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”Smart metering solutions should be scalable”

Smart metering solutions should be scalable

“Within the next five years, technology must help to address AT&C losses and alleviate load shedding. This is possible if steps are taken in the early stages to deploy scalable technology,” says Dr Sean Cochrane, Product Director, Cyan Technology
Smart grid is an important element to implement new energy strategies and optimise energy resource allocation. In recent years, smart grid and smart meters are becoming fast evolving technologies around the globe. Developing countries like India, South Africa and China are also aiming to make their power grids and meters smarter. And this is increasing room for both, smart grid and smart meter. In a conversation with EPR, Dr Sean Cochrane discusses scope, technology upgradation and long-term plan for smart grid and smart meters in 12th Five-Year Plan.
How do you envision the scope of smart grid and smart meters in 12th Five-Year Plan?With the Ministry of Power drive to supply electricity to all households through smart grid technologies as well as reduce AT&C losses in all distribution utilities to below 15 per cent by 2017 there are a number of fundamentals that need to be considered when deploying smart metering solutions.
The average electricity consumption per capita in India is low and therefore it is imperative that smart technologies achieve the government’s objectives in a cost effective way which is adapted and suitable for the Indian market.
One requirement of every utility is to procure meters from various meter manufacturers. This ensures the utility has a reliable supply chain and is able to negotiate competitive pricing. As a result it is important that the smart metering solution is interoperable, enabling meters from multiple vendors to be incorporated into an ‘open system’.
The Indian meter manufacturer market currently has disparate communications protocols which could prove problematic when sending data across a wireless network. 
The implementation of a ‘open meter protocol’ that is tailored to the requirements of the Indian utilities and optimised for real time monitoring over wireless mesh networks will keep the cost of the meter low and ensure the “intelligence” is at the enterprise level.
This standardisation is important and will support efficient communication to and from the meter. Adopting a standard has many benefits, including supporting innovation and increasing productivity. However, it is imperative that the industry does not get overly encumbered in western style standardisation when there is an urgent requirement to deploy smart meters to support the Ministry of Power’s initiatives.
What technology upgrades we can see in smart grids and smart meters in 12th five year plan? Within the next five years, technology must help to address AT&C losses and alleviate load shedding. This is possible if steps are taken in the early stages to deploy scalable technology. Any meters purchased over the next 5 years must offer an upgrade path to both AMR (e.g. efficient collection over radio from walk-by devices), and ultimately full scale AMI.
Smart metering solutions should be scalable, starting with minimum investment to address the immediate requirement to reduce losses. Efficient walk-by systems can deliver accurate billing and collection, allowing the utility to reinvest in its overall infrastructure. Any walk-by systems deployed now must, however, be fully upgradable to advanced features such as demand side management.
A reduction in AT&C losses through system efficiency is just one the benefits of smart metering technology. Cyan’s communication platform CyLec provides other benefits by enabling functionality such as demand forecasting and demand side management to manage consumption.
What long-term plan can we expect to see for smart grid and smart meters in 12th Five-Year Plan?With the need for interoperable solutions it is imperative that the industry qualifies what level of interoperability is achievable to meet the objectives of the 12th five year plan and beyond. There is a common misconception that ‘standards’ equate to interoperability, which is not the case without rigorous testing, limiting innovation or at least suffering long delays, and thorough definition of all layers of a system. Another misconception is that proprietary technology does not equate to interoperability. This is only true if proprietary technologies remain closed. Open interfaces and technology licensing can address these issues. Indeed, history tells us that many technologies that we today regard as standard, started as proprietary working platforms. The classic example is Ethernet, which was developed by Xerox PARC as far back as 1973. The advantage of this approach is that it allows the market to establish working solutions.
Cyan’s approach is to deliver radio technology that works today and work towards the standard IEEE802.15.4g. Our roadmap specifies licensing the CyLec communication platform for genuine multiple sources as well as supporting standard meter protocols, notably DLMS/COSEM and open interfaces to the data concentrator unit or head end server and the meter.
A reduction in AT&C losses through system efficiency is just one the benefits of smart metering technology

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