PRI, an expert in intelligent metering solutions, is currently implementing an aggressive business growth strategy, which has resulted in the opening of new offices in Australia and the Middle East.

In Australia the office is headed up by Michael Guy, who has over 20 years’ experience in the metering industry. Michael is supported by Neil Ray and Richard Metherell; the team is already developing opportunities in the South Pacific from their new office in Melbourne. The Middle East office is based in Dubai and is headed up by Rajneesh Kher, who has several years of metering experience in the region.

PRI has an expanding installed base of Liberty smart metering that spans the globe. Applications details are given here of installations in New Zealand and Northern Ireland.

SMART METER PUTS POWER INTO CONSUMERS' HANDS

The electricity needed to bake a medium-sized potato in the oven for 45 minutes costs about 12 cents. The same potato, cooked for 6 minutes in a microwave, uses about 2 cents worth of power. This is the sort of information that customers can access using a new smart electricity meter, successfully trialled in New Zealand earlier this year and now being readied for wider consumer rollout.

Consumers using this meter can purchase electricity in advance through multiple vending channels, including the Internet, a text message on their cell phone, dialling a freephone number or calling in at an outlet downtown. The cutting-edge metering technology that allows them to take control of their elec-tricity use and costs has been introduced to the New Zealand market by NGC, in the form of an innovative prepay-ment metering system known as Liberty.

PRI Liberty meter and Liberty freedom unit

PRI Liberty meter and Liberty Freedom unit

NGC has developed the meters to meet the specific needs of the New Zealand market, and has established the infrastructure that connects retailers’ vending channels to the Liberty server in the United Kingdom. Developed by PRI Limited, the Liberty technology gives customers high quality usage information and a strong energy management capability.

Liberty Freedom keypad unit installed in a customer’s flat

Liberty Freedom keypad unit installed in a customer's flat

Liberty is already widely used in Europe, and was proven in the New Zealand market earlier this year by a successful three-month pilot in conjunction with Genesis Energy. The pilot involved more than 80 homes in the Wellington and Waikato regions.

The small, easy to use Liberty meter replaces the customer’s existing meter. If the meter is outdoors, a separate keypad can be installed indoors to provide convenient access to a wide range of information. The technology allows instant prepayments at any time and includes a ‘friendly credit’, which enables continued electricity use if the available credit runs out in the dead of night or outside normal business hours.

NGC Energy Services’ General Manager Owen Coppage said the Liberty system is an example of the rapid developments in energy metering technology worldwide. “This system takes the guesswork out of buying electricity. Customers can see how much credit they have remaining at any time, and how many more days it is likely to last, based on their consumption. There is an in-built alert mechanism when credit is running low.Liberty Freedom keypad unit installed in a customer's flat 

Customers can see how much electricity they used yesterday, last week, last month or right now. They can also see the effect of simple energy management measures – like turning off unused appliances, or taking advantage of off-peak rates. Conversely, they can instantly assess additional electricity consumption when they turn on an appliance like a heater.

“By taking advantage of the energy use information provided by the meter, households can reduce their energy consumption by up to 10%, perhaps more.”

Because it is a prepayment system, there are no bills. Nor is there a need for a meter reader to visit. To meet the requirement for periodic meter readings, customers can quickly access the information using the keypad and relay the encrypted information to their retailer by phone or via the Internet. The flexible pay-as-you go system benefits general users, and has particular application in flats, apartments and holiday homes.

Mr Coppage said the smart technology takes prepayment meters well beyond their traditional use as a customer credit mechanism. “Customers are still able to make their prepayments as their household budgets allow, but they can do so when it is convenient to them and without leaving the house.”

“But, of increasing importance, it is also an energy management technology that allows everyone to constantly monitor their electricity use and to apply the information provided by the meter to use their electricity more efficiently, and save money.”

Vince Hawksworth, Genesis Energy General Manager Retail, said feedback from the customers involved in the trial has been very positive. “Customers particularly value the energy use information that helps them manage their consumption. Genesis Energy is excited by the opportunities this technology provides.”

ADVANCED METERING GIVE TENANTS MORE INFORMATION FOR GREATER CONTROL

Cromac Wood Court, a prestigious new social housing project in the Markets area of Belfast City in Northern Ireland, has installed the latest in advanced energy metering systems. It provides tenants with exceptional information and service that helps them manage and reduce their energy costs, whilst also improving their overall comfort level.

BIH (Belfast Improved Housing) provides housing tenants with PRI (Polymeter Response International) meters that show real time energy information in a simple form, giving tenants greater control over their energy costs. Cromac Wood Court is an excellent example of the high quality accommodation offered by BIH, in a modern and recently completed scheme of 36 one and two bedroom rented units.

In line with its stated policy of offering the highest quality services to its customers, BIH asked NIE (Northern Ireland Electricity) to provided an electricity budgeting system in the form of PRI’s Liberty Keypad-based metering, thus promoting social inclusion and customer empowerment whilst maintaining high levels of comfort and convenience Andrea Murtagh, the Scheme Co-ordinator at Cromac Wood Court, who has several years experience in Housing Unit Management, had no hesitation in recommending the Liberty Keypad System. “I am aware of the importance of weekly budgeting to those on a low income. The Liberty Keypad system allows people to budget effectively and also to reduce their consumption of electricity and avoid going into debt.”

Cromac Wood Court in Belfast


Cromac Wood Court in Belfast

Several of the new tenants, like Rosemary Mulligan, had Liberty Keypad in their previous accommodation. Rosemary commented: “I like the Liberty Keypad very much; if it had not been fitted in Cromac Wood I would have asked that it be fitted for me. I read the displays and can calculate how much I need to purchase each week, and do not have to worry about big electricity bills.”

Gerry Cunningham moved into his apartment in February 2004. “It is an easy system to use. I know how much I use in the winter weeks compared to the summer weeks, which helps me put money aside for other bills. I check the amount in the meter regularly - I like to be in credit.”

Liberty meters installed at Cromac Wood Court


Liberty meters installed at Cromac Wood Court

Such is the success of Liberty Keypad in Cromac Wood Court that Paul Hellen from Building Service Design, who installed the system, stated: “It will be our normal practice to design and install keypad pre-payment meters in all projects of this type.”

BIH constructs and manages a range of housing accommodation for families, single people, the elderly and people with special needs. Schemes are located throughout Northern Ireland. The Association is a registered non-profit making Housing Association and is recognised by the Inland Revenue as having charitable status. On an annual basis the Association develops new accommodation for rental, as well as undertaking the refurbishing and maintenance of existing stock.

PRI has supplied more than 150,000 Liberty keypad meters to Northern Ireland Electricity and has helped reduce customer debt and energy consumption. BIH is the first association to choose keypad meters for a new build at the design stage. This has resulted in easier installation and deployment of an integrated Liberty solution.