Scandinavia has been an innovative laboratory for automatic meter reading (AMR) during the last ten years. In addition to the deregulation of the electricity market, an open-minded and technology-oriented culture made room for the first automatic meter reading and load control solutions in the 1980s. Today, the 4th generation advanced AMR is much more – a total metering management system, able to answer even the future needs of an energy company.

The first AMR and load control solution was released in 1984, used primarily for delivering data over a medium-voltage power line carrier (MV PLC). The electricity network was used both for remote meter reading and for load management. Using the system for controlling peak demand in the coldest winter months proved to be useful. In addition to PLC communication, communication over phone lines was also introduced. These two were the
dominant communication technologies throughout the rest of the 1980s and the best part of the 1990s.

SECOND GENERATION AMR

The mid-1990s brought dramatic changes – both in the systemtechnology and the electricity market as a whole. The time was ready for the second generation of AMR technologies to be developed. Scandinavia was a unique environment for developing mobile technologies, thanks to pioneering companies like Nokia and Ericsson. The second generation AMR solution was released in 1997, and new media for communication – such as GSM, and LON for communication over a low voltage PLC – were able to answer the needs of the newly deregulated electricity markets in the Nordic countries and beyond.

HOUSEHOLD AMR

The first generation of integrated meters for household customers, with the meter and the communication solution built into one device, was released in 2000. In 2002 the repertoire of different communication means was completed when LAN and GPRS became the latest additions to the selection. For large-scale household automatic meter reading, all this meant a big leap forward. Now a wide range of communication options enables full geographical coverage and a cost-effective solution for all kinds of purposes, from rural holiday cottages to grid metering. The deregulation of the electricity market in Scandinavia during the 1990s was not the only reason for the dynamic development in the field. The legislation – especially in Sweden since 2003 – was a wake-up call, but many energy companies simply wanted to improve their customer service and the efficiency of their internal metering-related processes by investing in an advanced AMR system.

ADVANCED AMR BENEFITS

Despite the legislation and deregulation, the benefits of advanced AMR are evident to all parties in the electricity market. Consumers, energy companies and society as a whole gain advantages such as:

• Clear and consumption-based invoicing
• Faster service for those who are moving house, making claims or changing their supplier
• Network optimisation and higher efficiency through new internal processes
• Balance management based on real readings instead of estimates
• Accurate metering data information
• Improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions load management when possible
• Avoiding unnecessary network investments; and more.

FUTURE SCENARIO

Cost-effective and accurate metering, communication, and data collection solutions designed for large-scale AMR will be the basis of the business in the future, too. It all boils down to utilising information on a large scale. In addition to information management and communication, several other applications such as power quality monitoring have emerged. Nearly three million AMR endpoints had been sold in Scandinavia by the end of 2005, and there is still a potential of roughly 11 million endpoints. The Scandinavian AMR market will mature in eight years, but the markets in Central Europe will still be blooming for some time thereafter.