The Benefits of Smart Meters

Expert from Larsen & Toubro highlights the needs and advantages of smart metering
 The demand for electricity has been rising day by day the world over. In a lot of the developing countries, despite a large percentage of the area still being un-electrified, the generation is not able to match the demand for electricity. Even in developed countries, the need is being felt to add more generating stations due to the peak demand being higher than the peak available supply. But on the other hand, addition of generation is restricted due to non-availability of funds as well as the need to reduce the carbon footprint. Load shedding, peak power deficit, peak mismatch, breakdowns, are commonly heard words in electricity distribution circles, but more recently terms such as peak shaving, demand response, load side management, outage management, renewables integration, real time pricing, etc are becoming equally spoken about.
Behind the scene, it is the latest electricity metering technology, simplistically called “Smart Metering” which is the enabler for all these processes.
Electronic meters have been used the world over for industrial and commercial billing but with the use of electronic meters for residential consumers as well, the features which were available only to the high-end segment till recently are now also available in the residential meters. Interval data or load survey, time of day or time of use, failure or tamper recording, billing backups, prepaid or postpaid features, are all now part of the standard meter.
In addition, smart meters are capable of two way communication, where, in addition to sending data in response to a query from the data centre, the meter can also send alarms and alerts based on pre-decided conditions including failures and tampers. Thus where in the past the utility would wait for a “complaint” to be logged by the consumer, today the utility comes to know of a breakdown instantaneously and re-route the supply and despatch the maintenance team to the site for rectifying the problem even before the customer realises that there has been a breakdown. The meters use technology such as low power radio or power line communication to communicate data to a data concentrator which is mounted in the vicinity of the meters. This data is then transferred to the central data centre through GPRS.
The meters also have remote connect or disconnect facility enabling the electricity distributor to take decisive action in the case of non-payment of bills or tampering or other default by the consumer. This feature also benefits the consumer in that the utility can resort to limiting the load which the consumer can draw during peak deficit hours (time when the demand for power is higher than the availability), instead of resorting to a complete load shedding. The consumer can continue to use essential loads and therefore does not have to spend on alternate power sources such as generators or invertors and at the same time the utility is able to balance the supply and demand.
A home display unit, which can be provided inside the house, indicates the daily consumption to the consumer enabling the energy conscious consumer to employ power saving measures.  It also enables the distribution company to convey important messages related to tariff, bills, and other information to the consumer.
These meters are also capable of recording import and export of energy making them suitable for use in distributed generation where individual consumers with local generation facility can feed energy back to the grid when they do not require it. This will allow distributed generation through solar and wind to supplement the energy availability for the distribution utility.
Author : Sanjay Ahuja, Sr Dy General Manager – Marketing, Metering & Protection Systems BU, Larsen & Toubro

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