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Elektro Gorenjska – from the first IDIS rollout to smart city

For IDIS, Jovan Vujasinovic


Around the same time as the appearance of IDIS association and defining the first practical, interoperable, and open standards, the idea of smart meters rollout developed in Elektro Gorenjska. From the very beginning, the criterion that only standardized, interoperable meters could be acquired was set. In 2010, Elektro Gorenjska decided to start with the implementation of the project based on IDIS specifications.


IDIS and Elektro Gorenjska grew and learnt together.

Today, after a successfully implemented project with significant penetration, Elektro Gorenjska participates in the smart city project called Smart Mlaka.


We are talking about all of this with Mr. Ciril Kafol, Network Director of Elektro Gorenjska.


- Mr. Kafol, what would you say are the fundamental goals of your group? What would you say are your company's core values?

 "The goal is equal and secure availability of electric energy, providing our customers with a modern and comprehensive user experience and creating clean energy for sustainable development. The smart metering project offers an important contribution to achieving our goals.

The smart meters rollout was supposed to be completed in 2021, but there was a delay due to COVID-19 and financial rescheduling. The project is currently 80% complete, and by 2025 Gorenjska will penetrate 100% of the AMI system. We use Iskraemeco head-end software, SEP at the top and Landis+Gyr and Iskraemeco smart meters under it."


- Since the very beginning of the introduction of smart meters, Elektro Gorenjska insists on interoperability. Why is this so important?

 "For commercial and technical reasons, it is vital that you should always have more than one provider and that the operation of your system, in any part does not depend on just one company. In terms of the implementation of PLC meters, it significantly simplifies the training of involved personnel, logistics (manipulation of equipment in the warehouse and the field), etc. The importance of interoperability in every respect is best shown by the current situation with GPRS meters. As previously mentioned, we have been installing interoperable meters from various manufacturers from the beginning, but now there is a requirement for interoperability of SIM cards to be built into the meters i.e., for the independence from telecommunication service operators. These are the so-called e-SIM cards, which allow remote operator setup. That way, to change the operator, you do not have to visit every measuring point and replace the SIM card, but with one click, the software remotely realizes that change. To illustrate what this means in practice, imagine what logistics we would need for Elektro Gorenjska to replace the operator on its GPRS meters."


-  What could you tell us about the Smart Mlaka pilot project?

 "It is a pilot project for a smart city. The municipality of Kranj and the companies that manage that platform have financed it, but that project at this point does not have clear goals or business benefits. We will try to develop those as the project evolves.

 There is an issue with the project taking ten years to maintain the smart city and for the project to pay off. It is more of a demonstration in one part of the city."


-  What are the project's primary goals, and how would you define Elektro Gorenjska's part in it?

"Ours is the role of meters and touring meters in a platform that accepts all smart meters, the same platform for all utilities. We are working on this project in cooperation with RIKO, 3FS company, Iskraemeco Komunala Kranj, Domplan, and Vigred."

-  Could you tell us the benefits of the smart city project for citizens?

 "There are many possible benefits if the city decides to develop business cases around it. The consumer is involved in the demand-side management programs, and they can learn how to manage energy and get a more favorable bill.

For now, the project is gathering information, and that data should have some value. And I think that is the crucial thing."


- How do you see the future of our niche?

"I see a mix of different technologies. PLC due to the prices, but with lower performance and technologies like Narrowband LTE, Lora, and similar, for which we will see the future use. With them, there will be more interactive data exchange. Mobile operators have significantly reduced prices, but using their network still requires a higher starting price and higher OPEX costs than PLC technologies."


- Any tips for top managers in other Electricity distribution companies?

Interoperability is a necessity, and everyone should be on interoperable platform. IDIS association should continue to develop, to include all relevant market stakeholders, to transfer all the 150+ members and to practically become a public good. Smart city projects are important for merging applications and to further society development. In such projects, it is also very important to take into account the interoperability and standardization of protocols."


To conclude, interoperability and standardization are very important for smart metering projects and any other communication systems. It reduces implementation costs, simplifies implementation, and increases system redundancy.                           

Due to the need for electricity distribution systems to increase real-time data, we can expect an increasing influence of Narrowband LTE, Lora, and similar technologies. Further development and implementation of PLC communication in places where a low price is the critical factor is essential too.

To further develop and implement a smart city, it is necessary to clearly define the goals and find a business case for all participants.

Do you think that it is possible to define a single open, interoperable standard, i.e. IDIS standard for the realization of smart cities before the mass implementation, as we see it in the field of mobile telephony and communications in general, and thus avoid the scenario with many different protocols that happened with smart metering projects?

Share your opinions on the subject in the comments.


#smartmetering #electricity #interoperability

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