Next Generation AMI: Utilities Benefit from Optimizing AMI Network Operation Using Multi-Channel Allocation White Paper Advanced Metering Infrastructures (AMI) were once just ideas being touted as the replacement for Automated Metering Reading (AMR) and its narrowly focused vision of reducing utility operating costs. However, in the past 10 years there has been a shift in the utility industry’s focus toward AMI technology. Regulations such as EPACT 2005 set industry goals for better energy management across the U.S. and served as a catalyst to drive the strong growth of AMI we see today. In the early stages of AMI, there were lofty claims made about the operational and financial benefits the technology could deliver. Eight years later, is the industry realizing these envisioned benefits? What obstacles remain for utilities, and is the industry ready to embrace the next generation AMI technology? AMI technology has changed the way utilities do business in the 21st century. Simple AMI functionalities — such as reading interval data, remote service connects and disconnects, and outage alarms — have all delivered significant operational savings and improved the bottom lines for many utilities. This early success of AMI is creating the need to move more data faster between distinct devices and is raising the bar for what utilities expect in an AMI communications network. The initial requirement of remote meter reading and support of basic metering functions has given way to a complex set of activities and applications that affect multiple areas of a utility’s operations. These include Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Distribution Automation (DA), Demand Response (DR), Direct Load Control (DLC), Load Profiling (LP), outage management and Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR). How does today’s technology stack up to the challenge of providing a cost effective, flexible, and scalable solution that can support these complex applications? Utilities must have a solution that can continue to evolve with the perpetually changing utility business case driven by the need to streamline 1 operations, reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction, and overcome regulatory challenges. With this in mind, it serves to examine and compare how well the two major AMI network topology schemes being utilized today have fared in delivering on their promises. How Far Has AMI Come? Under EPACT 2005, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is required to provide yearly reports that assess the state of demand response and AMI within the U.S. The most recent Assessment of Demand Response & Advanced Metering, published December 2012, states the following in the executive summary: “According to information provided by survey respondents to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 2012 Demand Response and Advanced Metering Survey, the potential demand response resource contribution from all U.S. demand response programs is estimated to be nearly 72,000 megawatts (MW), or about 9.2 percent of U.S. peak demand. This is an increase of about 13,000 MW from the 2010 FERC Survey.” “With regard to advanced metering, penetration reached approximately 22.9 percent in 2011 in the United States, compared to approximately 8.7 percent in the 2010 FERC Survey (covering calendar year 2009). Florida, Texas, and the West have advanced meter penetrations exceeding 30 percent. As in previous surveys, electric cooperatives have the largest penetration, nearly 31 percent, among categories of organizations.” Based on the FERC’s 2012 assessment, AMI still has ample room to grow to meet the needs of demand response and smart metering. It is also clear that the implementation of AMI is just beginning to handle the data and applications envisioned years ago, and that some evolution of the technology will be needed to handle the complex, data-intensive applications utilities now require. As the industry continues to move forward with implementing SCADA, DA, DLC, voltage conservation and DR programs, will existing technology fully support these initiatives or will utilities be forced to bridge together a hybrid of mixed technologies? 2 Comparing Wireless AMI Network Topologies There are two predominant and distinct wireless AMI network topologies used by electric, gas and water utilities: • FCC-licensed spectrum utilized on a point-to-multipoint network • Unlicensed spectrum carried over a mesh network In a licensed spectrum point-to-multipoint network, the data collector can talk to all endpoints individually, and endpoints can transmit information back to the data collector. In an unlicensed spectrum carried over mesh networks, each point on the network can receive, store and transmit signals to other endpoints within a limited geographical area. With this method, endpoints out of range must rely on other endpoints to act as repeaters and provide a hop back to the data collector, an approach that increases latency. Prior to AMI, unlicensed spread spectrum radio was widely acknowledged as the AMI network technology that could fully deliver the operational benefits now being sought by utilities. However, the shortfalls of unlicensed mesh networks soon became apparent, including range limitations, spectrum interference and reliability issues. Additionally, the notion of network scalability took on a somewhat simplistic approach. By adding data collectors, the localized WAN networks were able to support additional metering endpoints. However, the system would still need to support the more complex applications and functionality that utilities expect of AMI technology, such as SCADA, DA, DLC, and more robust DR combined with Home Area Networks (HAN). In addition to not fully conceptualizing what AMI network scalability should encompass, the race to bring AMI to market narrowly focused on the vision and concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Early on, it was a generally accepted notion that because unlicensed spectrum is free, it would result in lower upfront costs and therefore it must be the best TCO solution available. As the use of AMI continues to expand, utilities are realizing that the TCO of deploying wireless networks is not just based on initial costs, but the financial return from overall benefits derived from the technology. TCO is not just a consideration from a financial point of view, but also a longer term consideration of engineering economics, support and risk mitigation. The goal behind good AMI network engineering and design upfront is to have a network structure that lends itself to expansion beyond just meter reading and outage reporting. It is a long term solution that allows utilities to grow over the life of the technology without having to fill the gaps along the way. Utility companies are now looking more holistically at the real costs associated with free, unlicensed radio spectrum for wireless communication. They are asking whether smart grid wireless networks would be better operated on licensed wireless spectrum, in which the airwaves are owned by the customer and protected by federal law. Next Generation AMI The next generation of AMI is already here, driven by growing demands. Next generation AMI is an open standards-based, long-range radio solution that communicates via primary-use FCC-licensed spectrum. It serves as a dedicated and secure two-way communications network that transmits at two watts 3 of power. This enables wide coverage that reaches all points in a utility’s service area. It also prioritizes multiple interoperable utility applications without the need for deploying additional or hybrid networks. Key attributes of next generation AMI include: True end-to-end IPv6 communication across all platforms — For electric, gas, water, and lighting control. IPv6 compatibility transforms the system from a single application AMI network to a truly open and interoperable smart grid infrastructure enabling industry standard addressing to be used between all endpoints and applications. The ability to optimize every endpoint on a utility’s system using power control — By utilizing power control, next generation AMI ensures that the network manages the power of every transmission based on need. In essence, the network can whisper to devices in close range and shout at those far away with equal results. Additionally, redundant coverage built into the network ensures that every endpoint can be reached, which reduces data backfill requirements. Redundancy also helps build robustness for mission critical distribution automation, outage management, demand response management systems and billing. Using larger amounts of licensed spectrum with advanced modulation schemes that increase data rates — With up to 525 kHz in licensed spectrum, utilities can transmit nearly 10 times the amount of data. With larger amounts of spectrum, software defined radios (SDR) and advance modulation schemes, the system supports communication rates of 1.2 Mbps which provides utilities with increased interoperable application capabilities for the future. The ability to dedicate distinct channels to specific applications — Other aspects of licensed spectrum that greatly reduce latency are multiple and distinct channels. Delivering data faster is more than just the speed of transfer. With licensed spectrum and multi-channel optimization, utilities can prioritize time-sensitive applications, such as distribution automation, remote shut off (for gas to address safety concerns) and demand response. This ensures the applications are not forced to compete with other network traffic. Of all the operational improvements next generation AMI offers, the ability to provide channelized spectrum is essential for utilities to achieve optimal AMI network performance. Open-standards based networks built on multi-channel licensed spectrum allow utilities to transcend the limits of unlicensed mesh AMI networks and realize a consistent return on investment over the course of a low risk life cycle. Distribution Automation (DA) requirements have also evolved with AMI. Once considered a means to backhaul monitoring devices, the demands and growth of smart grid applications are now requiring AMI networks to support low latency applications including control of DA devices, peer-to-peer networking and over-the-air upgrades — all of which greatly increase the need for network bandwidth. With multi-channel capable licensed spectrum, even retrieval of real-time meter voltage information can be placed on a dedicated channel. A Closer Look at Multi-Channel Next Generation AMI The benefits utilities can realize from next generation AMI are clearly evident. The urgency with which a utility needs to ping a meter for billing is much less critical than distribution system communications such as real-time notification of outages or reporting costly leaks in a water system. Effective AMI solutions are not just about how fast the system can obtain data, but what data has the highest priority or right-of-way in the communications network. 4 To fully understand the benefits of utilizing licensed spectrum AMI with multiple channel capability, above is a side by side comparison of it with a mesh AMI network. Figure 2 shows how multiple prioritized channels can be allocated to handle specific applications. By design, utilities can determine the priority of network data traffic prioritizing its assigned channel within licensed spectrum. Mesh based AMI networks are limited to a single channel for all network data traffic transmissions and replies. Attributes of Channelized Licensed Spectrum AMI Networks • Modeled off of proven cellular architecture • • Independent forward and reply with full duplex for each channel Traffic type and priority must be throttled by a master scheduler • • Channels can be added via remote configuration without adding collectors Fixed Baud Rate, not variable matched to environment • • Channel size and corresponding endpoint configurations can be managed remotely System expandability and scalability is limited to adding collectors to create localized WANs • • Applications can be physically isolated • No application contention conflicts • Applications that rely on low latency can have predictable and reliable round trip performance of less than 5 seconds One large channel (using frequency hopping spread spectrum transmissions) is set to the highest transmission rate, which lowers transmission range and requires endpoints to communicate via a mesh network • Mesh networks are driven by poll and response creating outage and priority event delays • The effective size of a large single channel diminishes with the number of hops in each mesh network created by an individual collector • Changes in mesh routing over time due to environment changes cannot provide long term predictable performance • Channels do not have to create or rebuild broken transmission paths like mesh networks must do; channels from adjacent collectors can overlap, creating redundancy without self-healing delays Next generation AMI is designed to provide utilities with all the capacity and support to meet future network performance requirements. To remain relevant and viable to the changing business case needs of energy and natural resource providers, AMI must be able to transcend the plateau of simply collecting meter data and performing small metering support tasks. Next generation AMI is unique in its ability to provide multiple, parallel channels for various applications such as SCADA, DA messaging, automated volt-var management, DLC and priority alarm notifications. Open and interoperable multi-channel AMI is only possible through the use of licensed spectrum. AMI networks that rely on unlicensed spectrum are forced to share these more complex AMI applications on the same channel with basic outage updates, revenue integrity information and normal daily meter data transactions. The only way AMI systems using unlicensed mesh technology can support such expansion of AMI capabilities without seriously reducing system performance is to layer on additional communications networks and create hybrid 5 Attributes of Single Channel Unlicensed Spectrum Mesh AMI Networks systems which increases TCO. Multi-channel next generation AMI allows utilities to receive critical network updates and manage advanced non-metering applications on a single network topology without interruption or delay to normal day-to-day traffic. Realizing the Smart Grid with Next Generation AMI The major shortfall of an unlicensed spectrum mesh system is that it cannot channelize the spectrum for specific data transmissions. The network must open the entire available spectrum upon initial deployment to avoid capacity issues with competing metering messaging. While this technology may accommodate current metering requirements, industry leaders have voiced concerns about future smart grid applications. EPRI stated in its December 2010 WFANSA report, “Interference on unlicensed bands makes them unsuitable for critical smart grid applications.” All mission-critical networks in practice today, such as police, fire, and emergency medical services, have adopted FCC licensed band point to multipoint as the gold standard of wireless communications for its resiliency, lack of interference, and recourse against potential and real interferers. For utilities to fully realize all the business and operational benefits of the smart grid, the old misconceptions about AMI must be abandoned and give way to the new realities of next generation AMI with a multi-channel capability. Eight years after EPACT 2005, the industry is beginning to realize that strategic deployment means more than deploying a meter collector in a neighborhood to create a neighborhood LAN and a backhaul WAN for a few thousand meters. Likewise, the ease of installing meter collectors that utilize unlicensed mesh technology provides only one dimension of scalability. The networks can scale by adding hundreds to thousands of meter collectors to provide support for additional endpoints, but do not provide the increased network capacity for complex nonmetering applications. A hybrid network can be layered on top of the mesh network to support additional applications, but at an additional TCO and complexity to the utility. Figure 3 illustrates potential growth in AMI data handling requirements through the proliferation of smart grid applications. 6 Multi-channel next generation AMI — the future of smart grid — delivers a comprehensive and unified network topology that redefines what the industry considers strategic deployment. It can be deployed over existing AMR systems without deploying a single AMI endpoint to establish a network. Once deployed, a next generation AMI network will support a full AMI system without the need to layer on supplemental networks for system expansion and smart grid application support. Strategic system deployment and scalability is now a matter of configuring and assigning channels using a pre-calculated number of high capacity data collectors which instantly provides the infrastructure for utilities to: • Migrate their meter population to AMI over time • Deploy distribution automation to devices that previously would have been too costly to automate and replace existing cellular or Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) communications to other devices • Recruit demand response and HAN customers across their service territory • Strategically deploy remote service disconnect meters and begin using immediately • Strategically deploy AMI meters to premises that require TOU, Demand, and Load Profile billing capabilities, eliminating costly meter reads or dedicated communications through cellular or POTS communications • Strategically deploy AMI meters in locations to gather voltage information to improve customer power quality • Greatly improve outage and restoration management by deploying AMI meters at strategic locations Another key attribute of this approach is that electric, water and gas metering can operate on the same network using the same infrastructure, but the water and gas endpoints are not dependent on the electric meters for connection to the AMI network. If there is a large power outage, gas and water AMI networks remain operational. Applications such as remote service connect and disconnect, and remote gas shutoff can be deployed without the need to build out an entire neighborhood network of meters. Optional applications such as street lighting control, DLC, DA and voltage conservation can be implemented easily with available spectrum channels or by adding additional spectrum and channels. Primary-use licensed spectrum is the 7 8601 Six Forks Road, Suite 700 Raleigh, NC 27615 1-800-633-3748 only system solution on the market able to provide the next generation functionality that enables utilities to fully build and leverage the smart grid. No other system can support future smart grid applications and functionality within its existing AMI infrastructure. With next generation AMI, utilities can fully realize the smart grid through one unified solution that offers lower TCO, true scalability and strategic deployment capabilities. About Sensus Sensus is a leading utility infrastructure company offering smart meters, communication systems, software and services for the electric, gas, and water industries. Sensus technology helps utilities drive operational efficiency and customer engagement with applications that include advanced meter reading, data acquisition, demand response, distribution automation, home area networking and outdoor lighting control. Customers worldwide trust the innovation, quality and reliability of Sensus solutions for the intelligent use and conservation of energy and water. Learn more at www.sensus.com. © 2013 Sensus USA, Inc.
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