Aigües de Barcelona is the sole water service provider for the Barcelona metropolitan area in Spain, serving 2.8 million people across 23 municipalities. The utility manages over 4,600 kilometres of network across 1.5 million connections, providing 524 million litres of water every day. In 2016, after piloting several technologies, the Aigües de Barcelona board approved a 10-year plan for the massive deployment of smart meters based on the WIZE/Wireless m-bus open standard.
Driving the change to fight water scarcity
The city of Barcelona was facing recurring droughts and increasingly unpredictable climate events. Having incurred huge investment commitments in water production, network automation and control, the city was looking to reduce costs.
Mateu Crespi-Alemany, Director of Operations for Smart Solutions, speaks of the enthusiasm each of the 23 municipalities’ mayors had to be a part of this project to deploy more than a million meters. “Each municipality wanted to be the first to implement this change,” Mateu says. “The project was deployed by geographical zones, rather than all at once. Each municipality had a specific engagement strategy with their customers. By educating the customers as to the value of the online portal during the onboarding through their municipalities, they were able to fully appreciate the benefits.”
Reducing operating costs and fraud thanks to smart data
The ultimate goal of the project was to eliminate the 9 million manual reading operations required every year. Indeed, prior to rolling out smart metering, the residential contracts had to execute 6 manual meter readings per year while the commercial contracts had 12 per year manual readings.
Cutting down on manual operations has not only significantly reduced the costs for the City of Barcelona, but it has also reduced the risk of fraud.
In the past, it was extremely difficult to identify meter reversal fraud, and it required a visit from a field team to check that the meters were not temporarily reversed by the residents. With smart monitoring these cases can be identified remotely and immediately, without the need for a visit. Furthermore, in the past, only 20 per cent of these cases were validated due to lack of evidence to prove the fraud beyond the metering data. This has now changed with smart meters providing more accuracy and consequently less disturbance to the customer.
Reducing bills for the end users
When contacted by a customer with an overconsumption bill, the frontline customer service staff are now able to transparently explain consumption day by day (or even hour by hour) to prove to the customer that the consumption figure is accurate, and the bill is correct.
Providing access to real-time data via an online portal
The residents of Barcelona now have access to an enriched customer portal with real-time access to daily consumption data, including leak and overconsumption alerts.
When the smart metering deployment was completed, the overconsumption alerts shifted from 9 per cent (before smart metering roll out) towards 3 per cent (after smart metering). In the event of a water leak, residents are automatically alerted via phone, app or email, where possible.
Figure 1: Overconsumption alarms in municipal facilities with and without smart water metering
The high-quality data also enables municipalities to directly measure on-premises leaks. The leak alerts are created when the “minimum overnight flow” is not zero for a series of consecutive days. For instance, 370,100 leak alarms were analysed from January to September 2019. The alarms were segmented by customer type and the average minimum overnight flow calculated within each segment.
By embracing a completely open technology stack, Aigües de Barcelona has achieved operational cost efficiencies that enable behavioural change to support water conservation. Customers now have access to relevant information while network managers have access to timely data, enhancing overall network management.
Global data collection speed remains the primary bottleneck. However, improvements continue to accelerate. Aigües de Barcelona also benefits from industry’s continuous development of new benefits in this technology.
So, what’s next for smart metering?
“The number one challenge until now has been the cost,” SUEZ Smart Water Senior Manager for Australia, Sean Cohen, says. “The perception is that smart metering is really expensive, but it doesn’t need to be. There are now low-cost, well-engineered options.”
Originally co-founded by SUEZ Water, French gas company GRDF, and communications company Sagemcom, the WIZE Alliance promotes open standards to make smart meters more affordable and accessible. Its members range from councils to utilities to technology providers, all interested in moving the water industry forward.
Looking for a smart meter solution for your utility?
Get in touch with a SUEZ expert to see how we can help: https://discover.suez.com.au/suez_smart_water
Watch the On Demand recording of the Smart Solutions webinar which was held on September 28.
SUEZ expert speakers Mateu Crespi-Alemany, Director of Operations, Smart Solutions, France and Sean Cohen, Senior Manager, Smart Water, SUEZ Australia present how Smart Metering Solutions can make your utility more custom-centric
WATCH NOW: https://suezanz.com/3Bk0pnp
This partner content is brought to you by SUEZ. For more information, visit suez.com.au.