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Utilities around the world are faced with extensive challenges in maintaining profitability and sustainability while ensuring the improvement of electrification and energy access rates.

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

The utility has one primary revenue collection point in its entire eco-system; therefore, in order to efficiently and effectively realise a return on investment, the selection criteria must consider metering products that utilise best-in-industry research and design practices.

With revenue collection being of utmost importance, smart metering projects are managed services, which require a well thoughtout management plan to be implemented once they are up and running.

To be able to realise the return on investment, the system must be effectively managed and serviced through effective and accurate data collection and data analysis. Taking this proactive approach will provide utilities with the necessary information to improve their overall service delivery while keeping unanticipated costs down as regular and routine maintenance would be pre-empted for. Effective continuous management of the site through monitoring and system maintenance is a must, and will ensure the longevity and robustness of the deployed solutions. Managed services must also autonomously monitor cybersecurity to secure all operations.

What are the major success factors of a smart metering site?

• Systems uptime

• Reliable communications

• Effective data integration solutions • Data analysis and management

• Support services

• Robust high quality products

• Continuous management

• Revenue management

With over 52 years of experience in electricity, water and solar metering, as well as having a vast depth of knowledge in automotive and industrial electronics, South African-based firm Conlog has established itself as the industry benchmark for quality, reliability and innovation. With a wealth of knowledge in the smart metering industry, Conlog is able to provide utilities across Africa with tailored services to ensure a successful smart meter rollout and effective management plan, post project installation.

Conlog’s Managed Services approach provides the necessary and critical suppor t functions to ensure utilities can reap its asset benefits.

This includes, from the onset of the project, a full diagnosis of the current state of the grid and recommendations to resolve issues prior to a smar t meter rollout. The projects are managed by Conlog’s dedicated Project Management Office, experienced in handling turnkey smart meter projects. Once the project is in operation, the site is handed over to the services team to manage and support the agreed upon service levels.

The plan is devised to minimise utility risk by tracking and reporting every step in the installation and commissioning phases, including the coordination between partners required to deliver the complete proposed solution.

SERVICES VALUE PROPOSITION

Conlog’s specific smart metering services include, but are not limited to:

Service Desk

Our qualified service personnel are available seven days a week, 365 days a year with first-line technical support. Accessible through telephone, internet and email, the service desk is also the hub for critical support deployment. Some key functionality includes technical support for meter hardware, registration of customers and accounts and the generation of engineering tokens. The service desk provides first line support, and escalation to second line and third line support when required.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Life is unpredictable and even the most well equipped organisation can fall victim to disasters, either natural or man-made. When this occurs, data safety and security is of the utmost importance. Data loss to a utility can be potentially crippling and must be avoided at all costs. Conlog utilises sta te of the art technology to implement tailor-made disaster recovery solutions.

Cybersecurity

Today, more than ever, cybercrime committed against a business affects not only the business itself, but the end consumers as well. Conlog, together with its trusted partners, understand that it is crucial to your business that you protect your customers’ personal information.

Many utilities have some form of security for their networks, but is it robust enough and does it cater for the latest threats such as ransomware? Conlog will identify potential breach points within the network and provide the necessary solutions to mitigate these risks.

Metering Services

In the metering industry, Conlog has developed a strong knowledge base of how a metering site should best be managed, in both prepayment meters and conventional meters. AMI and smart meter rollouts are also offered as part of the services provided and Conlog will ensure that customers get the most out of their investment in metering assets.

Data Management and Analytics

An important aspect of implementing a metering project is ensuring that consumer data is accurate. Conlog will ensure that customer data is well managed, and the data is cleaned up prior to a new implementation. Managing the data involves both the Conlog vending system and the utility billing system through a process of data integration. Specific data from the billing system is imported into the vending system and ultimately enables the utility to enjoy the convenience of pre-paid and post-paid purchases through a single pay point.

A key measure of a vending system is the associated reporting service. Access to quality reports is crucial to utilities that use the information presented to make fundamental decisions. Conlog’s web-based reporting service is highly customisable, easily accessible and easy to interpret, offering customers a broad range of reports based on their specific requirements. The enhanced Business Analytics dashboards provide an instant overview of the metering site, with drill downs to granular levels when required.

Grid Management

A key success factor for the successful implementation of a metering project is to ensure that the grid is properly managed. This is especially for PLC implementations where grid harmonics must be optimised to ensure proper communication between a meter in the customer interface, and upstream to network gateway devices or concentrators.

Infrastructure Design and Maintenance The infrastructure team brings an unrivalled depth of experience in database administration, IT systems as well as prepayment system solutions. This team is responsible for the design and maintenance of Conlog’s hosted systems, along with specialist customer solutions, and has the responsibility to ensure the associated business continuity and accessibility for such products. In addition, the infrastructure division provides additional consulting and IT services, such as the design of infrastructure projects, and guidance on hardware solutions to ensure customers utilise the best available techniques and products in their prepayment projects.

As your smart meter partner, Conlog is ready to help you implement a successful smar t meter project.

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.