Against the background of an imminent threat from catastrophic events from higher concentration of GHG (Green House Gases) in the environment, world has no option but to decarbonise electricity production and rationalise electricity consumption. In that context, the integration of renewable into the smart grid along with dynamic demand management and advanced energy storage (battery) has transformed the energy sector from centralised generation to distributed generation and distribution. In this changed scenario, the advanced smart metering system not only rationalises energy consumption but can also play a catalytic role in universalizing smart grid infrastructure.
In 1977, based on the concept of transmission of electronic data over a telephone line, Theodore Paraskevakos, a Greek-American inventor, has produced the first fully automated remote smart meter by using IBM series 1 minicomputer. Since then, the smart meter has replaced the traditional electromechanical meters. But the integration of IoT(Internet of Things) in smart metering has transformed AMR (Automatic Metering reading) into AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure). Consist of smart meters, communication links, control devices, communication protocols, networks, and data management systems, advanced Metering Infrastructure ensures a two-way communication system between (consumer) load and (utility) generation. Apart from providing electricity consumption details, it also provides other critical information (voltage levels, current, and power factor) to the utility in real-time. The smart meter can send data via fixed, wired connections such as a power line communication (PLC) or wireless network (Wi-Fi/LoRaWan/NBIoT/RF mesh) to the utility.
Smart metering systems monitor, collect and send usage and event-related data to utility via the cloud. With an appropriate enterprise-grade IoT platform, these collected data can be stored (for reporting and historical analysis) or processed with appropriate data analytic techniques to provide actionable insight or fed into third-party applications such as accounting and billing. IoT platform can transform smart metering data (real-time and historical) into data visualization dashboards for consumers and utility to generate usage models, statistics, and instant alerts (regarding critical events), which can be accessed Mobile App.
Smart metering is a win-win for consumers, utility and government.
For consumers, it provides real-time monitoring of electricity consumption, accurate billing and flexible billing cycles. It enables consumers (industry and household) to take part in dynamic demand response services, shift their power consumption to non-peak hours and save energy bills.
For utility companies, it will enhance their efficiency in operation and compliance with regulatory authorities. Dynamic demand management needs precise energy usages of the customer, the frequency of usage, and appliances usages. Smart metering enables the utility to predict demand from each segment (residential/industry/agriculture/commercial) and enables them to design the dynamic pricing structure of electricity, based on demand (peak and non-peak) of electricity and availability of generation capacity.
The utility can match, the matching demand generation, ensuring no idle capacity and optimal utilisation of resources. As smart metering is tamper-proof, it ensures no pilferage and obviates the need to send a meter reader to check the customer meter. Thanks to predictive maintenance, smart metering can remotely detect a fault in real-time, rectify it and enables the utility to control brownout or blackout. Thanks to actionable insights, the utility can provide other value-added services.
Although smart metering is a boon for utility, it can also pose some challenges such as data privacy and safety. Smart metering also increases the vulnerability of the system to hacking or cyber attack. The utility can use centralized IDS (Intrusion Detection System) architecture in advanced metering infrastructure to protect the smart grid from cyberattacks, which can trigger a power outage by overloading the grid or snapping people’s electricity. As smart metering can provide a granular level of data about power and appliance usage that can reflect the behaviour patterns (absence/sleeping/private activity/daily routine) of the occupant of a house, the sharing of such data to a private party can infringe the right of privacy of an individual. There must be a proper institutional mechanism to protect the privacy of the individual customer.
Indeed, smart metering is a catalyst that can usher humanity into lower-carbon electricity, provided that it should address the safety, privacy, security and network infrastructure related barriers.