Encapsulated in the evolution of the electricity supply industry currently underway are various technology advancements – and at the pinnacle of progress sits the smart meter, which, when used optimally, provides benefits to all stakeholders.

Innovative smart meter solutions, although daunting to implement, are tools explicitly designed to increase the efficiency and profitability of municipalities and utilities, states metering manufacturer and energy management solutions company Landis+Gyr.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 3-2019.
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The demand for ‘meters online’ is the driving force behind the metering industry’s transformation. The market’s interest in smart meters is a natural transition from analogue meters – whose designs delivered the desired results perfectly in past decades.

With new meter standards and solutions converging on the market, factors driving the demand for smart metering solutions include the need to reduce losses and increase tariff collection, as well as strengthen the network for the uptake of encroaching distributed generation.

The leading factor driving demand for smart meters is for utilities to have visibility of their meters, alarms and events in real-time. Achieving a higher level of visibility through online platforms and associated software is core to the survival of utilities.

As such, on the most basic level, meters online give the customer and utility access to valuable data in managing supply and demand. However, Landis+Gyr cautions that the first step to reaching an ideal state of benefiting from technology is to address any internal utility challenges ahead of implementing a smart meter rollout.

Change management and integration of new technology in the utility sector are, for the most part, taken lightly whereas the success of any metering project revolves around having all the utility processes resolved before posting the data to the end user.

Notably, the two overriding factors shaping advancements in energy management solutions and technology

are the cost of communication and data storage (memory). Various forms of communication standards are available to open the utility securely to the benefits of big data solutions. It is at the point of achieving a fully rolled out smart meter project that the utility will be able to share information with its industrial and commercial customers, and finally the residential and individual end users.

The overarching message for utilities, municipalities, and large power users that feel threatened by how quickly technology is advancing is to be proactive. In the same way that cell phones replaced landlines, technology is maturing, and it is becoming clear that online meters will replace standalone meters.

As a first step, utilities should examine all their internal processes. This appraisal will strengthen its business model against the oncoming wave of smart online tools and solutions. The utility must prepare all systems – from meter installations, asset management, GPS information, and billing systems – for integration. The value of meters online is having internal systems that can ‘speak’ to each other.

The critical elements of the planning stage are to spend time on data cleansing, where preparation of crucial components are undertaken prior to the smart meter rollout project. These areas include:

• Accurate customer information (don’t underestimate the value of knowing your customers’ contact details and preferences);

• A detailed record of the point of connection (along with the historical information, this is beneficial for future planning);

• Conduct an audit on customer accounts;

• If possible, update the GPS coordinates or do so during the meter installation.

Tackling each of these elements before installation will translate into utilities successfully installing over 800 meters per day in South Africa. ESI

About the company

Landis+Gyr South Africa is an electronic meter manufacturing company that offers a complete range of metering solutions, from prepayment, smart and credit metering to meter test equipment and system solutions.

Landis+Gyr is a Level 1 BBBEE company that is strongly committed to black economic empowerment, local manufacturing, support of local BEE suppliers, and skills development for South African people.

www.landisgyr.com/za