The introduction of Victoria’s smart meter mandate in 2010 led multiple energy companies to investigate ways to adopt the technology for the benefit of their customers

For United Energy, a partnership with Silver Spring Networks saw it leverage the latter’s radio frequency (RF) mesh network to deploy approximately 653,000 smart meters in just five years.

This Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) network enabled basic billing and outage reporting to United Energy’s existing back-office systems, providing fresh data at 30-minute intervals at a read success rate of 99.83 percent.

Fast forward to 2016, and United Energy started looking towards advanced analytics to maximise their infrastructure investment and further utilise the data-gathering capabilities of SSNI’s network to get closer to its real-time awareness goals.

To accomplish this, Silver Spring’s SensorIQ software platform was deployed to manage a parallel data path from billing for the sole purpose of collecting new AMI analytics data.

This platform enabled near-real-time data collection and delivery from the wide array of United Energy’s endpoint devices on its network.

This was done by establishing a separate meter data gathering and alerting profile on the network interface cards (NICs) within each smart meter. This allowed United Energy analysts to program and reprogram the data analytics capabilities of these smart meters without having to make any alterations to the legacy billing programming already contained within the meters.

The SensorIQ-backed data collection process reads data at five-minute intervals, collecting such metrics as instantaneous voltage, current, and power factor).

A select number of endpoint have one-minute and ten-second collection intervals for specific use cases, which are all stored and timestamped by the in-meter NICs themselves.

This provides a near-real-time and high-resolution snapshot of United Energy’s entire distribution grid network.

Numerous applications for real-time data

Thanks to this expansion of the Silver Spring network to incorporate real-time data, United Energy has been able to use the information gathered as input into its network and compliance management, customer claim management, and revenue protection processes.

Furthermore, it has provided valuable insights in helping them increase low-voltage network reliability and reduce safety risks.

Some of the peripheral outcomes achieves following the implementation of the SensorIQ platform include:

  • Neutral integrity monitoring: By collecting 5-minute intervals once an hour, United Energy can remotely inspect every customer meter for the danger of an open neutral and stray voltage 24 times a day, a vast improvement over once every 10 years
  • Service degradation monitoring: Measuring the impedance of a customer’s home over time allows United Energy to spot trends in service degradation and extend asset life
  • Distribution fault location: Monitoring the quality of service to customers in close proximity to one another eliminates much of the guesswork in locating distribution grid infrastructure problems and ultimately reduces trouble-order resolution times and operational expenditure
  • Transformer faults & neutral failures: United Energy is able to monitor 12,000 substations each hour for fault detection and failing neutrals
  • Phase identification: By monitoring the voltage profiles of all the customers on a single transformer, United Energy is generating tens of thousands of dollars in avoided costs
  • Meter-to-Transformer Mapping: United Energy has used the AMI data to gradually correct and refine the mapped model of the distribution network resulting in smoother operations and reduced regulatory fines
  • Non-technical losses: With the fine grain AMI data, United Energy can determine instances of electrical theft, such as marijuana grow houses

Multiple applications, multiple benefits

The improvements to operations and expenditure for United Energy have been significant following the rollout of the SensorIQ platform.

United Energy was able to perform 1,200 proactive repairs based on the monitoring capability, with a 98 percent fault identification success rate. Electric shock incidents were also halved in that period.

In terms of service connection replacements, United Energy was able to move from an end-of-life estimate model to a just-in-time, proactive service replacement schedule, deferring a sizeable portion of the $15 million per annum it costs United Energy to perform these replacements.

United Energy was also able to get greater visibility into their substation operations, monitoring 12,000 substations every hour for faults and failures. The company was able to detect seven faults on average per month, and with the integration to its repair processes, it often led to fixes being implemented before end customers were aware of any issue.

This project has been named a finalist in the Secondary Industry category of the Australian IoT Awards 2017. View the full list of finalists here.