weekdays, during summertime and wintertime), utilities can group customers to enhance decision-making abilities when it comes to pricing strategies, segmentation, and service and product development. You can check out his article here.
AMI is indeed a goldmine of information, and I hope this short article has given you some idea of the impressive, new opportunities unlocked by smart meters. By operationalizing smart meter data, utilities can achieve far more than automated meter readings and more precise invoicing – it needs to be an essential part of effective grid operations.
Technological developments within the energy sector brings with it considerable opportunities for effective infrastructure operations. If you want to know more about the opportunities that lie in wait for a digitalized grid operation, I urge you to take a look at our e-book “Next Gen Utility Infrastructure Operations” available for download below.