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    Customer plays central role in Smart Metering


    Customer’s always play a vital role for the success of any product. Likewise the customer is the corner stone of every utility. It is only the happy customer that gives value to the utility and not regulator, not the government and not even the shareholder. But the companies loose their focus on the customers with all the changes that are happening in the utility industries.
    So the main problem would be to keep the customer in the loop as it is always easy to loose a customer than to gain one, even when it comes to the utilities.  So care should be taken by the utility suppliers to satisfy their customers or they might use their rights to change their energy suppliers, since the government and regulators are promoting open competition between utility suppliers.
    It is indeed questionable how many of the smart grid technological developments is actually adding valued to the end customer. Though there has been accelerated developments that would benefit the utility at the institutional level — for ex: SCADA systems, smart reclosers that reduce maintenance call outs, the industry is lagging behind in very core issue – metering.
    Under the purview of smart city pilot experiment in the city of Miami, Florida smart water meters have been rolled out. Miami has improved the management of water consumption and reduced leakage across the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces department, aimed at savings upto US$1 million—that can be reallocated to services for residents, such as after-school clubs offering homework assistance, fitness programs and even swimming lessons.
    In another Pilot experiment, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has about 1.4 million smart meters based on wireless networks installed in domestic and commercial properties. The sensors automatically detect outages and other problems on the electric grid and fault detectors send alarms, if a problem occurs anywhere along the distribution lines. This enables the utility to respond to power outages and restore electricity to customers immediately. ’Green Button’ application gives timely access to energy consumption data and has been implemented in a user friendly way so that it is more directly linked to customers. Users can download the last 13 months of their energy consumption data, which can then be analyzed to help make choices about when and how they run appliances, to view their day-to-day account, encourage households and businesses to monitor temperature gauges or run appliances on eco programmes, reduce peak demand for the utility and save money.
    In Europe, the adoption of smart metering technologies is largely driven—or certainly encouraged—by central policies of the European Union that promote energy efficiency and backed by national governments that are both keen to enhance their green credentials and to reduce reliance on energy import. Italy was one of the first countries to roll out smart meters and France, Germany and UK are in advanced implementation stages.
    The industry dynamics so far necessitate the utilities to focus on the user experience, user participation and the value added to the user because, they are the ones paying the bill. Future Investments in the smart grid technologies are bound to flow where there is a real value added to the customer who play a central role in smart metering. Smart metering should strengthen and address the core issue why it all began — to provide the customer to choose between different tariffs in real-time when available, to monitor energy consumption appliance by appliance.

    Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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