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AMR in Russia – development and prospects

In Russia the systems used for automatic meter reading of electric energy are known as “Automated System for the Control and Account of Electric Energy” (ASCAEE). Around the world similar systems are called ‘AMR systems’. Other abbreviations making up these systems that are also used include IMS (Information Measuring System) and DCTD (Data Collection and Transfer Device).

DCTD as part of an AMR system not only collects and processes data, but can also actively influence power consumption and load by disconnecting and connecting individual devices at various periods during the day, either according to the programme laid down by the utility or at the request of the consumer. Loads can also be controlled if preset limits are about to be reached.

In Russia there are different systems for industrial users and for household consumers. The first AMR hardware in this country was installed in 1976. It was intended for industrial customers, large power units and substations. These systems were built using induction meters with pulse output adapters connected by two wires directly to DCTD.

Since then AMR systems have undergone many changes. Today advanced technologies are used in equipment production. Electromechanical meters are being replaced with static (electronic) meters which have microprocessors with digital interfaces. All current IMS and DCTD systems are made using modern microprocessor technology, and must be certified by laboratories affiliated to the State Standardisation Organisation of Russia (GOSSTANDARD) both during production and after installation at a customer’s premises. 

The communication media used includes radio transmission, use of telephone lines, GSM, fibre-optic lines and PLC. 

Scale of the AMR market

At present none of the 76 power systems in Russia has a full-scale ASCAEE with a data collection centre. 20% of the power systems have decentralised ASCAEE. Less than 20% of approximately 260,000 big industrial consumers have ASCAEE, and the figure for budget and municipal consumers is even lower. More than 90% of the 21 million domestic meters (2.5 grade of accuracy) presently in use should be replaced with 2 grade meters. AMR systems are still uncommon in Russia, with only a few hundred sites.

Almost all electric meter manufacturers worldwide have been working for many years to create a simple, reliable and cheap AMR system for use by electric power companies, to monitor energy consumed by household consumers. The Moscow Electrical Metering Equipment Plant (MZEP) being a key manufacturer of electric meters in Russia, also produces AMR hardware using PLC technology. 

AMR systems based on PLC technology allow:

  • The use of inexpensive one-tariff induction or electronic meters with data transmission networked to DCTD. 
  • The introduction of new tariff systems for each consumer, changing only the software in DCTD without any installation work and meter re- placement.
  • The remote reading of meters in apartments. This enhances security, because meter readers are prevented from entering false readings 
  • The identification of theft of electric power. Defaulters can be disconnected remotely.

PLC systems are universal and multifunctional. In addition to processing information on different kinds of power resources consumption, PLC systems can also measure water, gas and heat consumption, and provide intruder and fire alarm systems.

AMR will increase efficiency

Introducing AMR systems based on PLC communications will increase the efficiency of public utilities in Russia and improve revenue recovery. According to our estimates, automation of metering will not exceed the cost of multiple-tariff electronic meters. Time and capital inputs for large-scale automation are minimal, as existing power lines are used as communication lines. 

In the year 2000 many changes in AMR development were outlined in the course of discussions between power engineers and government officials on the reform of the existing power monopoly – RAO “United Energy System of Russia”. While regional power supply systems existed as integrated structures, monopoly and competitive businesses were not separated, and AMR systems were used for intersystem power flows for bulk metering. 

It became obvious that in these days of deregulated energy markets and businesses separation, the role of IMS should change and increase dramatically. All market participants – generation, network, utility companies and consumers – require a legitimate and accurate account of consumption, submitted in the matched exchange formats. In October 2000 RAO UES of Russia approved the concept of AMR systems applied to retail consumers and domestic households. To start with, about 21 million electricity meters with 2.5 grade of accuracy are to be replaced with 2 grade meters.

At the same time it is necessary to provide infrastructure to connect the electric meters to the AMR system. However, regional energy companies were hampered by the lack of investment funds. The option of including an investment component in the tariff was met with objections from regulatory bodies, because this would contribute to electricity price increases. Additional efforts were required to model AMR systems, taking into account specific Russian conditions, which include a low electricity price for the population and municipal consumers, many social benefits and cross subsidisation. 

Several investment sources suited to the Russian model of power monopoly reform have been analysed. Functional and technical requirements for AMR systems and meters have to be revised and reformulated, because of the need to introduce specific tariff systems during the period of restructuring (for example, a tariff differentiated on consumption level). 

Different AMR models

In addition, the statistical analysis of electricity consumption and the peculiarities of the Russian power industry impose restrictions on the price of AMR systems to ensure recovery of investments. As a result, several types of AMR application investment models have been developed: 

  • AMR in a regional power supply system
  • AMR in distributive networks
  • AMR for big industrial consumers – participants in the wholesale power market
  • AMR for the population and municipal consumers.

Thus, from modelling AMR applications we go on to the question of the organisation of the information services market. A new kind of company, which specialises in the sale of consumption data to interested parties should be established. Restructuring is not limited only to the power industry – Russia’s housing and communal services are likely to follow the electricity sector. Privatisation, the decrease of the social role of the state, the reduction in social benefits and deregulation of supply and services will create further opportunities for this kind of company. There is likely to be an increased requirement for heat, gas and water metering and a huge increase in collected and processed data.

Today one can see future indications of the Russian market for energy consumption information. It will demand measurement instruments (electricity, heat, water and gas meters) the software (control database systems) and communication channels for millions of consumers. A conservative appraisal of the energy information services market shows that it will be US$ 20 billion. 

Considering the level of telecommunications in the regions of Russia (the average level of telephones installed does not exceed 20-25%) an AMR application with PLC technologies for data transmission is especially attractive. Since the power supply infrastructure extends to millions of kilometres of LV lines, its use by the telecommunication environment for data transmission has great long-term potential. 

In May 2002 the Moscow Electrical Metering Equipment Plant (MZEP) and a number of well-known Russian AMR equipment companies formed an association called Group of Companies “the Russian Systems” (GCRS) in order to offer integrated technical and commercial solutions to both consumers and power supply companies to work in a new Russian energy market. More and more Russian companies are focusing their efforts on the development and manufacture of AMR metering equipment, software and communication channels for the transfer of energy consumption information. The Russian AMR market will be attractive for investments for a long time to come.