Smart meters, a building block for the digitisation of the grid
A smart meter provides detailed information on consumption in order to reduce electricity bills and also increase knowledge about the status of the electricity grid, which improves its performance and the quality of service for customers. As part of the evolution towards a smart grid, Iberdrola has installed and continues to install millions of these devices in all the countries in which it operates distribution networks.
WHAT IS A SMART METER AND WHAT IS IT FOR
A smart meter is an essential part of knowing the status of the electricity grid, which allows for improving the performance and quality of service for customers. It also enables costumers to see how their consumption habits affect their electricity bills and, in this way, to manage consumption by choosing the most suitable tariff for their needs and reducing the amount through energy efficiency measures.
Likewise, smart meters are key to increasing the uptake of distributed electricity generation, which, in addition to allowing customers to generate their own energy, is key to the strategy to reduce the carbon footprint and combat global warming.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SMART METERS
The meter traditionally used to measure energy consumption had functions that were essentially measuring and storing the total accumulated value. The shift of grids towards smart grids involves, among other things, replacing traditional meters with smart meters, making it easier for customers to enjoy improved features and new services.
Smart meters incorporate a power-limiting circuit breaker, which means it does not have to be installed inside the customer's own electrical panel, improving the response and capacity to act. They also have a telecommunications interface for remote communication between the central systems and the meter, allowing remote reading and operations, such as sending new tariff tables, modifying the parameters associated with the contracts and the configuration of the meter itself, as well as the operation of the internal switch.
The above-mentioned significant technological developments enable smart meters to perform new functions:
Multiple energy registers and multiple tariffs
Smart meters store energy consumption on an hourly or even more detailed basis. This makes it possible to bill the consumption in each time period at a different tariff, so each customer can choose the option that allows them to minimise their bill according to their consumption profile. It is also a useful tool to encourage responsible consumption.
Simultaneous management of several contracts
Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are an important tool in the fight against climate change and smart meters are key to facilitating the integration of renewable energy, especially photovoltaic power from small installations in households and other small consumers. Customers can, thus, enjoy the advantages of generating their own energy (photovoltaic self-consumption) while retaining the advantages of remaining connected to the electricity distribution grid. This integration, in part thanks to smart meters, enables the simultaneous management of energy purchase and sale contracts.
Multiple records of supply quality events
In addition to storing energy consumption measurements, smart meters allow real time information to be collected on the status of the electricity grid. Including making it possible to identify supply interruptions, inefficient voltages and incorrect connections. Thus significantly improving the quality of supply and the time it takes to locate and replace faults, again benefiting customers.
All the aforementioned functionalities are possible thanks to another of the technological advances incorporated in smart meters. This is none other than the possibility of sending readings automatically through the telecommunications network, so they are available for central services to process automatically and for customers to view them on different devices.
In addition, Iberdrola participated in creating the international standard that defines the telecommunications technology used by smart meters, being a world pioneer in its deployment. This open standard allows implementation by a variety of suppliers, achieving full end-to-end interoperability.
In short, the characteristics of smart meters make it possible to provide a superior service to customers, improving the quality of supply and offering a series of new features so that the customer is able to control and optimise their electricity consumption.
THE FUTURE OF SMART METERS
If the present of smart meters is promising, their future is even brighter. The new generations of meters will have additional features, including:
- Ability to provide information to customers in near real time (around tens of seconds), either through central systems or through a communications channel with an In-home Display, for example.
- Increase in measured network parameters and measurement frequency, improving LV network management: quarter-hour curves which, among other things, allow for improved planning processes, additional events, voltage curves, etc.
- Distributed processing capability (edge computing), capability, processing the measurement locally in much greater detail and enabling additional use cases, including: detection of distributed generation or electric vehicles, line and meter phase identification, load disaggregation, demand management, etc.
SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The benefits of smart meters and their impact on customers [PDF] External link, opens in new window.
In short, the smart meter is at the heart of the transformation of the electricity grid into a smart grid. The data collected from these devices is enabling the use of other digital technologies, such as edge computing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and big data, for network operation and exploitation, therefore improving the customer experience.