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The Smart metering in the Advanced Metering Infrastructure

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Metering is the process of continuously monitoring energy consumption, generating bills and evaluating data from meters. Conventionally, energy meter is installed at customer premises and an electricity board representative comes around and notes down the energy consumption. Metering has undergone a dramatic change in the last few decades. Over the years, energy meter has evolved from mechanical meter to electronic meter and metering has progressed from Automated Meter Reading(AMR) to Advanced Metering Infrastructure(AMI). The Smart metering is the highlight of AMI and is the backbone of Smart Grid. The data obtained through smart metering, at such high resolution helps realization of demand management features like demand side management, demand response, load control, load curtailment, etc. The benefits of smart metering are accurate and transparent billing. The main challenges are its communication infrastructure and its data traffic.

Smart meter is the newest kind of energy meter that measures consumption of electrical energy and establishes bidirectional communication between meter and utility. Integration of smart meters into electricity grid involves implementation of a variety of techniques and software. Design of a smart meter integrates requirements of the utility company as well as the customer. Smart meters are already implemented in large scale in many developed countries such as Australia, Canada, USA, and UK. In developed countries where smart meters have been deployed, the main focus was to improve the frequency of meter reading. Smart meter implementation is still in its infancy stage in India.

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The Smart Meters play a vital and crucial role in Smart Grid with special focus in distribution side. It is one of the pillar technologies in the Smart Grid, as it provides vital information to the central utility for precise decision making. The development of Smart Meters (SM) is gaining momentum worldwide as the existing meters, both electromechanical and electronic meters, doesn’t have essential features like theft detection, power outage, communication to utility, load connect/ disconnect etc. and not suitable for realization of demand management. It serves as an interface between consumer and the utility and records the power usage of consumer and communicates this data to the utility center. The smart meter allows the bi-directional flow of information, from consumer to utility and vice versa. The systematic analysis of the acquired data can assure the efficiency and reliability of smart grid and allows the utility center for better monitoring and control. The data communication in real time basis allows the utilities with advantages like real time tariff, outage detection, identification of power theft and avoids meter data tampering.

Customers can make use of data from smart meters to reduce their energy consumption during peak hours and can thus reduce their electricity bill. Smart meters are integral component of smart homes which aids energy management using wireless technologies.

Rest of the paper is organized in the following way: section II details smart meter in Indian context; section III discusses benefits of implementing smart meters, section IV outlines the challenges of introducing the smart meters replacing the existing metering and billing system, section V explains the smart energy meter developed by Centre for Development of Advanced Computing and section VI illustrates future smart metering in India.

Smart meter in Indian scenario

Indian Scenario India is the third largest electricity producer in the world. The initiatives of Government of India like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Smart Cities’ promises efficient, reliable and continuous power supply. India’s power sector is facing problems like AT & C losses, inefficient distribution and transmission system as a result of old infrastructure, and power theft.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure in India

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) integrates smart meters, communication networks, and data management systems and allows two-way communication between utility and customers. AMI is the backbone of modern grid. An AMI system typically consists of three components – a smart meter at the customer’s premises, a communications network between the smart meter and the utility, and a data management application at the utility. In India, the factors which affect the implementation of AMI are:

The traditional electrical energy meter data collection is such that a person from the utility provider visits the consumer sites periodically to note the meter reading. This procedure has lot of drawbacks such as, it is time consuming, tiresome and requires more human resource. Also human error and even corruption is probable.

Most of the meters now installed at customer premises do not register export energy. Also they are not suitable for realization of demand management features like demand side management, demand response, load control, load curtailment, etc. Also they do not provide feedback to utility in real time such as total power on time, maximum demand, etc. to improve operation and business efficiency. The smart meter is an important part of smart grid and is expected to provide solutions to these problems faced by Indian power sector to an extent.

The smart meter is vital in India’s power reform, creating the potential to reduce utilitys’ current liability to India’s financial infrastructure, estimated to be Rs 20,000 crore. With the replacement of 25 crore conventional meters with smart meters, billing efficiency can improve from 80 percent to 100 percent, and they have the potential to increase utility revenues by Rs 1.1 lakh crore.

Benefits of smart meter

Smart metering is part of Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Grid. Smart metering enables continuous monitoring of energy at household level, accurate billing etc. The smart metering was developed from Automated Meter Reading (AMR) and now it becomes Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMI not only communicates the smart meter data to utilities but also provides information to consumer regarding the peak demand, cost of energy consumption etc. The benefits of AMI are multifold and can be catagorised as follows.

Advantages for Utilities

As the meter commiunicates data to utility, no need for monthly meter readings by meter reader. Expenses for meter reading eliminated.

Collection of meter data over the air also avoids the need of back office billing calculations and account keeping

Utility can request and collect data from meter at any time and can use this data to balance loads.

The system can be monitored in detailed manner and much more quickly

Utility can remotely connect and disconnect loads.

Meter tampering and theft can be detected so that energy usage does not go unmetered

Messages regarding power outages reaches utility instantly

Utility can enforce dynamic pricing, by which cost of electricity raises or lowers depending on demand

Different tariff zones can be enabled for pricing

Customer safety is ensured. Customer complaints and service calls can be reduced to minimum.

Data from each meter can be easily accessed and can be analysed for further studies

Optimises energy from existing plants, expenditure on building new plants eliminated

Advantages for Electricity customers

Smart meters offer the following benefits to electricity customers:

Electricity bills are more accurate and timely

Receives more detailed information regarding energy usage

Power outage restoration is much faster

Consumers can reduce consumption during peak hours by analyzing usage to reduce electricity bills

Forwarded metering / Net metering helps consumers to get payment for the energy generated by them through solar power plants or other distributed generation methods

Advantages for the Environment

Less impact on environment.

Eliminates the need for new power plants that can substantially harm the environment

Challenges

Despite its extensive benefits, deploying AMI presents few challenges also. The major ones are detailed below.

Security and privacy of metering data

Ensuring privacy and security of the meter data is a major challenge associated with the smart meter system environment. The data recorded by smart meter comprises individual information of the customers, electric appliances used and overall energy consumption. Access control password mechanisms need to be implemented in smart meter to avoid hacking of the such data. Also the access is to be restricted to few people. Further the regulations for publishing of the specific data from the smart meter systems need to be enforced. Remote access of meter, authentication, encryption and privacy of meter data and customer information are the responsibilities of system manufacturers. Third party security certification of smart meter suppliers is also necessary. Through these measures the security issues and the vulnerability of systems deployed can be reduced. Cyber security must be enforced and extended continuously for the protection of meter data. All possible measures to ensure data integrity must be imposed by utilities all the time without fail.

Dealing with the data

Huge amount of data needs to be handled when implementing smart meters nation wide. Effective data acquisition and data management systems will be required to analyze this flood of data. Efficient data network management is also critical for the optimized operation of AMI. The system must also support demand response and demand-side management features at customer’s home area network (HAN).

The utilities can analyze this data to derive parameters such as load factor, maximum demand, usage statistics, equipment condition, and so on. This data can also be stored for a period of time. Utilities can use the derived information for load management. Also they can give messages to customers regarding usage or operators regarding maintenance activity.

Last mile connectivity

A number of communication technologies are available today. But finding a reliable communication technology for last mile network or Neighborhood Area Network (NAN) is a real challenge. To implement communication network between meter and data concentrator and between data concentrator and Head End System(HES), a number of wired as well as wireless technologies are available. But none of this technology alone cannot establish successful connection. So a mix of these technologies is to be implemented.

The different technologies available for NAN are 6LoWPAN, Wi-Fi, Power Line Carrier (PLC), Ethernet and serial interfaces. For the Home Area Network (HAN), 6LoWPAN, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Near Field Communications (NFC), PLC, Ethernet, or serial interfaces can be employed. Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology, Long Wave Radio, Optical Fiber, Ethernet, PLC, Private Microwave Radio Links etc. can be used for the Wide Area Network (WAN). The challenge in implementing last mile connectivity is that none of the solutions offer 100% reliable connectivity all the time. Studies reveal that the best range is between 95-98%; and in many cases it is well below 90%.

Bandwith constraints

The advantages of the smart grid can be fully utilised only if the communication network works reliably and secure. The bandwidth offered by GPRS technology is sufficient for smart meter communication. But considering data speed, GPRS has limitations. xDSL or 3G can provide faster data rates but available bandwidth will not be fully utilized. The data concentrator which collects data from different smart meters aggregates a huge amount of data and so requires a higher bandwidth. Another concern is that large scale smart meter roll out can make mobile traffic even worse because smart meter communication employs the same network we use for mobile communication.

Health issues

Smart Meters communicate via RF and hence transmit RF emissions that are similar to those of wireless communication devices. Exposure to electromagnetic waves can cause thermal effects as well as non-thermal effects on health. Exposure levels to electromagnetic waves from smart meters even at close range are well below the limits known to result in health effects from the heat generated by EMF as per certain studies conducted. Several studies relate biological effects to RF radiation exposure, such as increased cancer risk, damage to the nervous system, adverse reproductive effects, DNA damage etc. Concerns have been expressed about adverse health effects from the additive component of living near lots of meters and that electromagnetic energy can interfere with proper functioning of implanted medical devices and other electronic medical equipment such as electronic wheelchairs. So proper measures are to be taken to limit the radiation within specified limits to reduce health impacts.

Cost of Smart Meter

The cost of the smart meter will play a vital role in the consumer industry. The ratio of efficiency vs installation and maintance cost should be high. The effective reallocation of manpower from meter reading job to other service related job to improve the utility’s quality of service is an important aspect of smart meter revolution.

Smart meter developed by CDAC

Centre for Development of Advanced Computing(CDAC) has developed single phase and three phase smart energy meters for AMI based on Indian standards ISI6444:2015, ISI5959(1) and IS15959(2). Fig. 1. shows smart energy meter developed by CDAC. Fig. 2. shows the printed circuit boards(PCBs) developed by CDAC for the smart energy meter. The developed meter establishes bi-directional communication between utility and smart meter via Device Language Message Specification(DLMS)/ Companion Specification for Energy Metering(COSEM) protocol. DLMS/COSEM is a standard specification using COSEM, to provide an interoperable environment for structured modeling and meter data exchange. DLMS is designed to support messaging to and from energy distribution devices in a computer-integrated environment. COSEM is an interface model of communicating energy metering equipment, which sets the rules for data exchange, based on existing standards. Security of data from meters is ensured via cryptographic techniques. The meter has communication modules for GPRS, WiFi, Bluetooth and IrDA which can be configured depending on utility’s requirement.

The developed meter has facility to connect/disconnect load remotely. It also has provision for tamper detection. The firmware for meter can be remotely upgraded. Moreover, password protected user login and parameter setting, net metering i.e, metering both import and export energy are features of this meter. An android based application for customers to view their energy usage is another feature of this meter. DLMS conformal test was successfully completed for this using DLMS Conformal Test Tool (CTT version 3.0) at CPRI, Bangalore.

Future smart metering in India

According to India Smart Grid Forum(ISGF), by 2020, almost every building in urban and semi-urban areas on earth will have broadband internet connectivity. This can eliminate the need of data concentrator units/gateways as it becomes possible to upload data from smart meters directly to internet which can be downloaded at Head End System. Smart meters can be connected to Wi-Fi network in the home or building or neighbourhood which links meter with broadband internet to send meter data. The Head End System and the Meter Data Management System(MDMS) can aggregate data from internet. Also data can be send to utility applications and consumer’s application on their smart phones eliminating the need for in-home displays. The Govt. of India was pursuing a program, National Optical Fiber Network, to provide broadband connectivity to 250,000 villages, which was decided to expand to 600,000 villages under the Digital India program for providing universal broadband access to all. These schemes may bring broadband access to most part of the country and will establish a dedicated fiber backbone network for the Indian power system.

Smart Meter Systems are an integral part of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure in data collection and communication. With advance in metering technology, the overall monitoring of grid has been simplified and billing became easier. Smart meters are the devices through which Smart Grid monitors electricity delivery and tracks power consumption. Smart meters transmit energy usage information to utilities via communication networks and allow the customers to track their own energy use. The two-way communication facility of Smart Meter Systems permits utility to collect feedback from meter and to send commands to meter, to provide a more reliable energy delivery system. This paper explains advantages of smart meter system for utility company as well as from customer point of view. The challenges and issues in development, deployment, and maintenance of the smart meter systems are also detailed.

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