Although we generally see the¬†advanced meter as the key enabling technology that will allow, over time, utilities to tailor additional services and programmes for customers, the general description of advanced metering products has increased in variability, as new features arrive in the market place, and manufacturers look to formulate descriptions of their product offerings.
Advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) features vary greatly between technology providers of smart meters in deployments today. Many of the advanced meter deployments currently in the field lean more towards Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) type product rather than true AMI. Based on current trends, advanced metering products can be classified as AMR, AMR Plus, or AMI, as illustrated in the diagram below.
Automated meter reading¬†
Automatic or automated meter reading (AMR) allows information to be read from the meter without a person physically viewing the meter. AMR involves limited, one-way communication, typically through mobile radio frequency where information is collected by a vehicle passing by the equipment or, in some cases, a one-way data system being passed back to a vendor's back office systems. Functionalities are generally limited to monthly meter reads, tamper reporting, data aggregration, load profiling, and meter diagnostic reporting.
Automated meter reading plus limited two-way communications¬†
Automated meter reading plus limited two-way communications (AMR Plus) is a more advanced AMR system that involves limited two-way communication. Functionalities have been increased over AMR meters as the AMR Plus meter stores more information, and provides more detailed information on usage. The meter reads can occur from fixed locations and from greater distances than standard AMR devices. Functionalities are expanded to include features such as daily or on-demand meter reads of hourly interval data, outage notification flags, and other commodity reads.
Advanced meter infrastructure¬†
True advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) is advanced, full two-way communication infrastructure that includes the communication hardware, software, associated data retrieval and data management systems. This infrastructure creates a network between advanced meters and utility business systems that enables collection and distribution of information to customers and other stakeholders.
AMI allows increased functionality to also include integrated disconnect, ability to implement advanced time-based rates, distributed generation detection and control, remote meter programming, power quality monitoring and reporting, home area network interfaces, and enhanced security compliance.
Differences and Benefits
Advanced metering is at an early stage of development and integration into energy utility markets. Product descriptions, or definition of terms, vary not only among markets such as Asia, Europe, and North America but also within markets. However, these descriptions become more clearly defined as products enter the market, and stakeholders form industry user groups to create accepted terms and functionalities.
With AMR and AMR Plus solutions, assessment of the benefit possibilities arising from one-way or limited two-way communication between back-end systems and the digital meters offers obvious operational efficiencies. However, that is only part of the story.
True two-way communicating AMI solutions are capable of measuring and recording interval usage data, including half-hourly or less, and enable the full range from larger commercial consumers to smaller residential consumers, thereby creating consumer engagement, and allowing them to particpate in energy efficiency, demand response, and critical peak pricing programmes. The use of two-way communication functionality allows communication with customers to encourage them to reduce or shift their electricity use during peak demand times. AMI solutions also provide other data and functionality that assist with power grid stabilisation issues specifically addressing power reliability and quality issues.
AMI technology represents significant future potential, and is a core component and enabler of tomorrow's smart grid functionality. Arc Innovations' AMI solution is a technology enabler for a full turn-key AMI solution ensuring future-proofed functionality through remotely configurable and upgradable capability.
A general market trend for energy utilities that are assessing advanced metering is to focus on the greatest amount of functionality that provides a positive financial business case, leading many to pursue the AMI path, rather than AMR or AMR Plus. Another trend for energy utilities that are considering advanced metering investment is to ensure future-proofed flexibility of their advanced meter deployment through AMI solutions addressing and ensuring future functional upgradability.