What is a Smart Grid?

What is a Smart Grid?

Smart meters are an obvious answer when it comes to reducing energy consumption and incorporating renewable energies. These meters act as the basis for smart grids, which optimise consumption and allow regenerative energies to be meaningfully integrated.

The EU Commission is calling for the installation of remotely readable meters so that consumers can regularly check their consumption levels and therefore reduce their energy consumption.

Around 200 million smart meters for electricity should be installed within the EU by 2020. (Source: European Commission)

Electricity, gas, water or heat ­meters can be read remotely thanks to wireless technologies. Not only does this make it easier to take ­readings, but consumers can monitor their consumption levels themselves at all times.

Walk-by meter reading

Remotely readable electricity, gas, heat or water meters not only offer the advantage of consumers being able to independently check their consumption levels at any time via a smartphone app, for example.

Power companies can also benefit directly, since the meter reader can check the consumption data wirelessly in a “walk-by” process, effectively eliminating the need to access the tenant’s home.

An open, interoperable standard

An interoperable data-transfer standard is required so that the meter-reading service can read the data from different meter manufacturers. Meter manufacturer Zenner therefore uses the wireless M-Bus based on the OMS -standard for its remote reading system.

OMS stands for Open Metering System and enables interoperability between different meters of different manufacturers.

“The OMS specification for communication between utility meters in all energy sectors is not only attracting significant interest in Europe,” says Dr Werner Domschke, Board Spokesman for the OMS Group. “OMS devices are currently also being sold in the Middle East and Latin America.”

The standard uses M-Bus and wireless M-Bus as its communications technology: developed more than 20 years ago, M-Bus is recognised today as a robust Fieldbus system for wired and wireless meter communication.

Its use offers certainty of investment, viability for the future and energy savings: the battery life of the Zenner communication system is up to 15 years, for example.

What is eSIM?
The embedded SIM (also called eUICC) is a new secure element as defined by GSMA specifications. It was developed to manage multiple mobile-phone contracts remotely. The eSIM is generally permanently integrated into the device and installed by the device manufacturer. The eSIM enables multiple network-operator profiles to be simultaneously saved on one device and toggled between. Furthermore, the fixed installation also makes it easier to equip small devices such as smart watches or fitness trackers with mobile communication connectivity.

Interface between meter and utility

Consumption data is no longer read directly from each meter in the case of larger buildings where the number of electricity, water or heat meters installed can quickly reach into the hundreds.

Instead, the data is sent initially to a central data collection and communication unit, termed a smart meter, which then transfers the data onward to the power company or meter-reading service provider. The smart meter systems open up completely new possibilities for customers:

“At present, we read our power consumption directly from the meter once a year, whereas in future,the smart-meter gateway will allow us to use an app to conveniently find out how much electricity is being consumed by the refrigerator or washing machine at any time, for example,” says Paul-Vincent Abs, Managing Director at E.ON Metering.

E-ON has already commenced installation and ordered some 16,000 of these smart meters at the beginning of 2018 from Mannheim-based Power Plus Communications. The devices use the LTE mobile-communication network to connect to the wide area network (WAN).

4th generation LTE (Long-Term Evolution) is ideally suited to data transfer in the smart-meter system thanks to its high transmission rates and can be used for time-critical control commands, for example. If eSIM (embedded SIM) technologies are also incorporated into smart-metering solutions, their initial set-up is particularly economical.

Using these solutions, the provider can be switched remotely and wirelessly without physical changes to the device itself. This reduces costs for the technical field service and subscription management.

Due to the fact that the profiles of multiple network operators can be saved on one device with eSIM, it is also possible to quickly toggle between different mobile communication networks if the network coverage is insufficient, for example.

Controlling the smart grid via 5G

The wealth of possibilities is expected to multiply with 5G – the future mobile-communication standard could have a significant impact on the energy sector.

Or at least that is the conclusion reached by distribution-grid -operator Stromnetz Berlin, Deutsche Telekom and Ericsson. The partner companies examined application cases for the new 5G technology in the power grid as part of the 5Grid project at Adlershof in Berlin – one of the largest technology parks in Europe.

According to Dr Erik Landeck, Managing Director at Stromnetz Berlin:

Modern, flexible power grids also require modern communication. The condition of network components and special smart grid elements as well as switch and control signals, needs to be transmitted securely and quickly to the right recipients.

LOW-POWER solutions for flexible data transfer

Low-power wireless networks are a low-cost alternative to mobile communications in cases where a low bandwidth suffices and a high latency is acceptable, as with the simple reading of measured data from smart meters.

Indian meter manufacturer Hanbit has integrated the LoRa technology into its smart metering solutions, to name one example. LoRaWAN stands for Long-Range Wide Area Network and is an international open LPWAN transmission standard designed to wirelessly connect battery-powered “things”.

It is characterised by high ranges and excellent building penetration with low energy consumption on the part of the devices. “Our LoRa-based utility metering solutions enable maximum accuracy in utility management with real-time tracking,” says Phani Varanasi, CEO of Hanbit.

LoRa technology allows flexible installation in both commercial and residential industries, providing an extensive range of up to 30 miles (editor’s note: 48.3 km), to increase energy efficiencies throughout an entire city.

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