Andrew Davis, General Manager – Electricity Markets, Jemena

by Andrew Davis, General Manager – Electricity Markets, Jemena

Even before the rollout of smart meters in 2009, Jemena was one of a number of electricity distribution businesses testing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), more commonly known as smart meters. Today, many of the perceived benefits that smart meters were expected to bring are being realised, but such are the advances in technology and connectivity that some other early theories are also now becoming possible.

Here, we look at the current and future benefits of smart meter technology, focusing specifically on:

  • The impact smart meter technology continues to have on customer bills
  • New innovations which, thanks to smart meter technology, are allowing customers to remotely control and monitor their appliances and electricity use
  • The positive impact smart meter technology is having on the electricity grid and network
  • There are approximately 2.8 million AMI meters in Victoria, rolled out to all customers using less than 160MWh of electricity per year. In the Jemena Electricity Network, across Melbourne’s northwest, there are around 335,000 AMI meters.

Accurate bills and information

Prior to smart meters, meter readings were assessed by estimates and manual readings of a customer’s aggregate consumption. In the high-voltage distribution network, time-of-use information was available through the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system. However it was only with the rollout of AMI that time-of-use information was extended to
individual customer premises. This shift has enabled the most obvious benefit of smart meters to consumers – accurate bills.

Smart meters also allow customers better freedom of movement and choice. The technology enables customers to easily switch between retailers as disconnections or connections can now be done remotely.

Smart meters can also support other new technologies, such as solar energy systems by enabling solar generated energy to flow into the grid.

Smart meters provide customers with better information. Today, our bills not only reflect accurate usage but provide key time-of-use consumption data. Property owners can better monitor their usage, leading to informed decisions about when they use electricity, how much they consume, and how that compares to previous bills.

Consumers are tech savvy and have come to expect information on-the-go. The availability of real and relevant data is ideal for interactive online and web-based portals. Not only are these convenient sources of information, they also encourage greater interest in the electricity industry and the broader energy sector.

Residential trials

Testing the interplay between smart meter technology, household data and peak demand, Jemena’s residential demand response trial Power Changers, was conducted in partnership with the Victorian Government over peak times on very hot days during the recent summer.

By analysing household data, made accessible via the smart meter, Jemena was able to calculate a baseline for energy saving challenges, with participants incentivised to reduce consumption and demand on the grid via two rewards programs.

Under the Community program in Alphington, Eaglemont, Fairfield, Ivanhoe and Ivanhoe East, participants donated their challenge points to local groups and schools. In the Rewards program, conducted across Craigieburn, participants redeemed their points for gift cards for their own personal use.

Some 600 people registered for the four month trial. Early indications are that participants did indeed reduce their energy consumption, cut bills and reduce demand on the network.

Smart appliance trial

Smart meters not only provide data, but they form an interconnected wireless grid. This virtual network allows information to flow, not just from them, but through them. By analysing trends and patterns, Jemena can identify new opportunities to optimise this technology.

Jemena’s Smart Appliance trial utilises smart meter connectivity to test Direct Load Control (DLC) across the Jemena Electricity Network, allowing us to offer a remotely controlled service to customers at peak times on very hot days.

In the DLC trial, participants permit Jemena to manage their smart air conditioner and smart pool pumps at pre-agreed times on scheduled days.

The benefit to customers is knowing their appliances are operating at their optimum without impacting comfort levels, however, they will see their bills decrease. For Jemena, the pilot enables us to test consumer sentiment for Direct Load Control.

Both Power Changers and the Smart Appliance trial have provided great insights into customer engagement, motivations and segmentation. They have great potential to reduce household bills and demand on the grid.

Jemena is also considering how these trials can be scaled up. One focus will be on the forecast increase in electric vehicles (EVs). The day could come when EVs are typically plugged in at home on their return from work, but DLC manages the recharge period overnight, to spread the load across the network.

Smart meter “health” checks

Data analysis also provides opportunities to identify risk as well as opportunity. Through the connectivity of smart meters, faults and outages can be better managed across the network and at the home.

Jemena is trialling in-depth analysis of smart meter data, known as Advanced Data Analytics (ADA) to identify irregular patterns, unusual readings and data anomalies.

By early identification, Jemena can make earlier interventions, proactively and efficiently deploying resources to address the issue before the customer is even aware of it.

Future smart meter benefits

While these trials show early promise, they are not in themselves the ‘silver bullet’ to driving network efficiencies. Therefore, Jemena will continue to test smart meter technology trials, collate data, consider learnings and seek customer benefits.

As results of these trials are realised, we are confident smart meter technology will continue to provide new opportunities to improve services, cut household bills and reduce demand on the grid.

These trial findings and future opportunities will also go some way to supporting a national picture of future electricity use, as outlined in the Energy Networks Australia and CSIRO Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap Final Report, released in April 2017.

Under the Roadmap, pricing reforms, harnessing smart meter technology and other technologies will play an important role in delivering the goal of $414 annual savings in average household bills and $16 billion in network infrastructure investment savings by 2050.

Jemena looks forward to contributing to the Roadmap’s target to “outperform current abatement targets, keep the lights on and deliver lower costs”, and to continue our work at a state level with customers, industry and government to bring energy to life.

Jemena direct load control device connected to smart air conditioner

Andrew Davis is Jemena’s General Manager, Electricity Markets. He oversees a team of senior professionals to develop and deliver market, product, commercial, customer strategies and growth opportunities for Jemena’s regulated and unregulated electricity network business.

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

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