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New Grid, New Metering Technology

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Julian Jackson's picture
Staff Writer, Energy Central, BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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Conventional electricity meters have been perfectly adequate to perform their duties for many decades. Now we are moving through an energy transition, electric grids around the world become more digitized, complex and powered by distributed energy resources (DERs) and renewable energy, and more data is needed and that requires more advanced end-user metering.

The more complex grid of the future will need to coordinate diverse energy resources and adjust in real-time to shifting demand and supply. To support this development, meters will need to provide more local, grid-edge intelligence. They will be sensors providing grid operators with critical usage measurements— similarly to how smart grid sensors deployed on distribution grid assets provide data on the condition of those assets.

Advanced Metering Units will need to:

 

Gather Intelligence on Distributed Generation

The increase in distributed generation from solar panels and battery storage in homes and businesses is changing the dynamics of balancing and maintaining the grid, so advanced metering will be essential to gather important data.

 

Sense Loads

Increasing electric loads in buildings from such equipment as heat pumps are making utilities more reliant on meters for tracking energy use. Rapid EV adoption will also drive the need for new meter capabilities.

 

Enable Faster Detection and Resolution of Grid Issues

Acquiring data almost in real-time will assist in the detection of issues which could cause problems. Currently assessing an issue, deciding where it is, and sending a repair crew could take days. If the smart meter analytics can pinpoint it, perhaps a remote solution could be possible, or if it needs physical repairs, then knowing exactly what is the problem will be a huge time saving.

 

Enhance Safety

Smart meters could potentially report hazardous conditions as soon as they occur, rather than developing into threatening situations, such as a fire hazard, where utility assets could be damaged and people injured.

 

Drive Local Grid Management

Advanced meters coupled with analytics software can facilitate automated decision-making to manage local areas of the grid. For instance, software can evaluate and aggregate data from all the meters in a neighborhood along with data from grid sensors to determine that a feeder is overloaded.

 

Optimize Electricity Rates

In a more complex grid with large numbers of EVs, rooftop solar arrays, customer-sited batteries, and other DERs, next-generation meters will need advanced capabilities to optimize electric rates in to benefit both customer and utility. For instance, many utilities may want to offer reduced night time charging rates to encourage EV drivers to plug in at times when there is lower demand.

This suggests that it is in utilities interest to ensure that consumers receive the most advanced metering upgrades when feasible, to prepare for the multi-faceted grid of the future.

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