African Utility Week conference smart grid session

At the recent African Utility Week, Metering & Smart Energy International had the pleasure of speaking with a number of key utility and sector leaders. Below is a short taste of what they shared with us.

Interviews with industry speakers at African Utility Week

Interviews with industry speakers at African Utility Week

Having spent three days at the event in Cape Town interviewing African utilities, technology suppliers and regulators in our studio, we asked the question: Is Africa the next frontier for smart meters? The answer ranges from nearly to definitely. 

It states the obvious to say Africa is a vast continent and each country’s electricity sector is unique but that is the case.

Zimbabwe, which is now tendering for 60,000 smart meters for its large-power users, is making all the right noises with a government-led smart grid blueprint and plans for a smart city, according to Wilfred Shereni, senior manager at Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company. 

While Robert Mubiru of Uganda's Umeme said the utility is metering the majority of its customer base.

Industry experts were also talking excitedly about the emerging markets of Angola, Ethiopia and Kenya.

However, in Nigeria the metering gap still yawns wide and in South Africa, a Pretoria municipality last week admitted defeat on an a wide-scale smart meter rollout.

So vendors that are building a local presence and know how to dance the steps of African business, as Daniel Swanepoel, a business consultant and training facilitator described, are well placed to participate in the smartening of the electricity, gas and water networks. 

Smart metering in China and beyond

And what other learnings from the show? We spoke to meter manufacturer Shenzehn Star and discovered that every year there are 50-100 new manufacturers begin producing meters every year. Domestic metering is now widespread but the local market is so saturated that manufacturers have to look to new markets, like Africa, for growth.

From Europe, we heard from Jesper Daugaard, marketing director at Kamstrup, and Marie Fossum Strannegard, head of utilities at Ericsson on the connected networks to improve living standards and resource conservation.

While Brisbane-based Ivan Barron, chief technology officer at EDMI, told us about the Power of Choice in Australia, a government-led initiative that is still at draft stage.

The thrust of the policy is to let consumers make smart meter choices, such as whether they will opt-in or opt-out of the scheme. Under the draft ruling, consumers will also choose the meter model that meets their budget and smart home needs.

1 COMMENT

  1. Of course these “Smart Meter” projects are going to fail, as sadly, those in the “know” have managed to convince Municipalities that what they have to offer are “Smart Meters”.

    The misnomer that an Electricity (or Water meter) is “Smart” due to the fact that it has a keypad which allows one to enter a prepaid token is exactly that, a misnomer. Prepaid meters are NOT Smart Meters AT ALL. And to add insult to injury; Being able to send a few bytes of data across FSK PLC not maketh a Smart Meter either.

    If the consumption and tamper information cannot be accurately obtained, the foundation of the Municipal Billing System is compromised and the purpose of Smart Metering has failed DISMALLY.

    Smart meters, whilst they will allow entry of a token, need to have, at the very least, the CRITICAL component of allowing EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT communication to a Management System. And, as mentioned, NO, the use of FSK PLC to communicate this vital information is neither EFFECTIVE, nor EFFICIENT.

    As a company we have, at our own cost, replaced pilot systems using the above technology as the efficiency was found to be below 40%. So basically, if you as a municipality are happy with retrieving only 40% of the data required to accurately bill customers, then by all means continue installing the “cheap” imported metering technology.

    When choosing a Smart Meter ALL of the following questions need to be addressed:
    1. Does the meter perform ALL functionality internally and NOT server side. I.e. Prepaid, TOU, Currency, Load Profiling, etc. MUST be done within the meter.
    2. Is the technology for communication FSK based? All independent tests performed have shown this technology to be inefficient for both fast, reliable data communication AND immunity to noise on the power grid causing huge loss of data and thus revenue.
    3. All meters MUST be separated from the grid. I.e. Any internal communication within the property must NOT pass through the meter onto the power grid. (And vice versa)
    4. Smart Meters CANNOT use RF to communicate data due to its inefficiencies and pitfalls.