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5 myths about smart meters

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A smart meter is an electronic device that measures, stores, and sends data about electrical parameters such as energy consumption, voltage levels, current, power, etc. Smart meters measure and transmit data to the Distribution System Operator (DSO) and, potentially, to the consumer, providing greater transparency into consumption habits. Also DSOs can more easily monitor the entire metering infrastructure and invoice customers fairly and regularly.

Smart meters typically send data on energy usage to the supplier at predetermined intervals. The electricity meter and the central management software in and Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) communicate two-way in the system, meaning they can both send and transmit messages. This is the main difference between AMI and Automatic Meter Reading (AMR). But also, smart meters collect and transmit more information. The measured data is sent to the DSOs at regular intervals, where it is used to map consumption peaks and gain insights. Utilities use them to monitor power quality and improve power flow, improve service, and intervene more quickly in the event of problems such as outages.

With the increased use of smart meters, a number of consumer concerns have inevitably arisen. ADD Bulgaria will debunk 5 of the most common smart meter myths.

Myth No. 1 – Smart meters are expensive

Every business or private household carefully allocates its resources and considers whether or not to incur a particular expense. However, discussing smart meters, we are referring to a long-term investment. Measuring resource consumption with smart meters has numerous advantages in the long run. This makes the investment extremely reasonable, if not necessary, because it pays off many times over with no additional investment required.

The benefits of smart metering and monitoring systems for electricity:

  • End of forecast accounts, which are a major source of complaints for many customers;
  • End of delayed reporting of the spent consumption;
  • A tool for assisting consumers in better managing their energy purchases;
  • Monitoring the entire system with intelligent software provides real-time data about electrical parameters, enables faster detection of system disturbances, and prompt corrective action to minimize customer impact, such as interruptions;
  • Smart meters also assist DSOs in better understanding the needs of the power grid than older appliances. This improved understanding allows for more systematic planning to meet consumer energy needs while reducing the likelihood of additional infrastructure investments, a process known as “demand management”.
  • Analyzing data and making highly effective management decisions. The vast amount of information, supplied by smart meters in the control center’s database allows managers and other decision-makers to have the opportunity to organize the elimination of various control defects in the electricity network, the detection and removal of technical and non-technical losses, the allocation of functions and the prioritization of emergency groups, the optimization of costs, and the planning of investments for the future.
  • Data transfer is encrypted. Based on the data encryption and key management system, the system ensures secure access, storage, and management of information from electricity meters;
  • Integration with third-party systems is possible and widely practiced;
  • Maintenance costs are lowered;
  • The time required to locate and identify infrastructure problems and faults is reduced;
  • Invoicing is easier;
  • Monitoring and analyzing consumption and historical data is a basis for future service improvement of the DSO;

Myth No. 2 – Smart meters are less accurate than analog meters

First, traditional electricity meters do not store data. A meter collector must physically visit the customer’s home or a business must record the information and send it to the metering company. If access to the meter is denied or cannot be gained, estimated bills are generated. Additionally, electricity use is tracked by either waiting for the customer’s monthly or quarterly bill or manually reading the customer’s household meter. Those meters don’t have outage detection, as distribution companies cannot react quickly to interruptions in the supply, and connections and disconnections must be done manually.

Smart electricity meters, on the other hand, have data storage and record the amount of electricity consumed every half hour. As digital data of energy consumption and TOU are provided in near real time, the data is automatically transmitted to the metering company. Because automated outage detection is managed remotely, distribution companies can restore power faster than traditional electricity metering. Connections and disconnections are also faster.

In terms of precision, there is a European-level measuring instrument directive that ensures smart meter manufacturers meet certain quality and precision requirements.

The legal basis for measuring instruments in Europe is established by the European Parliament’s Measuring Instrument Directives (MID), which went into effect in February 2014. The MID covers the entire approval process, from initial verification to the use of ten different types of measuring instruments, such as electricity, gas, heat, and water meters. Before a measuring instrument can be placed on the European market, its MID compliance must be verified by a notified body in a lengthy approval procedure.

ADD Bulgaria also meets these requirements and also performs internal inspections of the devices on a sample basis.

Myth No. 3 – Smart meters are vulnerable to cyber-attacks

ADD Bulgaria provides intelligent systems for remote control, metering, and management in the energy and industrial sectors. ADD Bulgaria (founded in 2006), together with its partner, ADD Grup (founded in 1992) are some of the first and only a few companies in the world to have successfully completed a project for ensuring cybersecurity of millions of smart energy meters.

The company has five years of experience integrating security systems and implementing projects from the ground up – connecting and protecting the various components of the smart metering system with their own security key.

ADD Bulgaria has been collaborating with the world’s leading cyber security providers, with the most recent successful collaboration being with Fornetix, Inc., by producing excellent work in a cluster together.

The integrated system is FIPS and NIST-certified Key Management Servers, and it can generate over 100 million individual keys dynamically, ensuring that each action is protected by an individual key. In addition, the company uses the widely adopted Microsoft Public Key Infrastructure.

ADD Bulgaria has successfully migrated such systems from one Key Server Solution to another, from the most basic to the most advanced.

Myth No. 4 – Smart meters are environmentally hazardous

In fact, the use of smart meters and monitoring systems enables the ability to perform a precise balance of supplied and consumed electricity at the same time. The system software performs the balance by analyzing and comparing the quantity of the output of the substation branch submitted to the users and the sum of the readings of all electricity meters connected to this branch. This precise technology aids in the detection of network losses and the effective elimination of them by electricity distribution companies.

This system allows customers to create detailed schedules. Large consumers participating in the liberalized market can prepare accurate schedules based on statistic information for previous consumption, current consumption, peak consumption, and so on. Smart electricity meters record the customer’s consumption according to a pre-configured period (from every 15 minutes to an hour). On this basis, they can submit precise requests for the purchase of electricity, significantly lowering their costs from sanctions for requested and unconsumed energy or the need to purchase additional energy in excess of the requested. Precise planning of energy consumption, on the other hand, has a positive effect on the environment. It is an inevitable part of the low-carbon energy transition programs and cannot be performed with conventional meters.

Myth No. 5 – Smart meters are harmful to health because they use for communication

The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a review of the scientific literature and discovered that the small amount of radio frequency (RF) energy produced by smart meters is not harmful to human health.

The RF emitted by smart meters is well below the Federal Communications Commission’s limits, as are the levels emitted by other common household devices such as cell phones, baby monitors, satellite TVs, and microwaves.

There is no credible evidence that RF emissions at or below the FCC’s RF exposure limits pose a threat to human health. With over 25,000 articles published on the subject in the last 30 years, scientific knowledge in this area is now greater than that of most known chemicals which affects human’s health.

So far ADD Bulgaria’s technology has been using the existing power line network to communicate between meters and data concentrator. From the data concentrators to the Head-End System communication is done via GSM/GPRS. However, the number of these devices is way lower than the meters themselves and so, no harm can be neither expected, not detected.