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ECA’s head of technical services, Giuliano Digilio, The Smart Grid

Smart metering forms an integral part of a bigger plan to transform how we use energy and change how the electricity network operates. Called the Smart Grid, it is a series of connecting devices that will allow the control of electricity flow. Smart meters form the end point of the Smart Grid. The UK’s existing grid dates back to Thomas Edison and is a star-based structure, with a large power station at its centre and customers at the other end of the spokes of the star. Energy flows one way, from the power station to the household or business. The two-way communication that is a key characteristic of the smart grid enables the delivery of energy to be transformed, so the system looks more like a web than a star. At the end of 2008, IBM and EDF Energy signed a partnership agreement to

carry out research on the Smart Grid. The electricity provider is working with IBM to develop computing solutions to manage its power systems. The initiative will bring together the right expertise, exploring how to apply technologies with new intelligence, seeking improvements in efficiency and alternative energy.

comments: ‘There are a number of issues that need to be addressed. At the moment we are still waiting to finalise an open protocol and, although manufacturers are talking to each other about this, nothing is set in stone. Until this happens there is no telling which smart meters will be standards-compliant. We hope that Ofgem’s consultation document will help shed light on how these issues will be overcome.’ The issues of data protection and what happens to

the information provided by smart meters is also under scrutiny. Digilio adds: ‘There are a number of security issues that the use of smart meters bring to the fore, which must be addressed. While smart meters can be used in a positive way, it is equally important to make sure that consumers are protected.’

How it works A smart meter measures how much energy is used and can communicate this information via the IHD (In House Display) and the HAN (Home Area Network) facility, supplied in the form of a plug-and-play ‘smart kit’. There are two recognised systems for achieving this: n One-way communication from meter to the data collector, as a minimum automated meter reading (AMR); and

n Two-way communication between meter and supplier, enabling a wider range of functions known as automated meter management (AMM). The key distinction between smart meter types is determined by their communication – whether there is any with the energy supplier, if it’s one-way or two-way, and the meter’s data storage capability. The combination of these features determines the extent to which the metering system can help customers reduce their energy usage and minimise carbon emissions. A smart meter’s functionality can result in the display

of utility data for consumers, the provision of more accurate billing data and the use of innovative tariffs for load control. These functions have the potential for achieving energy use reductions.

Interoperability One of the major hurdles that smart metering must overcome is the interoperability between devices. If there is no interoperability, the UK’s energy market could prove a particularly big hurdle for smart meter implementation, given that it’s the most competitive in the world. More than 100,000 customers switch supplier every week, and if a smart meter used by only one supplier is installed, then if there is a change of supplier that meter could have to be replaced. However, progress is being made on this issue. Smart

On top: smart meters

can enable consumers to monitor and manage their energy consumption more accurately

meter manufacturers, Elster, Landis+Gyr and Secure have agreed to collaboratively develop common approaches for the development of smart communication standards. The solutions will be based on open standards and available specifications for smart meter technologies. The initiative enables energy suppliers to access a

variety of smart meters and in-home displays that comply with the Supplier’s Requirements for Smart Metering

42 ECA Today Autumn 2010

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