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As the shift towards cost reduction and lean procurement processes are a natural occurrence in business practice, the critical need for a high quality, robust, and reliable electricity meter has been somewhat lost. It’s time to get this service delivery tool back on track.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

The meter is the ‘cash register’ for the utility but is often overlooked in the context of service delivery, as consistent and accurate revenue collection supports infrastructure growth and future electricity distribution projects. However, procurement rules can be a hindrance, especially when projects are financed by international funders; acquiring a product based on quality and robust technology, as low cost, low quality products provide a major challenge for technicians and engineers to support in the field with increased customer complaints and dissatisfaction.

Utilities around the world are faced with the extreme challenge of maintaining profitability and sustainability while ensuring they can actively improve electrification rates and provide access to energy for all citizens. The commissioning of new infrastructure development and network rehabilitation projects can come at a very high cost to the utility, usually with the aid of an external funder that will stipulate a repayment term. When considering the challenges faced by the utility, it is paramount that investment and expenditure on metering projects be done with a keen focus on solutions that are fit for purpose, reliable, robust and suitable to the operating environment.

The utility has one primary revenue collection point in its entire eco-system, therefore to efficiently and effectively realise a return on investment, the selection criteria must consider metering products that use best in industry research and design practices and are manufactured using the highest-grade materials, components, assembly techniques and quality control processes.

While utilities face the fundamental problem of cash collection and revenue management, they find themselves in a position where many technology providers secure contracts for proprietary systems that make use of inferior meters that are not aligned with the actual need of the utility. These inadequate meters delay service delivery to the end consumer and impact on access to energy projects. Utilities tend to find themselves in a position of replacing a meter multiple times during its life span. It is therefore critical that the utility adopts a customer centric approach to service delivery and partner with a trusted and reputable technology provider that understands the problem statement of the utility.

Service delivery excellence must be the core of any organisation and thus the utility must align with a partner with a common vision. In understanding the need for improving service excellence to all citizens, the Standard Transfer Specification (STS) electricity prepayment model deployed by Conlog is the only globally recognised system that has a proven cash collection improvement record at the utility. Every electricity meter in the Conlog product range is certified to the STS standard and designed to meet the most stringent electrical and environmental tests. The reliability and robustness of Conlog electricity meters has made it the first choice for utilities around the world that demand a meter that can support a life cycle greater than 15 years in the field. While many manufactures may make claim against product reliability and obtain accelerated life cycle (ALT) test certificates, Conlog boasts real world experience, customer testimony to meter longevity, support, innovation and reliability.

Innovation and reliability for a Smarter tomorrow

The electricity metering world welcomes another breakthrough in product innovation from the industry pioneers, Conlog. With the growing concern for communication reliability related to proprietary Power Line Communication (PLC) technologies that are susceptible to a multitude of factors on the power grid, Conlog has designed a range of G3-PLC products to dispel the concern surrounding communication reliability. The BEC44(X), CIU(X) and CBU(X) have been designed and manufactured to the exact needs of our valued customers from around the world.

With a customer centric design approach and focus on innovation, the product line was developed to meet the growing demand from utilities and customers that seek a PLC meter that provides class leading, reliable communications, billing accuracy, and a robust design that is suitable for installation in extreme operating environments. The product is manufactured to the highest quality control levels, synonymous with the brand. The addition of an evolutionary new product line-up of multichannel licence-free radio frequency (RF) products, the wBEC44(X) and wUIU(X) further extends the smart capabilities of the benchmark RF meter on the continent.

Benchmark quality with a trusted partner

With over 52 years of experience in the fields of electricity and water metering, automotive and industrial electronics, South African-based Conlog has established itself as the industry benchmark for quality, reliability and innovation. Each product is independently tested and certified to comply with both local and international regulations and standards.

The (X) Range of products is built on a rich history of innovation and industry firsts from Conlog; such as the world’s first DIN rail split prepayment electricity meter and founder member of the STS that has been adopted by utilities around the world as the only global industry standard for revenue protection, management and collection. It has a world class manufacturing plant and highly skilled R&D team that designs and produces metering products that firmly stand out as the yardstick for quality in the industry, competing with global players. Africa is proudly represented by Conlog on the world stage, with a range of products designed to meet the challenges and demands of the modern utility.

The (X) Range was designed and developed from the ground up as an intelligent solution to help utilities reduce non-technical losses with a vast array of anti-tamper features; improve cash collection rates through a reliable and secure STS metering solution with zero downtime; and assist procurement departments reduce wasteful expenditure on the replacement of meters that are defective, unreliable and unsuitable for the African continent’s operating environment.

The (X) range further adds value to the modern, energy conscious and technology driven utility. The range offers utilities a fit for purpose and intuitive AMI solution that provides accurate and relevant data, critical in the decision-making process, and reduction of non-technical losses through the identification of regions with high levels of theft of supply and meter tampering in the network.

A metering range designed for service delivery

BEC44(X): The compact 4 terminal G3-PLC (OFDM) CENELEC A band, DIN rail split meter is packed with features to enhance customer satisfaction, provide an unrivalled user experience unknown in the PLC market, whilst providing the valuable data needed by utilities worldwide.

CIU(X): The Power Line Communication customer interface unit provides the perfect companion to the BEC44(X) product range. With an eye catching modern design philosophy, the CIU(X) is welcome in any residential dwelling. The device is simple to install and provides a reliable communication interface that can operate comfortably up to 200 metres.

CBU(X): The Power Line Communication Common Base customer interface unit provides another perfect companion to the BEC44(X) product range. The device is simple to install and provides a reliable communication interface that can operate comfortably up to 150 metres. The CBU(X) is your answer to reducing non-technical losses with its enhanced anti-tamper feature set an internal load disconnector to identify and reduce by-pass tamper conditions.

wBEC44(X): The compact 4 terminal multichannel radio frequency communication, ISM licence-free 433MHz band, DIN rail split meter is packed with features to enhance customer satisfaction and improve communication reliability and range while providing the valuable data needed by utilities worldwide.

wUIU(X): The sleek and tastefully designed wUIU(X) is a perfect companion to the wBEC44(X), Traditionally split meters have required hard wiring between the metering device and user interface keypad. The wUIU(X) makes installation simpler, better and faster. In addition, with the use of multichannel RF, users are assured of a working solution with no interference that can operate comfortably up to 150 metres.

The meter may seem like the smallest device and is often forgotten in the utilities’ infrastructure but it serves as a cornerstone to support development and provide a tangible ROI for previous infrastructure projects. It is therefore fundamental to all utilities to place greater emphasis on the selection process of meters. Procurement and technical assessment criteria must be aligned to a common goal of improving the lives of all citizens through increasing access to energy.

The selection of a trusted electricity meter for rollout projects must focus on billing accuracy, meter robustness, product quality, reliability and long term after-sales meter support. Cross-border utility engagement is also highly beneficial as lessons can be learnt and experiences shared as utilities come under scrutiny for failed meter deployments. The electricity meter that is fit for purpose is the foundation for improved customer satisfaction and service delivery. ESI

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

About the author

Wayne Cornelius, hardware product manager at Conlog, has experience in field of marketing, R&D, manufacturing operations, with a focus on product innovation, strategic planning, customer satisfaction and international business relations. Wayne holds a National Diploma in Electronic Engineering and Project Management, a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration and is currently completing a Master’s degree in Business Administration.

Visit the Conlog booth at African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa on 14-16 May in Cape Town.

www.conlog.co.za  info@conlog.co.za @ConlogSolutions