Development of energy metering – from start-up current to services
The energy metering business has developed dramatically during the past two decades, opening up new opportunities for energy companies and their clients, as well as service providers.
When I started working in the energy metering business in January 1997, the world was completely different from what it is today. At the time, we compared the start-up currents of mechanical and static meters and talked about the resistance of LCD screens to cold weather and whether they are even able to show any reading at -20 °C. Production, borderline and large industrial sites were only within the scope of remote reading. Ripple control systems, MELKO or time switches were used for tariff and load control, all of which has since been taken out of use. Meters were replaced seasonally to keep equipment relatively updated. A little more than 100,000 meters were replaced in the Finnish meter markets per year, and the targeted lifecycle of a meter was 25 to 30 years. The energy metering business was fairly stable at the end of the 1990s.
It all changed at the beginning of the new millennium. Energy companies started to improve the efficiency of their processes from their points of view, driven by the markets. A wide-scale remote reading system started to emerge. Elenia, called Vattenfall Verkko at the time, decided to add all of its numerous metering points to the remote reading system, even using a service model which was one of its kind on this scale. Vattenfall’s announcement nearly put a stop to the meter and AMR purchases of nearly all energy companies. General interest towards services increased explosively throughout the sector. Some energy companies requested offers for two options: independent AMR systems and metering data as a service. Consultants appeared from nowhere to define needs and take care of bidding processes.
International energy efficiency agreements to boost the use of energy forced the authorities to demand more accurate measurements, as a result of which nearly all of the 3.4 million metering points in Finland were added to the remote reading system with hourly load profiles by the end of 2013. Measuring devices were acquired from a few suppliers. Many grid companies signed turnkey agreements on multi-year service packages, with service providers assuming responsibility for project planning and entry in service production. Empower is one of the largest service providers in the sector.
Currently, practically all metering points in Finland are within the scope of the remote reading system, and most of them are operated by service providers. Official requirements are becoming stricter and stricter as the current trend is to shift to an increasingly unified energy market throughout Europe. At the same time, clients, or users of electricity, are more visibly in the core of operations. Clients are able to have more data on their energy usage supporting them to make decisions on the use of energy. The pricing of electricity is freer and it is very easy to change suppliers. New providers with new products have found their way to the markets. Some clients have become small-scale producers. The number of solar power producers doubles year after year. Electric cars and the storage of electricity in batteries will increase. People are becoming more aware of different energy solutions and want to have an impact on their consumption. Grids are becoming smart, with metering solutions playing an important part.
Energy metering data will be used in a number of different services, not only in invoicing or balance settlements. Alarm data from meters will be transmitted to control room systems to support troubleshooting processes. New electricity products will be introduced. There is an ongoing shift from hourly measurements to a quarterly model. Measurement data will be transferred to a data hub, a centralised database. We are no longer talking about start-up currents – we are in the middle of a digital world with nearly real-time data transfer technologies and integrated information systems. Solutions are complex and require advanced IT expertise and fast responses. This is why not many grid companies are able to take care of everything without having reliable and professional partners.
This service model is here to stay. When you are thinking about any challenges in the energy management chain, please contact Empower’s specialists. Together, we can find the best solutions for your current and future service needs!
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