Smart metering use cases in utilities

Smart metering in utilities

I remember two decades ago, when we believed that energy was in abundance. Countries like China, Canada, USA and Australia were producing hydroelectricity and power from other means such as coal, wind and natural gas. Just a decade before we never would have bothered to shut down lights in residences or offices and air-conditioners in condominiums, while we were away. Fast forward to this century with the depletion of our natural resources; with electricity deregulation and industrialization, the measuring of usage versus generation is now required.

In the early 1970s, smart meters were introduced with the goal to help match the discrepancy between the consumption and generation. As there was a huge investment required to roll out the smart meters, there was significant thought given to the benefits to consumers as well as the service providers. On one hand consumers felt it would end estimation of their monthly bill because of the inability of meter-readers to physically read meters for each house every month. It also meant that, possibly, smart consumers could better manage their usage of electricity on a daily basis.

From a service provider’s perspective it was simple; how can they give benefit to consumers and also control the consumption vs. generation ratio. Some key use-cases were considered to help the initial business case:

  • Time of the day when the industrial sector energy demands drop yet the generation remains the same, service providers need to fill the gap; they needed the consumer to use more energy at those gap times. Basically help consumers make smart energy decisions by changing their habits linked to some dollar benefits. For example, encourage consumers to use electricity during off-peak hours when the rate is relatively cheaper. If they insist on using the power in peak hours, they have to bear with the more expensive rate. That’s when the creation of green-yellow-red time-of-use modelling happened and various service providers created monetizing models around time-of-use.
  • Another use-case was how to simplify real-time data-capture and the real-time discounting feature within smart meters, which can then help business users receive tiered and tapered discounting on their monthly consumption. Once these were achieved, the service providers realized an important use-case for themselves on OI (operation intelligence). OI offered a great opportunity for service providers to do predictive analysis on a real-time basis and manage sudden spikes in usage, incidents, outages etc. and managed their grids better.

From a BSS solution provider’s perspective, this is a perfect opportunity to help service providers who can make the BSS solution interface with smart meters through a standard interface and provide software functionality like real-time data polling, quick product definitions, customer management, bundling, discounting, invoicing and possibly self-case for better consumer satisfaction.

It is easy to say but the implementation of these smart meter calls for a huge capital investment from the government. However, if both the provincial government and the service provider can be better involved in the smart meter development project, it will create a win-win situation for all stakeholders and ultimately save the earth!!

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