June 11, 2018

Hey, who switched off my lights?

Niko Jauhiainen

Product Manager, Tieto

Smart electricity meters, Advanced Metering Infrastructure, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Distributed Energy Solutions are familiar buzzwords. These, and the collection of exact data, could theoretically lead to some consumer devices being remotely switched off at peak consumption times. But hold on while Niko Jauhiainen explains.

Next-generation AMI opens whole new possibilities

Next-generation Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) solutions will enable higher data transfer speeds and more accurate information on electricity usage at up to one-minute intervals instead of the present hourly intervals, together with precise power quality data. Prosumers – consumers who produce their own energy or use on-premise storage batteries –  are offering their electricity back to the grid, and their options on being active in the markets is increasing significantly.

Distribution companies can take a more long-term view of the grid lifecycle and allocate their investments better. As data accuracy increases, the distributor has more up-to-date information on network condition from every customer. New meters collect and store information, such as voltage and frequency, and advanced analytics allow localising faults and sounding real-time alarms even before the consumer has any idea something might be wrong.

We also have to add to the mix data hubs and the EU’s strive to reduce electricity consumption and make the use of electricity more efficient.

All this means our discussion should revolve around three topics: demand response, distributed energy systems, and data collection and security.

Demand response

New AMI technology enables precise demand response, leading to load control with remote connection and disconnection possibilities. In theory, this could lead to limiting consumption at critical points in fault situations to prevent outages.

On the other hand, knowing what prosumers are generating at their facility or storing in home batteries (or electric cars) will allow the distributor to tap into that reserve when necessary.

The next generation of AMI empowers customers as electricity market participants with near real-time consumption data and demand response.

Distributed energy systems

The distribution of energy sources makes a whole city a virtual power station. When consumption is low, home storage batteries and electric cars are charged full, and at peak times, this reserve can compensate for increased demand.

Similarly, micro-generators with solar panels or wind turbines can feed their surplus energy to the grid.

The near real-time data collected by next-generation AMI solutions enables exact knowledge throughout the distributor’s grid on consumption levels and where reserves are available.

Data collection and security

Because next-generation AMI collects vast amounts of very accurate data, and offers other direct control possibilities on customers’ electricity consumption, data security is a hot topic for regulators, distributors and consumers alike.

Distributors could even deduce what devices people are using and how. With energy data hubs and harmonised interfaces to delivery sites data collection point, this information is  more accessible by third parties. Who will have access to this data, who will decide the control measures, and who will in practice control the consumption at point-of-delivery level?

As Orwellian as this may sound, no Big Brother will cut your power if you’re exceeding the limits. First, knowledge of household energy usage is rather low-risk information. People already voluntarily provide much more precise profiling information on open networks and social media.

Second, the more a distributor knows about the real-time situation in the network, the better it can take predictive and preventive actions to improve network performance: fewer outages, timely maintenance work, higher power quality and correct energy bills.

Third, tightening EU data protection regulation will empower consumers to be aware of who knows what about them, and demand the removal of their personal data. Information and cybersecurity management on all levels of AMI is enforced by law.

Nevertheless, security merits attention. End users must be informed, but the grid companies and service providers, in particular, need to understand the big picture. Communication is key.

If you are interested in AMI and Distributed Energy Solutions, please download more material here.

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