Swedish energy company Vattenfall has begun an extensive programme to install an automatic meter reading system for all its 900,000 electricity network customers in Sweden. All these customers will have been supplied with remote meters by no later than 2009. This installation constitutes part of an initiative to provide monthly metering and easy-to-understand electricity bills, while eliminating preliminary debiting.

For the first phase of this programme, Vattenfall selected Actaris as supplier of 150,000 remote electricity meters, 50,000 of which will be installed in the autumn of 2003. The system includes the integrated RF and PLC communications meters, the communication infrastructure and the data collection engine.

“This is the first in a series of planned purchases, and is an important step in our effort to make life easier for our customers,” points out Per Hallberg, Director of Vattenfall Electricity Networks.

The installation of remote electricity meters is an integral part of Vattenfall’s effort to be the customer’s first choice in a competitive market. As part of this effort, Vattenfall has launched a number of initiatives to build customer confidence, including measures to improve the quality of its network services and a commitment to customer service.

The decision to implement the AMR system should mainly be seen in this context. But monthly meter readings will also bring advantages to electricity trading companies, simplifying customers’ change of supplier and reducing the pressure on customer service departments. Network companies will not have to produce annual and final settlements; tax, price and contract changes will be simplified; metering quality will be improved, and the handling of measuring data will become less complicated.

The Swedish parliament recently introduced compulsory monthly metering for all electricity customers. “We decided on our extensive strategy before parliament addressed that issue and regardless of what the decision would be,” Hallberg clarifies. “At first we decided to install remote electricity meters only for customers consuming 8,000 kWh or more per year – about one-third of the total. Now we will include our entire customer base. This decision will simplify a correct and reliable invoicing system, with more intelligible invoices. That is an important part of our ambition for our customers.

“Earlier we felt that installing new meters for apartment customers with low electricity consumption would not be economically feasible, but in the process of working with this project we have learnt that the efficiency increase will be sufficient to include everyone. When all customers have got modern meters, we will no doubt develop new tools for further improvement of our customer service.”

At the conclusion of the first phase of Vattenfall’s procurement, more than 40 suppliers had registered their interest. “The procurement has been finalised in accordance with EU regulations and the Swedish Public Procurement Act. We chose Actaris Technologies AB as the supplier for the first phase of this programme because, in our judgement, Actaris was the company that could best satisfy our needs in a total perspective, including both technology and economy.

“We intend to install 300,000 meters before the end of 2005, starting this August. Our ambition is to finish the total installation programme before the end of 2009, but our customers will not have to wait until then for real-time invoicing. Those customers who have not yet got a remote meter will get access to simplified web or digital phone reporting after reading the meters themselves, so they too can pay for actual rather than estimated consumption. This service will be introduced later in 2003.”

Vattenfall also plans to offer smaller customers the opportunity to pay a fixed monthly amount, irrespective of any variations in their normal electricity consumption. “In such cases invoicing will not be necessary if payment is regulated through auto-giro and the customer can get all information he needs on the Internet or other channels,” explains Hallberg. “For the customer, that will simplify payment routines and economic planning.”