Electricity is an integral part of our daily lives. We have already taken it for granted and often do not even realize how much we need it. We use it to illuminate not only our homes but also the cities in which we live. Electricity is the main source of energy through which we heat our homes, prepare our food and use new technologies.
To reach the end user, electricity is provided by Distribution System Operators (DSOs), which have built complex networks of devices.
Like any goods, electricity is a service, the consumption of which has its financial expression. It is important for each consumer to pay only for the consumed electricity. To manage that, the DSOs rely on a technology that is constantly developing – electricity meters.
1. What is an electricity meter?
The electricity meter is a device that measures the consumption of electricity. It is installed at the point where the power lines enter your building. Electricity meters function by measuring the instantaneous voltage and current to show how much energy has been used. Essentially, electricity meters count how many kilowatts of electricity the house or flat consumes, and this is used to calculate the bill based on provider’s unit cost in kilowatt-hours (kWh).
2. How do electricity meters work?
Meters have been around since electricity first became widespread in houses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The electricity meter measures your connection to the electrical grid, keeping track of how much electricity you pull from the grid. Historically, meters were analog – just numbers on gears and a dial that spun as you consumed more kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. They required a utility worker to come to physically walk to the side of the home or building and read take a meter reading – literally, writing down the number on your meter. The difference between one reading and the previous one is how they determined the bill amount.
As with other technologies, electricity meters have become more advanced over time, making the meter reading process more automated. First, electricity meters were adjusted to either passively or actively emit readable radio waves: instead of having to walk to the side of the property, utility workers could drive specially outfitted trucks through your neighborhood and collect readings for each meter much quicker. This technology is known as Automated Meter Reading (AMR). It provides near real-time consumption data, which is then sent to the utility’s database for billing, troubleshooting and analyzing.
Later on, utilities began to install the more advanced version of automated consumption measurement, the so called “advanced metering infrastructure” (AMI). This is the next level of automation, as it provides a two-way communication from and to the meter via a data concentrator. There is a Head-end System and Meter Data Management Software which take control of the whole system, communication and infrastructure management.
3. How many different types of electricity meters are there?
Standard meters. These show your energy usage in kilowatt hours (kWh) using a simple mechanical display. The reading is taken manually by employee of the supplier.
Dial meters. Dial meters work similarly to standard meters, but are presented as a series of clock-like dials instead of numbers.
Digital meters. These electronic meters display their readings on LCD screens. To display the figures a button is need to be pressed.
Economy 7 and Economy 10 meters. Some suppliers around the world provide tariffs designed for people who use most of their energy at off-peak times, usually at night. These are known as Economy 7 and Economy 10 tariffs and are sometimes referred to as variable-rate meters.
Like standard meters, Economy 7 electricity meters record how much power is used and display it on a digital or analogue readout. The difference with this type of meter is that it tracks that the energy is used during two separate periods: peak and off-peak. This type of meter is used with an Economy 7 tariff, which charges a different rate for electricity depending on whether it was used during the peak period or not. Energy used at peak times costs more than standard-rate electricity, but off-peak power can cost half as much. Economy 10 meters work in a similar way, but they record 10 hours of off-peak use that’s split across the afternoon, evening and night.
Prepayment meters. A prepayment meter – which is often referred to as a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) meter – monitors electricity usage in the same way as a standard meter, but it needs to be topped up with credit to supply electricity. Some PAYG meters look like standard electricity meters and let you send meter readings and top up online. Others prepayment meters rely on you charging up a smart card, token or key at a local PayPoint, which are often found in newsagents or convenience stores. It’s just as important to take regular readings of these types of electric meters as it is the standard types so that you don’t unwittingly run out of credit and get cut off.
Smart meters. These are intelligent devices that provide detailed information on how and when energy is used. They also communicate with your energy supplier, sending them accurate updates. These smart meters have two key benefits: first, they are able to track electricity usage on a much more granular level–the power and energy consumption over fifteen or even five minute intervals–and, second, they are able to automatically communicate with the utility, meaning there’s no need for anyone to ever come visit the property or drive through your neighborhood to collect usage information for billing.
4. Who owns the electricity meter?
The owner of the meters in most of the cases is the electricity distribution company. It is responsible for installing, maintaining, and reading your meter. For this reason, companies constantly develop the technology of electricity meters, so that the reporting process, detection of faults and their elimination is carried out faster, easier and at a lower cost.
5. Why smart electricity meter is the future?
The benefits of using smart meters are many. One of the most basic is that they provide information about the consumption of electricity faster. Smart electricity meters provide more detailed and accurate measurement data. The measured data is sent at regular intervals to electricity distribution companies who use it to map consumption peaks and gain insights. Utilities use them to monitor power quality and enhance the power flow, improve service, and intervene faster in case of issues such as outages.
From the supplier-consumer relationship perspective, smart meters can redefine the supplier’s role to that of an energy advisor. From an industry viewpoint, it can integrate new technologies and innovations across the power grid. To the users’ advantage, it can drive down costs, provide transparency and flexible pricing. And from a social perspective, it can improve energy conservation, grid reliability and outage management, besides integrating the supply of renewable energy options.
Post the rollout, it shifts more toward an advisory engagement. Analytics, coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT), can enable companies to provide smart solutions that help customers efficiently manage their energy requirements. In-home displays can provide real-time feedback and empower customers to analyze their consumption patterns and maximize savings.
ADD Bulgaria offers solutions for energy utilities that helps them achieve better control and monitoring of the entire metering infrastructure.
We understand that the traditional processes of measurement and maintenance of infrastructure assets, can be resource and time consuming. That is why we developed Arista – a new generation software and hardware solution that provides remote smart management and predictive analytics. It revolutionizes the way companies and cities manage operations and interact with customers.
Our solution provides meter reading, data collection, processing, transfer and analysis. Based on open standards, it ensures network security of the highest level in accordance with the latest standards in cyber security. Learn more about our solution.