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Elektro Gorenjska – IDIS' first experience

For IDIS, Jovan Vujasinovic

 

Elektro Gorenjska is one of the five distributional companies in Slovenia engaged in the distribution, production and sale of electric energy. One of the company's key elements is the future orientation and the latest discoveries. It covers an area of 2.091 km2. In this territory, Elektro Gorenjska performs the functions laid down for by the system operator of the distribution network (SODO).

 

Before IDIS, Elektro Gorenjska used Landis+Gyr and Iskraemeco meters. From the beginning, Elektro Gorenjska did not have to worry about interoperability since both their supply companies were the founders of IDIS. 

Today we talk with Damjan Prašnikar (Head of The Metering Department) and Matjaž Malovrh (Senior Measurement Engineer) about their smart metering experiences.  

What would you say are the primary goals of your department? 

"We are working to further improve our service to the customer. With new technologies and the implementation of the smart metering system, comes many opportunities like, I.e. voltage monitoring which is a beneficial functionality. Communication technologies are very important, and we are actively monitoring their further development." 

 

How would you describe your work processes before the implementation of IDIS standardization?

"Even then, we worked with smart meters. They were not yet certified by IDIS, only by DMLS, but the supply companies were solving problems found along the way, and the complete system was improving. This was the very beginning, practically a pilot polygons, and from that work and development, IDIS was formed.

 

How would you describe your work processes after the implementation of IDIS standardization?

"In our field, in practice, IDIS-certified meters from various manufacturers were shown to be interoperable. The success rate of PLC communication is around 98% for billing data using SFSK, and 95% for billing and 10 -15-minute profiles data using G3 technology. Users could receive usage data, there are fewer complaints, and the process control is easier than before. IDIS defines the communication between smart meters and concentrators, but communication between the concentrator and head-end software (HES) also needs to be standardized. Also, there is no information or event logs about why the meter is disconnected, and there is no maximum current profile. There is room for improvement."

 

Which problems did IDIS help you solve?

"We have a good smart metering system, that does not depend on one manufacturer and which is easier for maintenance and further development. Resolving complaints is easier now. There is less ambiguity than before. We have remote disconnecting and switching, better control, and voltage observability."

 

Where do you see your company in 10 years?

"We have 90.000 meters (PLC, WiMAX, and GPRS). At the moment, we have 65.000 residential PLC smart meters, and 3.000 industrial point-to-point WiMAX or GPRS smart meters. Given the growing need for real-time communication and retrieval of increasing amounts of data from the metering point, we are considering installing point-to-point smart meters in the remaining 4.000 households, as well as a replacement of those meters that expire for life.

 

Do you think that PLC loses the battle with mobile – narrowband technology?

"Narrowband is more reliable and faster. PLC has limitations concerning frequency, transmission speed, and signal strength. Add noise to that, and PLC, I think, is coming to an end."

 

How do you see the future of our niche? 

"There is much talk about online communication, wireless point-to-point communication. Other companies are working on an implementation of narrowband LTE communication, and we are waiting for the results and the critical mass to apply it. The mobile phone modem is still expensive, but PLC I think, is losing the race at the moment."

 

What is the most important lesson you learned about smart metering throughout your career?

"You need a good plan, to define what you want and a good preparation for everything to make a good result."

"One should take into account the complete cost of the project because if you buy cheaper equipment, you then have to visit consumers several times, it gets much more expensive than buying better quality equipment in the first place."

 

There are more significant and active households every day in our smart world (i.e., with electric vehicles and renewable sources in their properties). Utilities require more reliable and faster communication with all of them, due to higher data flow. Point to point technologies like narrowband LTE, Lora, etc. are a more and more attractive solution to use for these purposes.

 

Can PLC respond to these challenges, it is facing today? In our opinion, yes, if it continues to develop in the direction of a new generation with faster and more reliable communication and in the direction of simplifying the cleanup process. A new generation of PLC could be broadband PLC or something new, but only if it gets permission to use the appropriate higher band frequencies. It is also essential to develop techniques to perform cleanup during the smart meter installation and reduce cleanup activities in the later phase of exploitation. The question is whether the installation of filters at each metering point is an acceptable solution to this problem from both the technical and economic aspect.

In this conversation, as well as in the discussions with other utilities, it is noticeable that each utility, in addition to the general requirements, has its own specific requirements.

 

In your opinion, should or can the IDIS association offer a special, fast standardization and certification service with additional user-specific requirements for each distribution company?

Should IDIS Association standardize communications between data concentrators and HES?

 

Share your opinion on the subject in the comments.

 

#smartmetering #electricity #interoperability

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