The rollout of smart metering systems (iMSys) is about to start. The tasks lie before us: companies with an annual consumption of over 10,000 kilowatt-hours will be equipped with intelligent measurement systems. In addition, operators of decentralized systems of 7 kW and above will receive an iMSys.
The installers are beginning the major task of installing the required equipment at the roughly 2.3 million metering points over the next few years. The data is flowing through certified gateways to the grid operators. As a result the grids are more stable and the distributed generation is integrated into the market. The result: the energy world is digital.
Making impressions with added value
The sense that this is not entirely straightforward may well have got around. After all, the benefits of the digital energy transition must also be felt by the customer. He must be convinced of the opportunities provided by smart systems. The counterarguments, such as that customers with so called “registered capacity metering (RLM)” are already uploading their consumption and capacity figures to the metering points every 15 minutes and sending these to their grid operator, need to be refuted. We have to keep in mind that the operators of distributed generation plants regard iMSys as a burdensome obligation. There have been reports in parts of the media pointing to benefits that are enforced.
Digitization must offer these customers added value if the potentials of iMSys are to be exploited in their businesses. This is the task of the metering point operators and energy suppliers: to convert potentials into added value, to bundle them into applications and to offer them as services. Their task, then, is no less than that of finding the ‘killer app’ of the digital energy transition.
The killer app of the digital energy transition is not one single application. It consists of IoT-based energy services that bundle multiple software, hardware and service components in a single package.
Finding energy leaks digitally
We can approach the ‘killer app’ for energy consumers with an analogy. Locating ‘leaks’ is an established service offered by many compressed air utility companies. Is it also possible to locate ‘energy leaks’ — excessive or faulty consumption — among plants by digital means? Is it possible to determine which plants are consuming how much and in some cases too much, and when? Is it possible to depict energy flows and consumption to a resolution of individual systems in real time? The answers to these questions also answer the question of added value for customers over and against their data gathering for a supply point at 15-minute intervals.
Kiwigrid’s partner innogy asked what the challenges are that are faced by energy and production managers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The answers are not altogether surprising. There is a lack in these enterprises of transparency, capability and knowledge for performing an analysis of energy flows. At the same time, operations in SMEs cannot be interrupted. Thirdly, a point that should not be neglected: SMEs have only limited budgets.
The response from innogy to its customers is called bit.B: an inexpensive technology that is available immediately and that offers customers transparency with real-time data and can be integrated without interrupting operations. The lack of know-how in the company is replaced by a simple piece of software with straightforward installation processes. Energy consumption figures, visitor numbers, temperatures and more — bit.B can optimize operations and reduce energy costs.
bit.B is a radio-based technology that gathers and analyzes data and thereby reveals opportunities for making savings in the company. Sensors detect energy, ambient and production values, for example at a power meter, at a light barrier, on a particular machine or within a sub-distribution unit. SME employees can access all the measurement data at any time via the bit.B online monitor.
Kiwigrid’s platform thus acts as the scalable backbone. It is planned that KiwiOS will be integrated into the system. This would enable the connected energy devices and systems to be controlled, for example to enable peak load management.
Further information is available at www.bitb.innogy.com
Government authorities are hungry for information
Operators of distributed power plants — often a SME with a solar system on the roof or a combined heat and power system in the cellar — face different challenges. It should in fact be possible simply to purchase a distributed generation system, connect it and to use the energy oneself or feed it into the grid — without having to be concerned with other matters.
Yet at best this plug-and-play approach only works in a technical sense. For the operator, distributed generation involves bureaucracy — that is, outlay. This corresponds to the data hunger of the reporting system required by law. Data has to be constantly gathered, aggregated and sent to a wide range of recipients. The unanswered questions begin from the data gathering and aggregation stages: is the data correct? is it complete? More questions arise at the transmission stage: who receives which data? This ties up employees, who are also required to perform monotonous work on a continual basis.
connect enlight makes reporting systems ’sexy’
Here again, the requirements to be placed on an intelligent digital application loom large. To depict monotonous, repetitive processes and to free up employees to perform more valuable tasks. To create automated reports with only a few clicks and to ensure end-to-end connectivity from the meter to the report, free of errors. ‘connect enlight’ is a reporting platform for distributed generation plants. Users can select from a wide range of report forms, for example, claims for reimbursement for energy and power taxes, and have these created entirely automatically. To enable this, the gas consumption and the electricity and heat generation of the plant are read remotely and processed automatically.
The idea for connect enlight was conceived at envia Therm, which itself operates over 120 distributed plants and which used this solution to do away with much of its own bureaucratic outlay. envia THERM developed the product on the basis of its own experience and implemented it in collaboration with Kiwigrid.
Further information is available at www.connect-enlight.de
Picking the low-hanging fruits
Energy distribution is changing along with customer needs. The two examples mentioned represent the oft-cited ‘low-hanging fruits’. Picking this ‘fruit’ opens the doors for energy companies to take further steps and make additional offers. The traditional commodity transaction is no longer sufficient for winning and retaining customers. Customers want solutions that enable them to work economically and efficiently with the commodities. Energy suppliers and also metering point operators will have to offer such solutions in future if they are to remain competitive. No energy supplier will succeed single-handedly in scaling complex energy services of this type. Strategic partners can be found in the hardware, software and IoT fields as well as in project planning and installation/implementation. Kiwigrid is such a partner and its IoT platform and partner network covers all levels of value creation for the new energy services.