Smart Meter Management: the challenge and the opportunity

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Millions of meters mean masses of data. It’s a mountain to climb but the view from the top makes it all worthwhile.

Smart meters signal potential benefits for energy companies and their customers alike.

Consumers can learn about their own energy usage patterns and consider changing their behavior so as to benefit from off-peak tariffs. Indeed, an Australian academic study published in 2013 showed that homeowners’ electricity consumption on average was reduced by approximately 3-5%.

And utilities businesses gain not only from reduced overheads – for instance, removing the need for physical meter reading – but also from increased knowledge and control. The greater the level of real-time information that can be gathered, the better prepared an organization can be to respond rapidly to peaks and troughs in demand.

Smart meter management

The challenge of scale

But the business opportunity that smart meters represent is also a challenge, and one of the biggest elements of that challenge is that of scale.

There are so many smart meters out there. Millions. Managing them all and making use, individually and collectively, of all the data they gather is an enormous task.

As we’ll be demonstrating at European Utility Week in Amsterdam (October 3-5), it’s a task that we at Capgemini are pleased to handle. We do already: in fact, we manage over 1.5 million smart meters a day; we’ve directly managed the mass deployment and installation of over 23 million smart meters and their related infrastructure; and we are involved in the implementation of 113 million of them worldwide.

We do all this on a managed service basis. Utilities businesses look to us to handle this for them, and we meet their needs at levels they designate.

The base level consists of: meter reading at planned frequencies (for instance, hourly, monthly or on-demand, or a combination of these); remote monitoring and management; and product lifecycle services, including end-to-end testing.

It’s a modular approach. Clients book in with us for layers of support. Here are just a few others:

  • Operational services – including new activations, meter configuration changes and end service subscriptions
  • Network operations – including power quality / failure / resume information, reconnect/disconnect services and load limiting
  • Supply chain services – including meter and equipment procurement, inventory management and warehousing, logistics, warranty and repair
  • Field management – including work order management and resource scheduling and allocation
  • Field execution services – including installation management and meter maintenance, repair and replacement

Service benefits

If smart meters themselves represent a business opportunity, what additional benefits does this modular approach to their management provide?

Our clients have found that by breaking the process down into layers it becomes easier to manage and also to measure. Each function is delivered against an SLA (service level agreement), which is reviewed at a frequency of their choosing. This ensures not only that quality of service is predictable but that costs can be known and accommodated over the long term. What’s more, because of the economies of scale within which we operate, those costs are typically lower than anything that can be achieved by the in-house operations team.

It’s a flexible approach too: services in this model can evolve and be adjusted as the energy provider’s needs change.

The view from the summit

There’s no denying that for many utilities businesses, the prospect of managing an installed base of devices on this scale and across countries or even continents can be pretty daunting. It’s a mountain to climb.

But with the right managed services provider – a company with the experience, infrastructure and enthusiasm needed – that challenge can be met cost-effectively and at low risk. The energy organization is free to focus on its core business. And as a big part of that core business is meeting or exceeding the expectations of its installed base, the customers stand to benefit too. The view from the top of that mountain can be breathtaking.

Visit us at European Utility Week in Amsterdam (October 3-5). You’ll find us at booth #1H7

You can also connect with me online.