Vattenfall - Smart meters made for a smarter grid
Advances in technology mean fewer outages and safer homes for customers.
Vattenfall has for some time used smart meters to monitor the functioning of the low voltage power grid, with benefits for both customer and operator. These range from shorter power-outage response times to avoiding voltage peaks that can be harmful toboth people and property.
Now Vattenfall R&D is taking the next step and developing grid-monitoring functions.
“Our ambition is to help our customers even more and to ensure power quality and delivery as well as safety in the grids,” says Lars Garpetun, R&D Programme Manager at Vattenfall Distribution. “New developments in the grid monitoring concept are underway and these face extensive testing and further development in the Vattenfall demonstration project in Sweden, Smart Grid Gotland.”
One new development that will be trialled and fine-tuned on Gotland is a system to proactively identify and automatically signal power outages before customers call to report them. Being able to instantly understand the full magnitude of a power outage and quickly pinpoint the affected sections is extremely useful and allows for faster rebuilding of the grid and savings in time and money, as well as less inconvenience, for both customer and the operator.
Customer control
The first step towards smart monitoring of the low voltage grid was the introduction of the smart meter. Since 2003, Vattenfall Distribution in Sweden has provided smart meters to grid customers and now all 860,000 have one. The installation of these smart devices allowed the grid operator to offer a variety of improvements. One of the most significant was monthly reading (soon it will be done hourly), based on actual consumption. Customers can also follow – and be in control of – their daily energy consumption through Vattenfall’s web site. The smart meter-monitoring concept is the latest development and Vattenfall has already implemented a range of functions.
At the heart of the concept is the smart meter. By using it as a sensor, personnel in the operations centre are able to gather information directly from customers’ premises and analyse the grid. Today Vattenfall is able to perform these measurements from 70 per cent of the installed smart meters and the remaining 30 per cent will be upgraded in future.
“It is actually not rocket science,” Garpetun says. “For example, we receive abnormal voltage data by constantly measuring the three phases. The trick, though, is to analyse and use the information in a smart way. By doing this we gain knowledge and can act faster, sending out personnel to avoid the risk of upcoming ground failures, like Zero Point deviation.”
Security is another important aspect. So-called “Zero faults” are caused by broken or damaged groundings. These can result in extremely high voltages that can damage not only plasma-screen televisions and refrigerators but also pose a threat to householder and electricians. If, despite everything, outages occur, smart meter data makes it possible to analyse the situation more quickly and give customers the compensation they deserve.
This means more efficient processes and when more meters can be used to remotely diagnose the grid problems the more satisfied customers we will have. Advanced smart grid technology means fewer outages and safer homes for our customers.
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