A complete, two-way advanced metering solution provides benefits for both consumers and utilities which include improved demand response and load optimization, efficient outage management as well as automated remote disconnect and information access. While advanced metering infrastructure helps in meeting demands on the electric grid today and in the future, justifying a full AMI investment and guaranteeing continued returns has not be easy for some utilities.
Utilities looking for the most effective and efficient communications network in order to meet their present and future needs are often presented with a myriad of networking options which are not easy to compare as they offer AMI functionality in various ways. If businesses focus on major AMI communications requirements in order to satisfy utility business objectives, a single set of selection criteria which enable a utility to assess affordability and functionality across technology options.
Deployment which Suits Business Objectives
While the aim is to have a single communications technology which will satisfy the grid automation projects of a utility like Con Edison for the years to come, the utility must deploy such network assets only when necessary and as proven reasonable by concrete business returns. Selecting a simple network architecture which does not depend on a crucial mass of endpoints provides utilities versatility when choosing the endpoints to automate.
Secure and Timely Communication
It is a basic requirement for all incoming data from the endpoints of utilities to arrive promptly. This seems simple; however, there are some communication solution aspects which must be reviewed to make sure such basic capability will be provided. These aspects include:
- True wide-area coverage– This refers to the translation of communications with above and below ground endpoints in rural, urban and suburban areas like single networks with must support communications using an electric meter on a residence’s outside wall and water meter communication in the basement. Additionally, the communications solution must offer coverage for all service territories, even as factors like rugged terrain or low-density endpoints are considered.
- Unlimited capacity– Network technology investing also requires no inherent limit to the capacity on the network which will constrain deployments in the future. A network should not only provide connectivity over a broad area. Such connectivity should also support high information levels for the realization of the benefits of modernizing grid. This network must be capable of scaling a lot of meters.
- Strong and secure communications– Guarantees that the data delivered by a certain endpoint is obtained requires the network to give guaranteed delivery. Also, the entire link of communications must be secure. It is important for the communications network to offer high data and low system latency in order to efficiently handle the data updates from smart meters simultaneously with the multicast, unicast or broadcast messaging to the command’s endpoints like firmware updates and on-demand reads.
A Network that Does it All
Hybrid communications networks have been implemented to address various metering needs and distribution automation. Although a hybrid solution can be enough to serve connectivity requirements, it is likely to lead to higher cost and complexity than a utility needed to manage. One network technology which interoperates with all kinds of endpoints like water meters, electric meters, load control devices, smart transformers, gas meters and cap bank controllers simplify the operational burden on utilities and the implementation.