By Jonathan Spencer Jones

Latin America continues its move towards a smarter energy future, with Brazil leading the way – and even though the Brazilian regulator Aneel’s long expected announcement on the country’s AMI rollout wasn’t forthcoming, the atmosphere at the recent Metering, Billing/CRM Latin America event in São Paulo was positively electric!

Now in its ninth year the event attracted almost 1,300 people from across the region and beyond to take stock of developments locally and internationally, to share experiences, and to plan ahead.

And what was clear from the presentations was that over the past year, since the last event, there have been a number of important developments. One year ago, there was one “smart city” project – that by Cemig in Sete Lagoas – and now there are three, with Ampla having launched a project in Buzios, a popular beach resort near Rio de Janeiro, and EDP Brazil launching its project in Aparecida, a “blessed city” almost mid-way between São Paulo and Rio.

EDP Brazil has also taken the step of developing its own smart meter, which has recently been certified by the metrology agency Inmetro. These will be piloted in Aparecida, with around 15,300 meters due to be deployed by mid-2012.

Rio utility Light has also been busy developing an AMI system and has completed polyphase meters and an in-home display, which are now to be deployed in a sample of households in and around Rio.

In developing these meters both of these companies worked closely with Aneel to ensure future compliance, with Aneel in turn gaining experience to incorporate into its rollout requirements, which are now expected to be released by the end of 2011.

Further important experience is being gained by AES Eletropaulo, which according to technology director Ricardo van Erven, now has almost 2,000 smart meters installed in its smart grid pilot.

Just as EDP Brazil is drawing on its parent company’s experience in Portugal, with for example, the Evora smart city project, so too Ampla’s new activities also represent an expansion in the region of the activities of its parent companies, Enel and Endesa. In addition to Brazil, where the group also has the Fortaleza utility Coelce, it has interests in several other countries but initially is focusing its activities with Chilectra in Santiago, Chile and Codensa in Bogotá, Colombia. In both cities electric vehicle pilots are under way and a small smart meter pilot is also under way in Santiago, where also a smart city project is being developed.

Enel and Endesa also of course bring with them the smart meter technology developed initially for Enel’s rollout in Italy, based on the Meters and More open protocol.

Those are perhaps the most “headline grabbing” activities going on but there is also much else.  Eléctrica de Guayaquil’s smart meter project, developed with the foresight of the company’s former director (now a consultant) Oscar Armijos and still the only one of its kind in Ecuador, is continuing to expand. There is also a continuing interest in prepayment in certain countries, notably in Colombia with Empresas P blicas de Medellín’s (EPM) rollout now well over the 100,000 mark and still growing, and more than one utility in Panama is looking to deploy prepayment. However, in Peru the enthusiasm there was seems to have been rather dampened.

And let’s not forget that while one of the main drivers of smart metering in countries in Latin America is loss reduction, there is always a need to go back to basics in tackling theft and fraud. Some years ago loss reduction expert Luiz Arruda attempted to establish a regional revenue protection association (as a chapter of IURPA) and now retired and working as a consultant, he intends to take this up again.

With all of these activities, and many more, at various stages of development, and the prospect of Aneel’s AMI rollout announcement due shortly, much can be expected to happen in the months ahead and Metering Latin America 2012 (scheduled for August 2012) will be the place to hear about them.