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Metering: The Smart way

Niemesh-Amin Niemesh Amin, Operations Manager at Gemserv outlines some of the key issues associated with the roll-out of a smart metering programme in Ireland, based on the GB experience.

Introduction

Gemserv is a specialist market design, governance and assurance services consultancy, providing high quality impartial advice to competitive utility and environmental markets. Gemserv has been at the heart of the smart metering programme in Great Britain, providing expertise such as building business process models for the high level design and architecture, participating in various working groups developing the Smart Metering technical specification and early drafting of the new Smart Energy Code.

The GB programme involves replacing approximately 52 million meters and has encountered significant challenges. The island of Ireland will have its own specific challenges but drawing upon our experience to date, we describe here seven key learning points that may be applicable.

Programme management

A programme of this magnitude requires strong engagement with a variety of stakeholders, dealing with political issues and complex technical solutions. With any transformation programme the market requires a clear vision of the objectives and defined path for delivery from the Regulator.

Consistency of expertise and a diligent knowledge transfer strategy is vital for the success of the programme. This ensures links between each phase and various working groups remain cohesive so efficiencies can be realised. The Regulator also should motivate all market participants ensuring trust and cohesion working towards the common goal.

Interoperability and procurement

Various meter roll-out strategies in other smart programmes have created different procurement strategies balancing stakeholders’ requirements. With multiple technologies incorporated in the overall final solution, interoperability is a key factor with flexibility for innovation within the market.

Technical specification: It is important that development of the technical specifications for the Smart Meter and the associated components is finalised within the timelines specified. This approach ensures certainty of the final product delivered to market and manufacturers have a baseline specification to provide a competitive quote.

Wide Area Network (WAN): Based upon the geographical characteristics of the island of Ireland it is envisaged that a number of technologies may need to be deployed to ensure coverage across urban and rural premises. The choice of WAN technology should include a review of technological developments which may benefit the long-term outcome and cost effectiveness of the programme whilst understanding lessons learned from other smart rollout programmes.

Home Area Network (HAN): With a variety of different types of premises, a number of interoperable solutions both wireless and wired will be required to ensure appropriate installation coverage. Factors that may influence solution deployments could be building materials which may impact signal strength transmission. It is also likely that the installer will only be able to choose the most suitable solution available during the installation visit. Without an appropriate choice of technologies, the installation may not be completed and negatively impact the consumer experience.

Information security

Robust end-to-end security is essential to ensure the safety and security of consumer data preventing fraud or theft. We would advise that an overarching view is taken for the approach towards information security, not only that technical controls are implemented but also governance across the programme. It may also be prudent to adopt international standards such as ISO27001 – the Information Security Management System standard.

Consumer engagement

With such industry transformation, ultimately the consumer is impacted. The Government and Regulators should undertake a campaign informing consumers of the benefits of Smart Metering and address any concerns. This approach would move to reduce any resistance towards the roll-out.

The experience and lessons learned from other smart meter deployment programmes can make an important contribution towards the design and implementation of smart metering in Northern Ireland and Ireland. From our experiences to date in the GB Smart Metering programme, we have outlined some key aspects that Gemserv has learned from our programme involvement. By sharing these high-level thoughts, we hope that the lessons highlighted contribute towards the success of the programmes.

If you wish to discuss further or require any additional information, please contact Niemesh Amin or Des Connolly by phone on +353 (0)1 669 4630 or +44 (0)207 090 1000 or by e-mail: info@gemserv.com.

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