The next big smart grid race? It starts at the end of the driveway (the distribution transformer)

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Close to half of all meters in North America are smart. As a result, we're seeing lots of conversations about 1) taking advantage of the data they provide and 2) "lighting up" the remainder of the grid that smart meters fail to illuminate. For instance, Alan Snook of GRID20/20 stopped by earlier this year to explain why and how to "triangulate" data from smart meters, substations and distribution transformers. I asked Brett Sargent of GridSense to chime in with his take on this important transition.  – Jesse Berst

 

By Brett Sargent

 

The race to the end of the driveway

“Smart Grid” to this day has been mainly about the meters. 

 

Years ago, actual meter readers would read your meter for billing purposes. Then came AMR (Automated Meter Reading), which provided one-way directional communications to meter readers, who could be in the driveway or in their trucks and still collect the readings. 

 

Then AMR transcended into AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure), which is meters with advanced communications technology that require no meter reader at all. AMI came in many flavors, using RF communications (both licensed and unlicensed bands), PLC (power line carrier) or even Wi-Fi based communications.  In North America, self-identifying, self-forming and self-healing mesh networks are quite popular.

 

What AMI was supposed to do

AMI enabled functions such as DR (demand response) and TOU (time of use) billing, and provided customers with even more insight into their consumption habits.  But the big thing AMI was supposed to do was enable a “smart grid”…to enable different things such as distribution automation, VVO (volt/var optimization), CVR (conservation voltage reduction) and outage detection and restoration.  Naturally, smart meters do not equal a smart grid, but the mindset was that having an AMI infrastructure would enable the start of having a smart grid.

 

Now…the time has come.  Millions of smart meters have been deployed globally.  Utilities are now looking at what else they can do with this meter network. They are pressuring AMI providers to deliver on the promise of adding things to their AMI network.  So…what is the next big thing related to this deployment?