Enel is proud to announce that the Telegestore System is currently the most extensive and unique project worldwide. "We are more than halfway to completing our project" says Vincenzo Cannatelli, COO of the Market and Infrastructure and Network Business Unit of Enel. "Nearly 15 million meters have already been installed; more than 12 million are already remotely managed and remotely read. Progressing at the actual rate of 700,000 meters installed per month, the system will be fully deployed to more 30 million customers by 2005."

Thanks to the cost savings and the revenue enhancement enabled by the Telegestore platform, Enel aims to become the most efficient utility in Europe and probably in the world. Thanks to the cost savings and the revenue enhancement enabled by the Telegestore platform, Enel aims to become  the most efficient utility in Europe and probably in the world.

From January 2004 Enel began to implement the suite of central system functionality, for example bi-monthly reading and multi tariff schemes, to be ready to meet the challenges of liberalisation and to be able to offer advantages to customers, using the potentiality already embedded in the system.

BACKGROUND

The progressive liberalisation of the energy market is opening a new era for utilities, which have to face a challenging market that requires a higher level of service, transparency, customer care and tariff reduction. Enel Distribuzione, the Italian power electricity utility with more than 30 million customers, accepted the challenge and decided to take a number of major actions: complete re-engineering of the distribution and commercial processes through innovation, and the introduction of new technologies like SAP, CRM, billing and a new credit management system. As far as the metering business is concerned, Enel has launched a unique technological innovation, called the Telegestore System.

The Telegestore project contemplates the replacement of Enel’s meters connected to the low-voltage grid. The substitution is expected to be completed by 2005 and will cover approximately 30 million customers.

The Telegestore is an innovative system designed to remotely read and manage the customers of electric energy on the low voltage network. It includes a remote meter reading system, a customer management system, and a potential ‘value added services’ delivery system. The project started in June 2000 with the development of a remote metering management system which used the low-voltage distribution grid as a data carrier, in combination with the public telecommunication network.

Since the early 1990s Enel has been experimenting with systems to remotely manage meters using powerline as the means of communication. These trials allowed Enel to test different technologies, and at the same time to acquire a unique knowledge of remote meter reading. More important, the trials have proved that using power line communication in low voltage grids for data exchange is technically feasible.

A complete system was implemented in several Italian cities covering nearly 70,000 customers (of which 40,000 were in the Rome area). This installation was successful from a technical point of view, but the project was abandoned when the availability of more competitive technologies emerged, such as:

  • A completely electronic and integrated meter, instead of a
    traditional electromechanical meter integrated with an external
    electronic communication device.
  • The use of the public telecommunication network (GSM) for
    communication between the secondary substation and the central system, instead of power line communication in the medium/high voltage network.

The lessons learned from this project, in terms of both technology and economics, allowed Enel to prepare a business plan to develop and implement an automatic meter management system capable of managing all the customers in the low voltage network. In addition we were able to guarantee a payback period of five years, based on the present electricity pricing system and regulatory rules.

In 2001 Enel began replacing the traditional electromechanical meters with new sophisticated electronic meters. Our aim was to replace 30 million meters over a five year period. The overall investment will be approximately 2 billion Euro.

The main goal of the project is to improve the relationship with customers, making it simpler, more transparent and more flexible, and to improve company efficiency and effectiveness, as recommended by the National Energy Authority overseeing the market liberalisation.

PROJECT STATISTICS

  • 30 million meters, of which more than 15 million have already been installed, and more than 12 million are already remotely managed.
  • 350,000 concentrators, more than 200,000 already installed.
  • 2 billion Euro investment.
  • more than 15,000 people over 3 continents involved.
  • 650 local firms to replace the meters.
  • 5 meter assemblers.
  • more than 50 suppliers of meter components.

THE TELEGESTORE SYSTEM DESCRIPTION

The Telegestore is not a simple AMR (automatic meter reading) system; it is a more complex remote metering management system. The major system functionalities are remote meter reading; remote management of customer contract (e.g. voltage change, tariff change, connection, disconnection) and remote monitoring of the low voltage network (quality of service and energy balance). The Telegestore system components are the meter, the concentrator, the modem and the central system.

  • The electronic power meter integrates the metering system, a circuit breaker and distribution line carrier (DLC) communication functions. The meter has been designed by Enel, with the help of a few external designers to ensure system integration. They are produced by international contract manufacturers that can ensure high volumes of production with low defect rates. The meters have been developed according to international standards (CEN 61036, CEN 61268). Enel opened a public worldwide tender procedure following European regulation EN 38/83 for the procurement of the meters.
  • The concentrator, installed in almost every secondary substation, is able to manage the communication both towards the central system and towards the electronic meters. The concentrator questions the electronic meters in a master-slave manner. The communication between the concentrator and the meter is on DLC network on CENELEC 82 kHz (primary carrier frequency) or 75 kHz (secondary carrier frequency) FSK, 2400 bps. This band is reserved for electricity utilities for purposes related to their core business.
  • The modems, installed in the secondary substations, transfer the data collected by the concentrator to a central system through the telecommunication network (GSM, ISDN, etc) with TCP/IP protocol. The connection is mainly performed via GSM because of the immediate network coverage available.
  • The central system (AMM) gathers and sends data from/to the concentrators and manages the system. The central system is integrated with the legacy system; this means that all the operations are made automatically.

Because of the well-known peculiarities of communication on power line networks (noise/disturbances due to different loads at different times of the day and night) Enel has involved Cesi (a subsidiary company for testing equipment). Cesi conducts field tests to recreate the typical environment of the noise existing on the electricity network. These tests involve more than 1,000 meters that are connected with more than 3,000 electronic appliances commonly in use at residential and small business premises.

This field test began in 2000, and is currently used to fine-tune the communication of the system and to test new products available off the shelf (such as washing machines, TV sets, ovens etc) as well as testing new models of system components (meter and concentrator).

KEY FEATURES OF THE TELEGESTORE ARE:

  • Active and reactive energy measurement
  • AMR functions
  • Time of use, time of the year contract management functions
  • Remote connect/disconnect for load control
  • Fraud detection/anti-tampering functions
  • Customer information
  • Prepayment (without card) enabling
  • Demand power management
  • Low voltage grid energy management
  • Individual customer service quality level monitoring
  • Potential development of value added services for energy market

THE TELEGESTORE ADVANTAGES

Enel, our customers and also the Italian electricity system will benefit from the Telegestore project.

Our customers will benefit from better service in terms of efficiency in distribution, selling and metering, as well as being able to make use of differentiated – and eventually lower – tariffs. The new paradigm will be a one-to-one relationship. Moreover, the Telegestore system will facilitate competition by reducing the switching cost and providing exact and timely meter reading, so that customers will be able to change energy providers more easily.
In more detail the advantages to customers are:

  • Transparency as regards energy consumption, tariff, contract and power usage. The customer can read all this information on the display.
  • Billing based on up-to-date meter reading.
  • Flexible tariff structures, with the possibility of daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal modulation, and flexibility of billing period.
  • Reduced waiting for contractual change, eliminating inconvenience to customers caused by on-site interventions.
  • No more mistakes in meter reading, reducing complaints and disputes. Enel will be more effective with the Telegestore system.
  • Much of the operation will be handled automatically. This means that everything takes place more quickly and without human intervention, leading to an increase in operational efficiencies. Savings in running costs will come from the remote management of customer contracts and from the remote metering. The sheer size of the project (30 million meters) has allowed us to benefit from economies of scale. We are paying the same amount for the electronic meters as we would normally pay for an electro- mechanical meter. This price is much lower than other electronic meters available on the market.
  • We will be able to reduce energy loss and minimise fraud, and reduce the joule effect while improving energy consumption
    forecasting. Reduced energy loss will mean enhanced revenue recovery.
  • There will be an increase in customer satisfaction. The Telegestore system can be considered as a tool to increase transparency, simplify operations, offer new tariffs, and customise the relationship between us and individual consumers.
  • There will be new business opportunities on two fronts – the
    present customer base will benefit from the creation of new value- added services, and other utilities will benefit, as the unique experience Enel has acquired during this project can be transferred to them. In fact, over the last few years Enel has acquired technological expertise, process expertise and intellectual property which can be exported all over the world. 

The national electricity system will also be able to take advantage of the Telegestore system::

  • Demand side management. Customers will be able to monitor information on the display area of the meter. It has been proven that a customer who is made aware of the cost of consumption during peak hours will change his behaviour and switch consumption to the less expensive times. This gives the energy system the chance to reduce consumption peaks. In addition, a customer who is made more aware of the cost of energy will reduce energy consumption by between 5 and 10 percent. This effect increases when the differences between the time band tariffs are consistently different.

Telegestore system architecture
Telegestore system architecture

  • Improving service quality on the low voltage grid, monitoring energy provisioning and eventual interruption.
  • Reducing energy loss due to fraud, technical losses and meter malfunction. The improved performance of the electronic meter in terms of information available will reduce energy consumption. Another saving will come from the energy that is presently not invoiced due to faulty meters or fraud. The electronic meter is provided with a self-diagnostic system that sends a signal to the central system when it detects the possibility of malfunction. In addition, the concentrator polls the meters systematically, and when a meter does not respond, the concentrator sends an alert to the central system.

As far as fraud is concerned, the electronic meter is provided with an anti-tamper system that becomes operative when the customer tries to open the enclosure, or to remove the meter from the socket, or to re-program the meter, by cutting off the power supply.

In 2003 Enel started to consolidate the project savings. By 2005, with full system deployment, Enel will be saving more 400 million Euro a year. Moreover, Enel’s remote metering management system is becoming a worldwide benchmark, as we continue to implement new technology and to re-engineer the application and processes involved.

Enel has introduced activities dedicated to managing customer satisfaction while the Telegestore project is underway. The main aspects are:

  • A toll free number dedicated to the replacement campaign, with kpi monitoring.
  • A dedicated web site (http://www.enel.it/eneldistribuzione/contatore/), giving commercial and technical information.
  • An effective below-the-line communication programme, which includes sending a letter to every customer to announce the meter replacement, and a set of communication material (brochure, posters, meter user manual and so on).
  • Meetings with journalists to let them understand the project aims and operations; guided tours of the Cesi field test and demonstrations of meter and system functionalities.
  • Co-operation with the consumer association to assist them to understand the project aims and advantages, and to enable them to give customers the correct information. This co-operation involved obtaining the support of the association in preparing communication material, giving information about the project to customers using a dedicated toll-free number (managed by the consumer association) and meetings with local representatives to share information on the project and its acceptance by customers.

THE VALUE ADDED SERVICES

Enel has also started work on exploiting the network created for the metering services, to provide new value added services to its customers – in fact, the Telegestore system opens an outdoor-indoor communication channel. Enel is technically evaluating the co-existence of the metering services with energy-related value added services.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT IN OTHER COUNTRIES

With the Telegestore system Enel has acquired prestige in the utility sector worldwide, both for the technology involved and for the operational capabilities. This can be considered as one of the most interesting, ambitious and innovative industrial projects undertaken over the last few years. Enel has thus begun to consider the opportunity of extending the advantages of such a system in other countries.

The liberalisation process (EU 2003/54/CE) will progressively involve all the countries that are members of the community. The actual customer base in Europe is 370 million. In 2004 ten more countries will join the EU, with three more joining in 2007, so that the potential market will reach 500 million electricity customers. This implies that there will be 200 million more meters, the majority of which will be located in countries with a high rate of growth in numbers of new meters. It could be estimated that 60% of these meters will be replaced in eight years, so that about 15 million meters will be replaced every year.

Europe will benefit from the extension of the Telegestore system technology to other countries, just as Enel’s customers have benefited. Moreover it will allow a reduction in total EU energy consumption and its dependence on fossil fuel, reducing pollution and increasing economic stability in the event of market crisis. It will also create new employment prospects through the investment of a mass deployment of meters and associated technology.

A roll-out of the Telegestore system in Europe could increase the economies of scale that Enel has achieved, optimising the investment cost and the return on investment.

Enel does not underestimate the opportunity to establish new and important alliances with other major European utilities and industrial groups for the development of the Enel technology and know-how. Many pilot test sites involving other utilities are already underway; an example of a successful pilot test which ended in 2003 was with ASM Brescia, an Italian multi-utility.

More than 80 utilities all over the world have already visited Enel and showed great interest in the Telegestore system. We welcome such interest, and look forward to sharing our experiences even more widely in future.