Echelon's NES system - redefining smart metering

For some utilities and system providers, a smart metering system is merely a set of electromechanical meters equipped with modems. For others, however, a smart metering system provides much more than automated meter reading. Echelon’s Networked Energy Services (NES) system is leading the way to redefine smart metering.

Our work with utilities such as Enel S.p.A. of Italy has shown that a smart metering system, properly implemented, can lower costs and improve efficiency, and let utilities respond rapidly to new regulations and customer demands, all without adding cost or complexity.

In the groundbreaking Enel project, we provided the core networking technology (the same technology underlying the NES system) for the utility’s 27 million meters and more than 250,000 data concentrators. Enel has estimated the return on its system at €400M-500M per year. More recently, utilities such as Vattenfall and E.ON Sverige in Sweden, and Nuon in the Netherlands, have begun deploying the NES system. Vattenfall has contracted for as many as 700,000 electric meters, while E.ON has contracted for 370,000; Nuon has contracted for 25,000 of both gas and electric meters, making it the first to use one advanced metering infrastructure for two utility services. Other utilities around the world are also considering next-generation systems.

These projects, while all different, share a common set of advanced system attributes, including:

  • Layered system design. In a smart metering system such as the NES system, each component layer – meters, data collectors, and management software – has well-defined interfaces based on open standards. A web services interface at the management software layer simplifies integration with billing, customer care, outage management, and other applications, and protects enterprise software investments. Data collectors that support standard IP connections let utilities leverage new WAN technologies that have lower operating costs. Meters built on open standards allow features to be added over time while maintaining backwards compatibility and interoperability.
  • Reliable, scalable, two-way, end-to-end communications. This is the core of a smart metering system. If information flows in only one direction between any parts of the system, the entire system becomes a one-way system. Further, a system with poor meter-to-collector communications reliability will have poor overall communications reliability. The NES system is designed to ensure reliability through an automatically managed mesh network that Echelon perfected during the Enel project. ANSI/EIA 709.2 power line communications provide scalable two-way bandwidth to support, for example, interval data from every customer.
  • Low-cost, programmable remote disconnect service. Enel, Vattenfall, E.ON, and Nuon have shown that remote disconnect functionality can be cost-effectively deployed in residential meters. NES meters include a disconnect switch for both the IEC and ANSI markets that not only enables service connect and reconnect but also demand subscription, life-line service, and prepay metering. Some utilities are using these functions to set prearranged service thresholds in times of limited power supply, preventing blackouts and brownouts.
  • Comprehensive power quality measurement. NES meters include over- and under-voltage detection; overcurrent detection; per-phase power factor; voltage, current, frequency, and phase angle profiling; maximum and minimum frequency logging; and apparent power measurement.
  • Advanced meters that measure a wide variety of data. NES meters measure and record forward and reverse active power (kW), forward and reverse active energy (kWh), import and export reactive power (kvar), import and export reactive energy (kvarh), and apparent power (VA).
  • Flexible tariff plans. A smart metering system like NES lets utilities implement new tariff plans such as time-of-use tariffs, interval data collection, and prepaid service from the central office.
  • Monitoring and control of auxiliary devices. NES meters can be configured with connectivity options, including an auxiliary load control relay to enable tariff-based, timebased, or on-demand direct load control; pulse inputs to read gas and water meters; a bidirectional M-Bus interface to connect to gas, water, and heat meters and other devices; and an internal expansion port for future options.
  • Remote software upgrade capability for all system components.

A smart metering system can adapt to changing business and regulatory requirements, eliminating the wholesale replacement of components and expensive field visits. It can integrate easily with current and future enterprise software applications and WAN networks.

Echelon’s NES system is the key technology chosen by Vattenfall, E.ON, and Nuon for as many as 1.1 million meters. These utilities are leading the market in creating metering infrastructures for multiple service delivery, higher-quality service, present and future regulatory compliance, and superior energy management.