Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mesh network for Victorian smart meters

Responding to my post on WiMax smart meters, Robin Whittle responded with
"electricity meters use Zigbee and 915-928 MHz mesh", Fri Oct 30 17:56:59 EST 2009:
Two Victorian distributors - Jemena and United Energy, are going to use meters from PRI in the UK with a Silver Spring radio card (NIC):

The Jemena information shows a particular meter:

This looks the same as a particular meter shown here, a PRI meter with a Silver Spring NIC (radio card):

The meter is from PRI in the UK:

The radio interface (NIC), with a 1 watt transmitter: "dynamically discovers and self-heals its Neighborhood Area Network (NAN), notifies the Smart Energy Network of outages and restorations."

The datasheet: shows that while the meter uses Zigbee to communicate with devices in the home, it uses some unspecified protocol for its connection to the outside world.

"High data rate communications between the back office and the Meter, allow for thousands of meters to be read in minutes."

Two-way 915-928 MHz FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) communications
Dynamic network discovery and self-healing
Supports scheduled and on-demand meter reads
Supports "over-the-air" firmware upgrades, meter programming and tariff changes
Optional GSM / GPRS modem (in ETBC)
Data rate 100 kbps
Spread Spectrum Technology FHSS
Channels 43
Modulation Binary FSK
All the type approvals are for Australia.

The diagram shows a mesh between the meters, presumably using the 915-928 MHz FHSS system, and part of the mesh is "access points" which may be connected back to base via GSM-GPRS, Ethernet or CDMA. I guess they could use 3G too.

So from this, it seems they will plonk access points around the place and talk to them via GSM/3G, and each one of these will communicate directly or indirectly with a large number of meters. This sounds like a good arrangement to me.

I think that in country areas there may be such isolated meters that there would be a single access point, presumably linked back to base by GSM-GPRS. In principle it may be possible to put a GSM modem in the meter, but perhaps it would be simpler to keep all the meters much the same, and dedicate an access point on the nearby power pole for each isolated home.

I hope they won't turn on the ZigBee system by default. That would be another 2.4GHz transmitter in every house - in an already widely used frequency band.

We should have a Jemena meter installed in the next few months. Does anyone near here (north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne) have a 2.4 GHz scanner to see if it is emitting anything?

According to: the 915 to 928 MHz band is "Radiolocation" and most of it, 915 to 926 MHz, is an ISM (Industrial Scientific and Medical) applications band. I understand this is used for RFID. Does anyone know more about this part of the spectrum?

Tom Worthington has a page discussing another distributor's plans to use WiMax to the "smart" meters...

This will involve "Motorola WiMAX WAP 650 base stations on 2.3GHz connected by a microwave system". This looks a lot more expensive and presumably involves licensed spectrum and expensive microwave or fibre links.

Since almost all of the locations where there are electricity meters are covered by GSM or a 3G network already, I think the GSM/3G access point, with 915 MHz ISM band mesh network approach looks technically and economically the most attractive. However, the system relies on unlicensed spectrum.
Yes, SP AusNet plans to use spectrum licensed to Unwired. WiMax can use a mesh architecture, so they could reduce the number of base stations to lower the cost a bit, but this will cost more than the Jemena and United Energy approach.

But I suspect SP AusNet plans to create a wireless network suitable for selling broadband services, not just smart meters. As an example, if they put a WiFi chip in the smart meter, then they can offer a wireless broadband service to the household and to the street. Assuming that every second house in the street has such a meter, that would provide
complete wireless coverage of a suburb. Apart from data services, this could provide telephony (there would not be enough bandwidth for TV).

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Australian Government $100M Smart Grid Project

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is offering up to $100M for a Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration project. There is a Media Release, set of Guidelines and a Pre-deployment report. This is for networked sensors in an energy grid allowing finer control of the system. This can be used to send price signals to optimise energy use, particularly from renewable sources. It is usually claimed to reduce costs to the consumer, but is more likely be used to force the consumer to change their energy use habits.

A smart grid can be for any energy distribution system, but this project appears to be limited to an electricity distribution network. It would be useful to include two different energy sources, such as electricity and gas, in the project to look for synergies.

It is claimed that data and results will be made available publicly over the course of this project. However, smart grids provide data in real time and so there would seem to be no reason why data from the project should not be provided daily from the start date of the system. The proposed lengthy delays in providing data have no technical justification and appear to be the government planning to suppress any bad news about the project, even before it starts.

The government appear to be using a similar process to the NBN Taskforce, where an independent panel of experts is used to assess proposals, rather than a conventional public service tender board. Victorian electricity distributor SP AusNet appears to have a head start having announced it will install 680,000 WiMax connected smart meters by 2013, with about 40,000 installed by mid 2010. Applications close 28 January 2010 and the date for the successful bidder to be announced is a somewhat vague some time in 2010.

It should be noted that smart grids do not require a high speed fibre optic broadband network. Only low data rates are needed and wireless networks can be used as in the Victorian system. Smart grids may not need to use the NBN.

I teach about smart grids in my Green ICT course and perhaps some of the graduates will be involved in the project.

Grant Guidelines

  1. Smart Grid, Smart City Grant Guidelines (PDF-347KB)
  2. Application Supporting Material
  3. Presentation on the Release of Draft Guidelines
  4. Presentation on the Draft Application Supporting Material
  5. Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era (PDF - 4000KB)
  6. Consultation Workshops - Smart Grid, Smart City, National Energy Efficiency Initiative (NEEI)
  7. Summary of Stakeholder Workshops - July 2009
While there is extensive documentation provided about the project is is very large PDF and word documents. For a project which is supposed to be about smart use of information technology this shows a lack of smart information design and distribution. Here is an excerpt in plan text from the pre-deployment report:

Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era


Minister’s foreword 4
Executive summary 6
  1. Background, objectives and approach 11
  2. Smart grid business case: Expected benefits in Australia 30
  3. Program design for Smart Grid, Smart City 40
  4. Recommended approach to industry and next steps 89
  5. Role of government and regulatory bodies for broader smart grid adoption in Australia 102
APPENDIX A: Glossary of smart grid terminology 106
APPENDIX B: Smart grid trials in Australia 110
APPENDIX C: Pilot summary 111

The Australian Government announced in the 2009 Federal Budget the availability of up to $100 million for the implementation of a fully integrated smart grid at commercial scale, through the National Energy Efficiency Initiative (NEEI). The government’s investment in Smart Grid, Smart City was subject to a pre-deployment study designed to provide further information to the government on the potential economic and environmental benefits of smart grid technologies and the best way to maximise the benefits of the government’s investment including the best governance framework and business model for the initiative, and how best to bridge any gaps in knowledge about the benefits. The results of the pre-deployment study undertaken in July and August 2009 are presented in this report.

It is the intent that the program design of Smart Grid, Smart City builds off and leverages the programs and lessons from other government and industry initiatives, including but not limited to the Smart Meter program (led by the Ministerial Council on Energy), Solar Cities, Solar Flagships and the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Near-universal access to cheap electric power has helped Australia achieve a high standard of living and a leading position in the global economy. Indeed, low-cost power has helped drive the country’s economic growth for decades. Today, the national power industry is large and complex, with $11 billion1 in revenue, over 45,000 kilometres of transmission lines and 700,000 kilometres of distribution network, and over nine million customers2, including many in remote areas.

An abundance of coal has helped keep the cost of electricity relatively low. But coal imposes environmental costs in the form of greenhouse gases, including 200 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) released in 20083, more than a third of Australia’s total CO2-e emissions.

Global and national trends are beginning to affect the entire value chain of the electric power
  • Expert scientific evidence confirms that human activities, power plant emissions in particular, alter the climate and affect the environment. The Australian Government is investing in measures to reduce reliance on fossil fuels
  • Rising and more volatile fuel prices and globalisation of fuel markets
  • Ageing electric infrastructure that will require costly upgrades to meet the demands of an expanding modern economy.
The nation will need to manage power more efficiently and effectively, lower the ratio of electricity consumption per economic output, reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions with demand management and encourage energy efficiency, improve reliability, and reduce recurring costs while making prudent investments.

The global call to action has initiated a wave of innovation in distributed power generation, electric transport, energy efficiency and smart grid capabilities. Power utilities and solution providers across Australia and around the world are starting to experiment and deploy a wide range of these innovations.

To bring this vision to reality, Australia will need to integrate information processing and communications into power systems to create a unified smart grid that includes generation, transmission, distribution, retail and end-use. This smart grid vision encompasses a suite of applications which are currently at different stages of technical and economic maturity.

They can be categorised into grid-side applications, which reduce line loss and improve fault detection and restoration, for example, and customer-side applications, which help people understand and manage their power usage.

Preliminary analysis carried out in the course of this study indicates that implementing smart grid technologies across Australia could deliver at least $5 billion of gross annual benefit to Australian society. This includes improvements in the operation of the power industry and an estimate of the monetised benefits of reduced greenhouse gases and improved power grid reliability. The significance of the potential benefits and sizable range indicates that many applications are worthy of further investigation and refinement as part of the Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration.

These potential benefits have attracted enormous interest in smart grid technologies and their implementation and governments around the world are making power grid upgrades a priority.

The United States (US), for example, has announced USD $4.5 billion in smart grid funding, while Europe has mandated smart meters as a critical component of a broader smart grid.

Although smart grids offer significant potential, the benefits are largely unproven at commercial-scale and like other countries, Australia faces barriers to a broader adoption, including:
  • Australian and international authorities have yet to agree on standards for many applications
  • Power industry leaders do not currently share a common understanding about the costs and benefits of different smart grid applications
  • Regulatory frameworks that may not reflect the full potential benefits of smart grid
  • applications or provide industry with critical guidance on cost recovery or risk
  • Utilities have no comprehensive national or global reference cases to guide them toward best practices or help them avoid mistakes.
There are no regulatory barriers for the successful implementation of Smart Grid, Smart City
but a regulatory reference group is recommended to identify potential barriers that could impact
a broader smart grid adoption in Australia.

The absence of standards for smart grid technology and applications are a significant investment risk for the wider adoption of smart grids and, to a lesser extent, the Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration project. It is anticipated, however, that this risk will be mitigated by a
flexible approach to the deployment of the smart grid communications platform. This approach will see a variety of communications solutions adapted to suit different and varying network requirements, which will help spread the risk. A standards working group is recommended to identify standards needed to minimise technology investment risk for a broader smart grid
adoption in Australia.

This report contains the following recommendations:
  • Smart grid implementation in Australia should aim to optimise the overall value for society, including financial and non-financial benefits (see sections 2.1 and 2.2).
  • Since some underlying technologies are too immature and their business cases too unproven to allow for accurate up-front cost estimates, analysis suggests that gross annual benefits, rather than a net present value, will best prioritise the allocation of funds across potential applications. The Smart Grid, Smart City demonstration should gather data to allow more accurate calculations of the net present value of each major application (see sections 2.1 and 2.2).
  • The available funding should be directed at reducing or eliminating as many of the barriers to widespread deployment as possible—including business case uncertainty, technological immaturity, standards development and regulatory uncertainty—enablinga rapid and prudent market-led adoption of smart grid technologies and capabilities that could build on other relevant government initiatives such as the National Broadband Network (NBN), subject to commercial decisions. Funding disbursements should be split between project milestone outcomes and a final performance payment upon completion of project requirements. Consortium applicants should provide significant co-investment for the program to align interests and generate ‘ownership’ and to drive lessons for Smart Grid, Smart City. Finally, the Smart Grid, Smart City program design can be adjusted or scaled in terms of the breadth of the applications deployed pending the total available funding (see section 3.6.4).
  • To achieve this objective, Smart Grid, Smart City should provide a competitively solicited grant to a distributor-led consortium to fund a unified deployment of smart grid technologies within a single distributor’s region that rigorously assesses and analyses applications at a relevant commercial scale. This is consistent with the government’s recommendation for the initiative to be in one Australian town, city or region. Finally, distinct modules should address regulatory barriers and standards that could impact a broader smart grid adoption in Australia (see section 3.2).
  • Consumer-side applications deployed at commercial scale should aim to understand what drives customer behaviour and therefore should test several different packages across different consumer demographics. The packages should include various tariff programs (e.g. Time of Use and Critical Peak Pricing), the provision of more detailed information for consumers (e.g. real-time energy usage and environmental information via in-home displays or portals) and controls that maximise potential behaviour change (e.g. programmable controllable thermostats and home energy controllers; see sections 3.1 and 3.2). Smart metering will be a critical enabler of customer-side applications.
  • Grid-side applications to be deployed at commercial scale should include (see section 2.3):
    • Fault detection, isolation and restoration
    • Integrated Volt-VAR control, including conservation voltage reduction
    • Distributed storage.
    • Secondary applications that should be piloted (although not necessarily at commercial scale) include: electric vehicles; substation and feeder monitoring and diagnostics; wide-area measurement; and distributed generation support.
    • In order to effectively demonstrate a wide variety of customer-side applications, a minimum of 9,000 – 10,000 participating households is suggested (implying a total minimum population of some 200,000 people), depending upon the number and design of each trial, and the anticipated take-up rate of those trials within the population.
  • To ensure a broader adoption of the applications shown to have a positive net benefit, the successful consortium should provide detailed commentary on how it will ensure:
    • Close ongoing engagement with the regulatory reference group established for Smart Grid, Smart City to identify most pressing regulatory challenges and help create recommendations to government and regulatory bodies (see section 3.3)
    • Active dialogue and engagement with the standards working group established for Smart Grid, Smart City to identify standards required to minimise investment in new technologies and ensure broader industry participation (see section 3.4)
    • Mechanisms to involve other industry players and disseminate lessons, e.g. peer evaluation panels and secondments from other distributors/industry players (see section 3.5).
  • Government will require the consortium to ensure continuity of supply by using robust security procedures that include plans for handling breach or discovery of weakness (see section 2.3) ...

  • From: Smart Grid, Smart City: A new direction for a new energy era

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Smart electricity meters may displace NBN

Victorian electricity distributor SP AusNet has announced it will install 680,000 WiMax connected smart meters by 2013, with about 40,000 installed by mid 2010. These will be used for smart grid applications to allow better management of energy use and cut carbon emissions. But an obvious additional step would be to include WiFi in the home meters. This could be used to communicate with appliances in the home and as a by-product provide a broadband Internet service to rival the NBN.

The meters are part of the Victorian Government Advanced Metering Infrastructure program (AMI). These will record electricity consumption in at least half hour increments, be remotely read and allow the electricity distributor to locate outages.

The system will use MotorolaWiMAX WAP 650 base stations on 2.3GHz connected by a microwave system. It will use a "flat" IP architecture.
Motorola will supply and deploy WiMAX WAP 650 base stations operating at 2.3GHz, Access Service Network (ASN) Gateway and new microwave systems to extend the wide area network (WAN) to new coverage areas. The system is based on a flat, all-IP architecture that enables high-speed machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. It will facilitate communication with SP AusNet’s smart meters embedded with WiMAX chipsets, collecting measurements and sending instructions in real time, supporting the analysis of usage patterns and power generation needs. This wireless network also will allow SP AusNet to facilitate smooth communications for its field operations. The project spans a four-year period, and Motorola will start shipping and installing products by the end of 2009. ...

From: Motorola Powers World’s First WiMAX-based Electric Utility Smart Metering for SP AusNet, Press Release,Motorola, Inc., October 22, 2009

Partnering with SP AusNet in the AMI program are: Landis+Gyr, GE and GridNet, UXC Limited, Electrix,
Motorola, Unwired, eMeter, Logica, Accenture, Enterprise Business Services, and Geomatic Technologies. ...

From: Smart partnerships for SP AusNet’s smart meter roll out, Media Release, SP AusNet, 22 October 2009

Smart meters are being rolled out to all Victorian households and small businesses over the next four years to help people better manage their energy use and cut carbon emissions.

The new smart meters - also known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) - will provide two-way communication between your electricity meter and your power company, making more immediate information about your electricity use available to you both.

Victoria is the first state in Australia to give the go-ahead for the wide spread roll-out of smart meters. Covering 2.2 million homes and 300,000 businesses, this is a big task, representing one of the biggest improvements to energy infrastructure in the state’s history.

It’s a key step towards future smart electricity grids, which we need so that more renewable energy can be fed into the grid.

The meters will allow customers to access accurate electricity reads every 30 minutes, which helps to monitor and reduce electricity usage - and save money on power bills.

It will be easier to connect and disconnect power when you move house, and power companies will be able to identify outages and restore power more quickly. It will also mean the end of estimated bills or staying in for meter readings.

Electricity distribution companies - who own the poles and wires which deliver electricity to your homes and businesses - will start installing meters towards the end of 2009 and finish by the end of 2013.

Role of Government

Smart Meters Fact Sheet (PDF 113KB) ...

Smart Meters Questions and Answers
Smart meter rollout project
Smart meters in my home
Smart meter installaltion
Smart meter and my electricity bill
Security and privacy

From: Advanced Metering Infrastructure program (AMI), Victorian Government, 30/09/2009.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Designing Smart Grids to Reduce Carbon Emmissions

Dr. Guohua Zhang will give a free seminar on "Coordinated Control Design for Power Systems and Smart Grid" at The Australian National University, in Canberra, 25 September 2009, 11 am in the Ian Ross Seminar Room.
This talk presents coordinated control design for power systems in general and introduces the recently popular concept of ‘smart grid’, which is shaping up as the future for control evolution in power systems.

Power systems are highly nonlinear structured systems with multiple control objectives, which mainly include regulation of voltages and frequency, damping oscillations adequately and preserving synchronism in face of large disturbances. However, traditional power system controllers are installed in power system to serve a single objective and different control objectives may conflict with each other with increasingly stressed stability margin.

This talk introduces a coordinated control framework which enables different approaches aiming to solve the conflicting control problems. The first control design coordinates various control actions and objectives over wide ranges of operating states based on the global control structure and modern control techniques; another approach proposes an adaptive coordinated control from a viewpoint of global control performance in consideration of transient stability, voltage security assessment and small signal stability.

To deal with environmental concerns and high penetration of renewable generation, The ‘smart grid’ has become a popular concept for future power systems. This talk will summarize different smart grid proposals; emphasize on Information Technologies application and analyses how power system control will be influenced.

Dr. Guohua Zhang received her B.E. and M.E. in Electrical Engineering from North China Electric Power University, Beijing, China in 1998 and 2001, respectively, and the Ph. D. degree from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in 2007. She is now working with Prof. David J. Hill in Department of Information Engineering, the Australian National University. Her research interests are in power system control, renewable energy and smart grid. ...

From: Coordinated Control Design for Power Systems and Smart Grid, CECS, ANU, 2009

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Smart grids don't need high speed broadband

In an Address to National Press Club yesterday, Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband claimed that broadband is a green technology and could drive major reductions in carbon emissions. This is something I teach my Green ICT students at the ACS and ANU, but not for the reasons the Minister gave.

The minister argued that broadband could improve monitoring and management of power distribution, connecting consumers with power generators to make distribution more efficient and reliable. While such "Smart grids" can make power use more efficient with monitoring and automatic adjustment of processes which use power, they do not require broadband. Only a very limited amount of data is needed to do this, what is needed is not broadband but reliable, widespread data access. It is likely that many of the smart grid applicaitons will use low speed wireless and powerline data networks due to their low cpst and reliability.

The misconception which the Minister has is a common one. This is the assumption that to have data access it must be broadband. Most smart grid applications only require a few bits per second at the consumer end of the connection, not megabits per second. This is because it does not take much data to communicate the price of electricity and so when it is a good time to switch and appliance off.

There is potential for reduced power consumption and costs in households as well as business. Major appliances in the home, particularly those currently controlled by "dumb" thermostats can be controlled by smart meters to adjust to energy costs minute by minute, which in turn reflects the sot of production , including the CO2e effects (greenness) of that energy.

There is the possibility of significant carbon emission reductions. However, the data networks used for these smart grids will need to be reliable, as an unreliable power grid would cripple the Australian economy as well as place the lives of millions of people at risk. So far the Government's National Broadband Network proposal has only touched on reliability and this needs to be made a priority of the proposal. The new network needs to be at least as reliable as the telephone network it is replacing and to be able to run for extended periods without the electricity grid.

With a reliable data network, there are opportunities to improve energy efficiency, with remote power management, de-centralised business, transport management, renewable energy, and web conferencing. But these "build it and they will come" approach is unlikely to work. These applications will not just happen because a broadband network is provided, they need to be planned for.

Take climate change.

Australia has set ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions by 2020 and this will require an economy-wide response.

Some have said why invest in broadband when we need investment in green technologies.

The fact is, broadband is green technology.

In fact, it is an enabler of efficiencies that could drive major reductions in carbon emissions.

In the energy sector, providers plan to use broadband to improve the way they monitor and manage power distribution.

Using broadband to connect power consumers with power generators allows them to harness ways to make distribution more efficient and reliable.

Smart grids connected by broadband raise the potential to not only monitor energy use but to allow remote adjustment of lights or temperature.

For households this means opportunities for reduced power consumption and costs.

Remote control of connected appliances, thermostats and electric meters will help energy companies balance the peaks and troughs of daily usage.

This in turn allows them to sell the recovered power on the market, reducing the need for new power generators.

For the country it means the very real possibility of significant carbon emission reductions.

In Australia and elsewhere, providers are already testing smart grid networks.

Estimates in the US have put the cost savings for consumers between 5 and 25 per cent.

One couple, early adopters of a pilot smart grid in Miami, claim they are saving $100 a month simply by keeping an eye on their digital energy meter.

The information allows them to understand household consumption trends and to adjust their habits accordingly.

The Fibre-to-the-Home Council commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to research the potential sustainability benefits of broadband.

Based on a count of 20 million FTTH users in Europe with 10 per cent of the population teleworking three days per week by 2015, it estimates greenhouse-gas emission savings per user of 330kg, equivalent to a car travelling 2,000 kilometres.

Research also shows that improving telecommunications use could result in significant savings for Australia.

In fact, Climate Risk has estimated that local energy and travel savings alone could be worth up to $6.6 billion annually.

It noted a number of major opportunities for communications to improve energy efficiency, including:

  • Remote appliance power management,
  • De-centralised business districts,
  • Real-time freight management,
  • Increased renewable energy, and
  • High Definition video conferencing.

These are exactly the kind of applications that will be enabled via the National Broadband Network.

From: "Address to National Press Club", Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy , 28 April 2009, Document ID: 110849, Last modified: 28 April 2009, 3:57pm

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