There has never been a greater need for real time energy metering data and remote data collection systems. New energy trading arrangements in many countries require not only profile data but also real time data collection for accurate forecasting and balancing functions.
Demand response applications also need real time data collection for multiple metering points, where aggregation of many loads is required to initiate peak control or generator switching automatically.
Using Internet and Intranet connections is an obvious way forward for new metering technologies. In general, modern networks are well maintained, have common connection interfaces and permanent connectivity, which is required for real time data applications.
As long as the equipment connected to the network complies with IT standards, there is no reason why end users could not provide the communication medium for real time energy metering. Real benefits exist when customer network connections are used. First, communication costs are effectively zero; and secondly, the customer has direct access to his data, which can be presented using Internet browsers or applications supporting web queries such as spreadsheets. Even if customer connections are not possible, GPRS, wireless or DSL connections all provide the necessary permanent communication link.
IP COMMUNICATIONS – THE PREFERRED SOLUTION
EnergyICT® is a leading manufacturer of hardware and software solutions for energy data collection and has vast experience working with TCP/IP network communications. Solutions are in use throughout Europe that use many communication methods including serial modems, GSM, GPRS, Intranet and Internet. There is, however, an increasing demand for real time solutions from both utilities and major energy users, where IP communications is more often the preferred solution.
EnergyICT has several hardware devices capable of enabling conventional utility metering to be real time and Internet compatible without the need for wholesale meter renewals. Even simple pulsing meters can become real time, on-line devices by utilising EnergyICT hardware.
The WebRTU® is an IP device that accepts pulsing inputs and can be simply connected to any pulsing meter. Complete with up to eight inputs (lower channel versions are also available) it can be scaled for correct engineering units, and provides energy profile memory and many communication possibilities. Any simple pulsing meter, once connected to WebRTU, provides instantaneous kW, on-line profile data and can also provide real time data communication to the central system.
To achieve real time data for many hundreds or thousands of metering points, it is necessary for the device to ‘push’ data to the central system. This avoids the need to scan multiple meters using conventional modem dial-out methods, which would not be possible unless vast quantities of modem hardware and software are used.
The ‘push’ principle with IP communications allows many devices to surf to a web form, submit their data and check for any re-configuration or firmware upgrade commands. Simultaneous reading using this method allows real time aggregation, forecasting and demand control without the need for ‘heavy’ com-munication software and hardware at the central system.
The mechanism for ‘push’ communications is called EiWebp™ which is deployed as a standard web server application accepting multiple data transfers via the web form interface. Data can be transferred to our own data warehouse applications, balancing applications or to third party data systems.
WEB ENABLED PROTOCOL METERING
For metering applications using electronic profiling meters, the WebModem™ can be used for web enabling. Unlike the WebRTU, WebModem does not have pulsed inputs (although these can remain for multi utility logging) but talks directly to the meter via the meter communications port. WebModem can be supplied as an external device or designed to fit within the metering device itself.
WebModem operates in two modes.
- ‘Push’ mode (similar to WebRTU), where meter registers are read directly and sent (encrypted) in real time to the balancing or data collection system.
- As a transparent gateway, allowing the manufacturer’s specific programming software or data gathering software to access the meter as if it were connected directly via a serial link.
The combination of these features is essential for large-scale deployment of real time metering, as the metering company remains in control of the energy meter for reprogramming but the device remains capable of pushing the real time data to the central real time system.
The WebModem can also translate the meter specific protocols into XML or EDI-EL messages, or even act as a protocol convertor which would allow the different meter manufacturers to communicate with data collection systems that only support limited meter protocols.
WEB ENABLED ELECTRICITY, GAS AND WATER
If external devices can web enable existing metering equipment and provide real time data collection, this could be the most cost effective metering solution in the deregulating markets. In addition, if this external device is also capable of multi-utility data logging for electricity, gas and water utilities, there are many possibilities for additional services such as web energy management, bureau services, climate change monitoring and billing and demand response solutions.
Similar applications exist for submetering and cost allocation, where submeters are often only fitted with pulsed outputs. WebRTU devices work perfectly well with electricity, gas, water and heat metering. Energy management information can be made available in real time for multi-site organisations. Add to this the possibility of real time exception reporting, and large cost savings can be achieved while wastage is eliminated. Energy management data can include site benchmarking, utility invoice verification, forecasting, tenant billing, cost centre accounting and many other analysis functions. Using real time data collection at industrial and commercial sites can increase the effectiveness of any energy management system; the added value real time gives will often help to justify the capital project costs.
On-line metering is easily achievable for the most basic to the most complex metering devices.