By Petri Trygg

Finland is a Nordic country with a similar land area to Germany, but with less than 10% of its population (5,3 million). This comparison contextualises the challenges faced with regard to electricity distribution in Finland.

Most of the country’s distribution network was built during the 1960s and 1970s, which is why there is a need for investing in infrastructure and automation in the near future. Currently most of the Finnish utilities are working heavily on implementing AMR. In addition to having monthly billing, hourly data, remote switching, and support for network planning and operation are important issues.

Finland has separated electricity distribution and energy sales. Metering is the responsibility of distribution companies and data exchange is based on EDIEL messages between distributors and sales companies.

The electricity market regulator stated at the end of 2008 that by the year 2014 at least 80% of the approximately 3,3 million metering points are to be replaced with meters capable of hourly metering. Studies conducted concerning the current status of meter markets indicates that around one million have already been replaced, one million is currently being replaced and the remining one million is under preliminary studies on how and when to replace.

The regulator is also expecting DNOs to publish plans on the transfer to smart metering. The idea is to keep track of how the replacing proceeds and whether the timeframe is exceeded. In terms of regulating the distribution business, the regulator still has outstanding issues to determine. AMR costs handling in terms of regulating the distribution business are not yet totally agreed upon.

In the future smart metering will include features to support energy sales companies. Multiple products and possibilities for demand side management, including distributed generation are also challenges over the next decade.

As stated earlier, metering is now the responsibility of the distribution company. However, studies and market developments show that the trend is increasingly towards outsourced smart metering [TrAm09]. Independent service providers are typically taking care of metering which used to be the part of utilities in house operations. Reasons for this outsourcing include the risks of new technology and telecommunication and gaining the access to the best practices in the metering.

The change from doing things yourself to purchasing is not very simple [TrTo07]. This multiple partner role also causes a demand for flexible IT solutions. Integration is very much under discussion and service providers are asked to present solutions to truly deliver information from metering systems into operational systems such as the customer information system (CIS) and distribution management system (DMS). In addition to that outsourced balance settling must be working all the time and mass meter replacing projects from outsourced installing companies are updated to systems on a daily basis.

Technological demands from the AMM solutions are also getting increasingly complex. Hourly data and some alarms of network faults are also delivered into the distribution management system. Power quality issues are also coming with additional modules on AMR [JäMä07]. Customer information systems are handling mass replacement projects, remote switching and in some cases even data reporting. This continuous complexity is making systems more demanding to implement and operate. In some cases, separating functionalities into separate systems lowers cost and saves time.

Employees of the utilities are seeing the challenge and changing descriptions of their work. Previously utility expertise was needed. Now it is increasingly and additionally about IT, purchasing, economics, agreements, regulation and limited experience in all of this.

Some utilities also see that smart metering is not the answer to everything. This is one of the reasons why the utility, Helsinki Energy, has decided to implement comprehensive secondary substation monitoring [HyPe09].

This system is delivering new functionalitieson monitoring Medium and Low voltage networks and secondary substations in the city area Smart monitoring units communicate with a highly advanced GPRS system to the utility’s business processes. On top of that, SCADA and power quality systems are processing the data to support network operation, planning, maintenance, life cycle optimisation, and power quality monitoring and fault analysis.

[TrTo07] Trygg, P., Toivonen, J., Järventausta, P., “Changes in business models of electricity distribution”, International Energy Journal, Volume 8(4), 2007, p 243-248.
[TrAm09] Trygg, P., Aminoff, A., Tahvanainen, K., Viljainen, S., Lappeteläinen, I., Järventausta, P., 2009, “Questionnaire survey of services and outsourcing in Finnish distribution companies”, Proceedings of the Cired 2009 conference.Prague, Czech Republic, june 8-11.
[JäMä07] Järventausta, P., Mäkinen, A., Kivikko, K., Verho, P., Kärelampi, M., Chrons, T.,Vehviläinen S., Trygg, P., Rinta-Opas, A.,” Using advanced AMR system in low voltage distribution network management” ”, In the Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Electricity Distribution Cired 2007. 21-24 May 2007, Wien, Austria.
[HyPe09] Hyvärinen, M., Pettissalo, S., Trygg, P., Malmberg, K., Holmlund, J., Kumpulainen, L., ”A comprehensive secondary substation monitoring system”, Proceedings of the Cired 2009 conference.Prague, Czech Republic, june 8-11.