Before April 1893, every European village had its own local time which was calculated using the stars. In Germany, which at that time was made up of small states, it was the norm for each state to officially define its own ‘local time’ as this was regarded as a demonstration of its power. As long as there was no inter-regional traffic which had to be time co-ordinated, this was no problem, and telecommunications were as yet unknown. It simply did not matter if office hours in Stuttgart and Munich were different.
With the new millennium well underway, many North American electricity distribution companies find themselves struggling to power a 21st century world using technologies and management concepts of the 20th century. Under four distinct forces – ageing assets, growing peak demand, the emergence of new power generation technologies, and revenue constraints from regulation and theft – distribution companies are seeking new smarter approaches to operating their networks. In response, IBM sees North American utilities migrating over the next several years to intelligent networks – with automated meter management (AMM) as a key enabler of this concept.
President Chirac of France recently said that in order to bring peace to West Africa, it is necessary to understand the soul and spirit of the region. This statement also holds good for the electricity supply industry. There are profound differences in culture between Anglophone and Francophone countries, and indeed between countries speaking the same language. Attempts to merely plug in solutions which have been successful in their country of origin are unlikely to work here.
Developments in metering depend to a large extent on broader developments in the industry. There has recently been a resurgence of interest in the West African Power Pool (WAPP). Implementation of this project, which will provide enhanced interconnection between participating countries, will result in a vast improvement in available power. The industry has been characterised by shortages of supply, low levels of electrification and revenue collection, and ongoing management problems – and the result is that utilities have not had the resources to maintain or expand their networks.
In an attempt to improve this situation the multilateral lending agencies have provided strong incentives for the letting of management contracts and concessions. These have had limited success, mainly because of the inability of the con-cessionaire to raise the finance required. Borrowers have to provide evidence of an effective revenue collection system, which has not been possible.
There is, however, a definite shift towards market-based operation in the larger countries in the region, but there is no grid metering infrastructure to ensure accurate measurement of power across boundaries. There has been a gradual shift in most countries from electromechanical to electronic meters for consumers. Many pilot prepayment metering projects have been implemented, varying from one- way token based systems to two-way systems involving smart cards to full AMR systems using radio as a communication medium. Large scale prepayment implementation is, however, hampered because of several factors:
[Compos Mentis][March 31, 2006] One of the great dumb philosophy questions is, If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? The obvious answer is: “Of course it does. What a stupid question. Next you’re going to ask about that clapping thing.” But philosophy isn’t about the obvious; philosophy is about the devious. The answer, arrived at after much debate (and much drinking) seems to be “no”: Sound is only sound if a person hears it, claim the tipsy pundits.
If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, but there’s a tape player recording the event, is there sound? A human hasn’t heard it ... yet. Is it sound when the tape is played? What if the tape is never played? What if it’s played backward? What if the person or persons listening are too drunk to pay attention? Does the mere presence of a human at the time of compression and rarefaction denote sound, or do the audio images have to impinge themselves on a human consciousness?” 1
The City of Windhoek in Namibia makes use of a wide variety of metering options for its customer base to fulfill certain requirements and take advantage of the various metering technologies. The function of the metering installation is to meter the consumption and, as applicable, the demand of the consumer as accurately as possible. To make it a purposeful exercise, the customer must also be billed and the monies due recovered to complete the cycle.