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Opinion piece: Implementing MDM offer important power consumption and cost saving gains

By Dwibin Thomas, Cluster Automation Leader at Schneider Electric

The saying “let your hard work speak as you remain silent” comes to mind when one thinks about how important unobtrusive, silent systems have become in our daily lives.  In a time of modern energy management, Meter Data Management (MDM) is primary example of a silent, hardworking component that provides us with vital information on how we consume energy.

Typically located at utility offices or control centres, MDM software quietly bridges the gap between smart meters and utility providers, delivering important real-time intelligence and management features that optimise power consumption.

The primary role of an MDM system is to collect data on a half-hourly basis; it connects to the meter, retrieves data and then verifies its accuracy through built-in checks and balances. 

In the event of missing data, the software then provides an accurate estimate based on historical load profiles.  For example, if data is missing at 12h00, it can reference the previous week’s 12h00 load profiles and fill in the gap, so to speak.

Before the era of smart meters and MDM systems, utility providers often relied on monthly estimates. With the introduction of smart meters and MDM software, these estimates can be become significantly more accurate.

MDM software also offers important cost benefits to consumers:

  • By delivering real-time load profiles, utilities can provide time-of-use tariffs to customers.  This means that instead of a flat rate, customers can be charged varying rates depending on when they use electricity.
  • Improved consumer energy usage.  Peak usage times is often prohibitively expensive – managing power consumption during these times can save on costs, improve demand-side management and contribute to less strained grid.
  • The smart meters and advanced MDMS systems monitor power consumption closely. If a household’s usage exceeds a predetermined threshold, the smart meter will automatically switch off certain appliances. This not only benefits the utility provider but also empowers consumers to better manage their energy consumption, particularly during periods of load shedding

A slow adoption

As mentioned, MDM software goes hand in hand with smart meters, and whilst large power consumers, often referred to as mega-users, are implementing advanced metering systems, widespread adoption is still limited.

Again, MDM software is utilised by mega-users to accurately align their operations and power consumption with the time-of-use tariff structure.

From a data generation perspective, the MDM systems currently in use by mega-users is comparatively limited.  In contrast, rolling out smart meters for every South African household will generate a substantial amount of data.

Managing this data will require Validation, Editing, and Estimating also known as VEE which require a sophisticated MDM system.

The transition to smart meters and advanced MDM systems has the potential to significantly reduce the need for broad-scale load shedding, allowing for more targeted and efficient energy management.

At Schneider Electric, our EcoStruxure Grid Metering Operations (GMO) architecture is well-equipped to handle large amounts of data, optimising energy usage and real-time data from smart meters.

Through the EcoStruxure GMO, utilities can access data remotely, allowing them to accurately gauge usage, obtain billing information and general consumer consumption patterns.

EcoStruxure GMO provides effective large-scale deployment, efficient operation and rollout management, improved end-customer services, and lower operational costs. EcoStruxure GMO architecture also offers a Head-End System (HES) solution that is meter agnostic. This means that it can collect data from any type of smart meter, regardless of the manufacturer or model.

In addition to data collection, the HES solution provided by GMO goes beyond by enabling configuration and firmware updates on any type of meter as well. This flexibility allows utilities to seamlessly integrate various smart meters into their systems without compatibility concerns.

With the ability to handle different meters and perform essential functions such as data collection, configuration, and firmware updates, the GMO HES solution offers a comprehensive and versatile solution for effective energy management and optimisation.

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