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Smart choices

by Utilities ME Staff on Dec 5, 2012

In the mid-term, smart grids will enable demand-side management. (GETTY IMAGES)
In the mid-term, smart grids will enable demand-side management. (GETTY IMAGES)

Advanced and intelligent metering is key to getting local utilities operating more efficiently

When the first construction boom hit Dubai in 2005, there was a steady evolution in what was expected of projects, be it better working conditions for labourers, more efficient working practices or sustainable development.

As the region begins to recover from a barren few years, there is a notably greater emphasis on transparency, environmental awareness and efficiency. This can be seen in the growth of smart metering technology, not just the awareness, but the desire to implement it.

“The move towards Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technology and smart grid solutions can be attributed mainly to new pressures that utility companies are experiencing,” says Abdelrahman Abdellatif, principle consultant, industry solutions with Huawei.

“From regulators needing to find ways to reduce carbon footprints, customers wanting greater transparency over the power, gas or water that they consume, to utility companies wanting to increase the efficiency of their operations and maintenance.”

In October, CESI Middle East announced it had been selected by the electricity & co-generation authority of Saudi Arabia (ECRA) to develop policies, specification requirements and an implementation plan for smart metering and advanced metering infrastructure.

The new mandate, the first to be undertaken in Saudi Arabia, gives further impetus to the development of future plans based on renewable energy across the Middle East as the implementation of smart grids allows for a switch from conventional energy to renewable energy.

Floris Schulze, managing director of CESI Middle East, said the project was an important step for Saudi Arabia and the region in moving towards the global future of electricity and energy and the implementation of newer, more advanced technologies and innovations that will deliver sustainable solutions and cost-saving through energy conservation.

“Smart metering and smart grids are a growing trend across the region and deserve serious consideration and formulation of a strategic plan for their deployment. The Middle East electricity market is forecasted to grow at an accelerated rate over the next few years due to higher consumption rates.

This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the supply and demand - a smart grid network makes for the ideal bridge where the goals of modernisation can meet those of a reliable public infrastructure,” said Schulze.

The study’s primary objectives will include: identifying Saudi Arabia’s current and future challenges that a smart meter/smart grid strategy can help overcome, investigating and reviewing available smart metering technologies that are best suited for the kingdom, assisting ECRA and representatives of the major electricity industry stakeholders in the kingdom to determine and finalise the salient functional requirements of proposed smart meters and advanced metering infrastructure to be deployed.

Research reports on the adoption of smart grid solution including AMI shows large potential in the MEA market, adds Abdellatif. But it isn’t as simple as presenting the technology to potential investors, it requires a substantial shift in thinking and a broader, more collaborative approach between various regulatory and municipal bodies.

Such projects are currently in the concept stage, which therefore necessitates building a business case, shaping the adoption roadmap and conducting business impact analysis.

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