A communications network is a foundational part of a utility Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) architecture, delivering bidirectional connectivity between smart meters and head-end utility systems. A common initial application utilizing the AMI network is centralized meter reading. This single application provides the utility with many benefits that result in reduced operating costs, improved operational efficiencies and greater customer satisfaction.
Typically an AMI communications network is multi-tiered. Often an RF mesh is used for the tier 3 network, to connect smart meters to a metering collector. The tier 2 field area network provides backhaul of metering collectors to substations which connect to the tier 1 core IP network which then connects to the utility’s head-end system.
In addition to reading meters, many utilities are embarking on AMI plus, leveraging their AMI communications network to aggregate communications for a variety of applications beyond meter reading. Examples of these applications including remote service connect/disconnect, prepay services, demand-response, time-of-use pricing, power quality monitoring, outage management and more. However, as AMI plus applications are deployed, they place incremental demands upon the tier 2 AMI backhaul network for bandwidth, latency and reliability. Many utilities, will need to migrate their tier 2 network to a more robust communications network that meets these more demanding needs.
Centralized meter reading reduces operational costs – reduces truck rolls thereby reducing fuels and vehicle maintenance costs; increases meter reading accuracy; enables more timely identification of unaccounted for energy losses.
Enables more frequent meter reading – helping the utility better understand power demand enabling them to improve planning; data helps customers understand their own usage and identify ways to conserve.
Remote meter control – enables new applications such as centralized connect/disconnect of power to customers, reducing service response time; automation of peak demand load shedding can reduce risk of a power outage.
Demand response can shift power usage during peak periods helping balance supply and demand – a variety of programs can be offered such as time of use rates (time-of-use pricing, critical peak pricing, variable peak pricing, real time pricing, and critical peak rebates); direct load control programs which provide the ability for utilities to cycle air conditioners and water heaters on and off during periods of peak demand in exchange for a financial incentive and lower electric bills.
AMI in smart grid
ABB offers high-performance broadband, narrowband and cellular solutions that can work together to provide utilities with an optimal end-to-end communications network that enables a wide range of smart grid applications and a foundation for the future.