As smart metering moves beyond pilots into real world, large-scale deployments and a wide range of challenges and opportunities are surfacing. Teresa looks at what these are and why by putting the customer at the heart of smart meter strategies, utilities can maximise the value of their investment
Worldwide, smart metering is now being deployed in earnest. ‘Social Innovation in Energy’ a white paper by Hitachi and Frost and Sullivan found that at the beginning of 2015 there were 510 million smart meters installed globally, which is forecast to rise to 980 in 2020. In Europe alone, 80% of electricity meters are targeted to be replaced with smart versions by 2020.
A smart washing machine, for example, could be scheduled to turn on when tariffs fall below a certain threshold, with the tariff being determined by the load on the network at the time. Such dynamic pricing of electricity is a key part of demand response, helping to flatten peaks in usage and spread demand into off-peak periods. It relies on having real-time usage data, dynamic pricing capabilities and the ability to set up rules as to which conditions will trigger an object to switch on or off (with the ability to override these if necessary).
Real-time usage analysis and balances arising from smart meter data may be displayed on dedicated devices but also on smart TVs or smartphones – the channel of delivering this data should suit the customer’s need. The added advantage of using a smartphone in this scenario is that it can also be used to remotely control the home network or smart objects connected to it – switching smart objects off or on, adjusting rules and so on.
Real-time balance management will be particularly important in smart meter deployments as not only will the household be buying electricity from the grid provider,
The European Commission revealed that even within those countries that have rolled out smart meters, not all have a smart meter program that provides the functionality and capability to handle these more sophisticated use cases . Clearly, to meet industry business cases, regulatory requirements as well as customer expectations, utilities need to have the intelligence within their deployment to enable more innovative scenarios. But often such innovation can be delivered by deploying enabling software – such as more sophisticated billing and charging, pricing capabilities, analytics, balance management and so on – rather than by replacing the smart meter itself.
Smart meter data – which can have incredible granularity and be almost real-time in nature – is both an opportunity and a challenge. Such data is of value both to the players in the energy ecosystem, but also to third parties such as smart object vendors and suppliers of consumables and peripherals.
1 The EC report suggested that 7 of the 16 countries in Europe that were involved in full scale rollout of smart meters did not have such functionality.The EC report suggested that 7 of the 16 countries in Europe that were involved in full scale rollout of smart meters did not have such functionality.
Electricity usage combined with telecoms capabilities within the home, and between the home and the outside world, will make consumers’ lives easier, more convenient and more personalised. Granular insight into usage will influence consumer behaviour by getting them to turn off lights and turn down heating, but will also provide a wealth of data which could benefit all partners in the value chain. Critical to this revolution is to put the customer at the heart of the strategy – ensuring they are in control and that the implementation meets their requirements by providing information in the channel of their choosing, in a format they find easy to use, and which is readily actionable.
Providing controls to the household to manage electricity usage as well as access to their data is essential. And when customers feel in control not only will they be happier and less likely to churn, but they will also be more willing to share data with those companies they trust.