By Steve Nguyen, Echelon, and Kristina F. Juelsgaard, SEAS-NVE
The smart grid is an energy network that provides intelligence about the grid, not just the meters. Everything that draws power from or contributes power to the grid is part of the smart grid.
Smart grid solutions must be able to adapt to changing market and regulatory needs by:
- Replacing today’s meters with smart meters that are intelligent end points,
- Adding new smart grid devices such as electric vehicle charging stations so consumers don’t get left behind whether you move to smart meters or not, and
- Using an open apps platform that brings intelligent distributed control to the edge of the grid.
Looking to Europe
Utilities worldwide are looking for ways to improve grid efficiency. SEAS-NVE, Denmark’s largest consumer-owned utility, wanted to communicate bidirectionally with customers to better manage supply and demand, reduce losses and more accurately measure power consumption. In addition, it wanted to reduce the cost of meter readings and to bring customers innovative technologies that could extend beyond meters into homes and enable customers to become more informed energy consumers. Finally, SEAS-NVE wanted to use the platform for ongoing innovations and take the next step toward smart grid integration.
In 2008, SEAS-NVE awarded an advanced metering infrastructure project to Echelon Networked Energy Services (NES) value-added reseller partner Eltel Networks A/S. In the past 12 months, 200,000 homes have been connected with a total of 390,000 expected to be complete by the end of 2011. To date, SEAS-NVE has achieved nearly flawless meter-reading performance from its smart grid project. Hourly collection of extended load profile data (a customer’s energy use over time) is consistently within a 99.7 percent to 100 percent performance range. The extended load profile data is equivalent to more than 400,000 meters readings in less than four hours. The project has netted two key results for SEAS-NVE: a 16 percent reduction in consumer energy use and a satisfaction rating above 99.5 percent.
Bringing in Customers
End users reduce energy use in various ways. Throughout the SEAS-NVE metering project, the customer focus and contact with customer groups has been vital for success. Preparatory and educational campaigns such as the meter hunt and energy-saving contests in schools and homes drew end users’ attention and awareness to consumption, reduction potentials and how to use metering data.
Drawing attention resulted in the first energy savings. Often, these first behavioral changes are short-lived. End users tend to fall back into former consumption patterns. The intelligent meters and advanced NES system support end users in maintaining high energy awareness. The system provides data for end users to monitor the consumption continuously, to view historic data, to identify odd consumption peaks and to allow end users to react with consumption-reduction measures.
SEAS-NVE supports end users’ lasting energy savings through efficient consulting services and user-friendly interfaces to track usage data on the Web. The next steps for SEAS-NVE is to use more features in the NES system for end user services, such as demand response functionalities, alarm features and domestic load balancing relevant to households with large electricity consumption, distributed production or both because of heat pumps and electric vehicle (EV) charging combined with photovoltaic production.
Many smart grid projects have yet to report results. Others are having unfavorable reactions to their projects highlighted in the press as a result of consumer dissatisfaction. SEAS-NVE targeted a low customer complaint rate of 5 percent for the project with a fully orchestrated campaign of rebranding the company as a consumer-focused, consumer-friendly service organization that involved every member of the SEAS team from metering to installation to back-office support. SEAV-NVE began customer outreach and internal training programs two years before the first meter rolled out.
Planning and execution of the meter campaigns were some of SEAS-NVE’s many activities. A pilot project for 1,000 end users monitored the installation process carefully from initially notifying end users about the meter change to the courteous behavior of installation staff inside households to the customer service and assistance after the meter change had been completed. Few adjustments and careful monitoring as key performance indicators once the rollout started helped maintain the high satisfaction rate throughout the project.
To date the 0.5 percent complaint rate is 10 times better than target.
SEAS-NVE has achieved measurable, repeatable energy savings from customers and a satisfaction rate better than hoped for.
Because of the success, SEAS-NVE is putting attention to the next phase of the project: defining and implementing further customer services and starting to use the full ability of the NES system for distribution automation and smart grid. Future projects include:
- Increased device interaction. SEAS-NVE wants to reach beyond electricity meters and interact with other devices to bring more cost savings and quality improvements.
- Power outage detection. SEAS-NVE wants the unprecedented visibility to see power quality factors, which would enable it to determine potential problems and their locations quickly.
- A look at charging options. The number of EVs and microgeneration options are expected to grow. They will need a smart grid that can map the low-voltage grid, provide accurate information about the location of intelligent devices connected to transformers and make load scheduling and control decisions with confidence. SEAS-NVE’s investment in grid technology will provide the foundation to support this change.
Steve Nguyen is director of corporate marketing at Echelon.
Kristina F. Juelsgaard is head of development at SEAS-NVE.