By Jonathon Mizen
Advanced Metering Infrastructure Business Lead
The Western Power electricity network is changing rapidly. It seems that every month there is an article touting how emerging technology will provide new and exciting electricity services and efficiencies for customers. Many of these options will be reliant on our network to be delivered but require newer technology than we currently have on our network.
We’re working hard to allow customers to have more choice with their electricity connection and we’re developing a more sophisticated network that can be the platform which supports the changing energy needs of Western Australians.
One way we are doing this is by installing advanced meters on our network. Advanced meters, also known as smart meters, are now common throughout Australia and in most of the developed world.
We’ve just begun a program where all new meters installed as part of routine maintenance and for new connections will be an advanced meter. This represents an exciting opportunity for the electricity industry in Western Australia.
Of course, there are works to be done on the network to gain the full benefits of advanced meters. Supporting systems and communications infrastructure are needed to capture and use the data collected by the meters. Preparation of those systems are also started and is underway.
Meter reading and power reliability
For our customers, the most obvious change will be automated meter readings. Meter reading is still done manually for the majority of our one million customers and occasionally this results in us having to estimate meter readings when we are unable to access a property. Customers with advanced meters will benefit from more accurate, remote meter readings once the communications infrastructure is in place.
Customers will also have better power reliability, as advanced metering will improve our outage management and response time.
But the benefits for our network go much deeper.
Perhaps the most important feature of advanced meters is improved network safety. Advanced meter data can be used to monitor voltage and current and to mitigate the risk of electric shock.
Other network operators who use advanced meters have significantly reduced the number of electric shocks for customers. For us, these safety benefits create the most compelling argument to begin the installation of this type of meter on our network.
Once supporting systems are up and running, data will be evaluated regularly. Our team will use an algorithm to process the data and help determine whether there is a risk of electric shock.
A common query about advanced meters is ‘what type of data will the meter capture?’
Power quality data, including the voltage and current levels, is captured at regular intervals during the day. The meters can also tell the direction that power is flowing, which allows us to better monitor the amount of renewable energy coming onto the grid.
Receipt of more regular data will also improve our ability to plan the network, to keep it safe, reliable and efficient.
So what’s our electricity future like with advanced meters? Innovation is ripe within industry and regulatory reform is in motion, so the future is bright. Emerging technologies, such as community batteries, micro grids, embedded networks and electric vehicles, are some of the opportunities that await.
None of these technologies can be progressed without advanced metering capability.
Ministerial media statement: Advanced meters to unlock more efficient, safer electricity network