In the context of integration of renewables into the grid and dynamic demand management, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is a key element in the smart grid. AMI is made of smart meters, communication networks, and data management software, which enables two-way communication between utilities and their customers. The advanced electronic meters at the customer end collect time-based consumption data and transmit it through available fixed networks to the cloud for further process. AMI can play a critical role in enhancing the efficiency of utility, customer service, and reducing outages in the electricity sector. It is a win-win for both consumers and utility. By capturing real-time consumption data (15-30 unit(Hz) min frequency), the utility can gain granular insight into the consumer behaviour of each segment (residential, agriculture, commercial, Industrial and EV charging stations). And combining granular insight with peak load pricing, the utility can devise a tailor-made dynamic price plan for each type of consumer to handle demand and generation. This dynamic pricing can provide an incentive to consumers to shift their loads from peak hours to a non-peak hours to stop brownout and blackout. In the case of EV charging stations, it convinces them to shift their charging at non-peak hours. It enables consumers to take part in a demand response programme.
Transparent and automatic billing protects consumers from the opaque billing system and hidden charges. With the usage of apps and a portal, the consumer can monitor their energy usage pattern at the granular level and can change their energy usage practice to save money on their energy bills, save energy, and reduce carbon footprint.
By enabling real-time two-way communication between customers and utilities, AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) make the utility company a consumer-driven company. It makes it easier for utilities to process data internally for analysis and forecasting purposes using third-party tools on the back end. By integrating pricing forecasts with production demand, AMI can provide better decision support for energy trading, and it can optimize production schedule based on energy costs and customer demand. The process for notifying customers regarding remote disconnection or reconnection improves energy efficiency. It enables the utility to disconnect customers as non-payment issues arise and reconnect them again once payment is settled. The utility can detect theft, reduce non-technical losses, and devise a prepayment model akin to prepay model in the telecom sector, enabling customers to check and top up credit on their smart meter remotely.
Many Indian companies such as SLS has taken initiatives to provide essential building blocks of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) such as HES (Head End System), DCU (Data Concentration Unit), and HAN (Home Area Network) application for residential metering applications. Operating as a communication driver between MDM (Meter Data Management) systems and measurement devices, HES control and monitor smart meters. It uses RF, 2G, 3G, or 4G technology to provide robust connectivity. As it can provide Firmware Over The Air (FOTA), it obviates the need to send technical personnel to repair and maintain the distribution network. Apart from preventing network overload and managing network gateways, HES can provide prepaid metering support and site-specific information.
With an inbuilt power source for fail-safe operation, Data Concentration Unit (DCU) can provide an Offline storage facility. Home Area Network (HAN) Assist Tool (HAT) streamlines decision-making related to smart meter installation and deployment of any complex 2.4 GHz & Sub GHz technology. Han connected Auxialary Load Control Switch (HCALS) enables the utility to implement dynamic load management. It provides a flexible and direct control solution for various residential and commercial loads such as HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) appliances.
Whether it is a regulated market or semi-regulated market or a fully liberalised utility market, Advanced metering will not only transform the utility sector but also enhanced customer service and provide much-needed efficiency.