Power utilities are rapidly becoming data-driven organisations. A decentralised energy model, powered by intermittent renewables depends on two-way communication between utilities and all other participants in the energy landscape.
It is data that underpins this model. And it makes Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and one of its core building blocks, Meter Data Management (MDM), critical for a reliable, resilient future power system.
In part one of this series exploring the components of AMI, we looked at the Headend System. In part two, we’ll take a deep dive into the Meter Data Management system.
In this article we’ll explore:
- What the MDM system does within the AMI.
- How it benefits utilities.
- The key features to look for in your MDM system.
- How to take your MDM system to the next level.
Understanding MDM systems in the context of AMI
Smart meters have become a cornerstone of the energy system, but utilities are now faced with the task of managing and processing the enormous amount of data they generate.
An MDM system sits at the heart of the AMI, receiving, validating, storing and analysing this vast treasure trove of information. This data can then be used by other utility applications, including billing, customer information and grid operational management systems.
In fact, more and more utilities are realising that smart meter data can be used for more than efficiently producing highly accurate bills. MDM systems are now used to aggregate data from third-party sources such as weather information and with utility OT systems such as SCADA and Advanced Distribution Management systems.
Most MDM capabilities include:
- Centralised meter data storage and management, including data collection, monitoring and configuration management of smart meters and devices.
- Validation, estimating, editing (VEE) and workflow management.
- Billing register, calculation and export.
- Analytics and reporting, including management reports, load and demand forecasting and customer service KPI metrics.
MDM systems and smart meters evolve together
MDM systems began appearing in the late 1990s. As the number of smart meters increased and utilities began deploying AMI, they needed systems to manage the large amounts of data, events, and alarms that were being generated.
MDM systems soon developed to include analytics and reporting functions that could be integrated with, and utilised by, other utility operational systems. The primary focus for these systems was to automate and streamline the meter to cash process for billing. But as MDM systems continue to evolve, we’re finding more utilities realise their potential in managing all types of energy data. They are now used to receive data from multiple sources, both from within utility operations and externally.
With the addition of advanced analytics functions, MDM systems are becoming central to day-to-day operations. Utilities can more accurately track real-time usage, forecast supply and demand, manage non-technical losses, and run predictive maintenance, all helping operational teams to improve efficiency and the reliability of services delivered.
The benefits of a meter data management system
Looking at MDM capabilities, there are some clear benefits for utilities. These include:
- Improved data accuracy and efficiency: MDM systems streamline the collection of meter and meter operations data, by operating a single, central repository, instead of separate, inconsistently managed systems. Utilities can apply specific validation rules to ensure that incoming data is consistent and accurate before it is stored.
- Improved efficiency: MDM systems streamline billing and customer service. But once integrated with other utility systems such as Advanced Distribution Management, Mobile Workforce Management and Geographic Information systems, utilities can generate actionable insights for proactive and preventative maintenance, helping to improve operations and ensuring their customers have a reliable energy supply.
- Improved insights leading to better decision-making: Better data accuracy leads to improved decision making and enforceable processes. Reliable energy data provides agents with more granular and timely information to resolve customer inquiries quickly.
- Reduced risk: MDM systems reduce risks from manual processes and inaccurate data. But they can also support utilities in meeting regulatory requirements. For example, utilities can set specific data retention periods and data deletion processes to meet local data privacy laws.
Meter data management and the energy transition
In addition to these benefits, MDM systems have massive potential in helping utilities adapt to our evolving energy model. They play a critical role in unlocking insights from AMI data, insights that enable the smooth running of a decentralized system, powered by renewables and where data sharing is becoming standard practice.
To achieve this, utilities are enriching AMI data with data from other sources. This includes, operational data, and data from external sources such as distributed energy resources, market data and customer demographics.
With additional integration capabilities, MDM can not only help utilities become more efficient, but enables them to accelerate the shift to renewables, operate in a decentralized energy system and compete in an increasingly competitive environment.
Here are some examples:
Demand response programmes: Enriching real-time consumption data with distributed energy resource information in real time.
Improving grid flexibility and resilience: MDM systems can provide real-time data on renewable energy, together with load forecasting information helping utilities to balance the grid.
Creating a competitive advantage: Data from MDM systems can give detailed information about customer energy usage and cost saving insights in real time. This can be used to develop innovative customer services and products.
Data sharing: As many markets shift to a system of open consumption data, MDM can help utilities share this information with their customers and partners, market operators, regulators, or other market participants.
Features to include in a future-focused MDM system
Looking at these capabilities and benefits, it’s easy to see the opportunities. But in our experience, to really harness its potential, your meter data management system needs to include certain features.
- In the new energy model, utilities need insights from generation and consumption data in as close to real-time as possible. Your solution must be able to integrate with analytics-based solutions.
- With a cloud-based solution, you can access advanced analytics including machine learning and predictive analytics.
- Event-driven architecture helps MDM systems handle the millions of messages produced by smart meters and IoT devices. It enables them to react to events and process data as it is generated.
- Energy data is proliferating. The number of smart meters across the world continues to grow and their data is now needed at a more granular level with many regions moving to intervals of 15 minutes or under. This means volumes of smart meter data gathered by AMI are only going to increase.
- It’s not just smart meter data that’s growing. MDM systems now need to receive data from an increasing number of data sources. To help manage fluctuating meter and distributed energy generation data, today’s MDMs must be scalable.
- Cloud-native deployment means you can scale computing resources up or down depending on the volume of data your MDM system needs to receive. It also enables services like auto-scaling for peak loads.
- The grid is becoming smarter. New grid edge technologies are paving the way for innovative business models. As more intelligent devices are developed and become widely used, MDMs must accommodate the data they generate, both now and in the future.
- The more diverse the data points, the more useful and valuable utility data becomes. But as the number of data sources proliferate, MDMs must support flexible system and data integration.
- Cloud-native technologies such as microservices help you achieve this flexibility through loose coupling and a modular approach. New data sources and systems can be integrated or replaced independently without affecting other components.
- Open APIs offer flexibility and enable utilities to continuously add new capabilities and functionality.
- Data sharing is becoming standard practice as more energy markets move to an unbundled system. It’s also vital for a system that increasingly depends on distributed energy resources.
- Enriching smart meter data with other data sources paves the way for innovation and new services for customers.
- MDM systems help data sharing both within the organisation and with external partners, but interoperability is key.
- Interoperability depends on API integration between the MDM and diverse destinations that rely on meter data and for external data streams that the MDM receives.
Taking meter data management to the next level: MDM+
An MDM offers huge benefits to utilities, but as the number of data sources increase, integration becomes a major challenge. The solution that we recommend to utilities and system integrators is to add an integration layer. We call this MDM+. Our customers find this helps them manage and monitor their systems and data exchange across the entire AMI landscape. By providing standardised interfaces, protocols and unifying data formats, it enables smooth and seamless integration across the entire value chain.
The integration layer can help to deliver the features needed in a future-fit MDM system. It brings flexibility and scalability. It offers integration to advanced analytics, enabling real-time and actionable insights. It enables the connectivity, collaboration and data sharing that is becoming essential to our new energy system. It can handle the integrations between the utility MDM system and Market Communications or regional data hubs.
But in this highly specialised environment, using a domain-specific integration solution makes the process faster and more streamlined. Greenbird’s Utilihive iPaaS is purpose-built for the energy sector which means you can rapidly implement a future-focused MDM system.
Utilihive has pre-built, utility-specific building blocks and integration accelerators. You can skip the time-consuming task of writing custom code and building orchestrations or APIs. Instead, you can get on with diversifying your data points, enriching your utility’s data to drive innovative new services and the possibility of integrating machine learning functionalities and other data analytics-based solutions.
The energy transition is accelerating. It’s success rests on the transformation of utilities to data-driven organisations. Now is the time to lay the digital foundations that can support utilities on this journey. Foundations that can support change, growth, and the development of new business models.
Greenbird is an international solution and technology company with roots in Norway. We simplify the complexity of big data integration to help organisations unlock the value of their data and mission critical applications. Our flagship innovation, Utilihive, is a cloud-native platform combining enterprise integration capabilities with a data lake optimised for energy use cases. We founded Greenbird in 2010 with a mission to revolutionise how the energy industry thinks about enterprise system integration. Today, Utilihive is used by utilities across Europe, Middle East and Asia serving more than 50 million consumers. Greenbird is headquartered in Oslo and has around 50 employees, comprising primarily of senior developers and consultants and specialising in technology development and customer onboarding of the Utilihive platform. To learn how you can unleash the value of data while removing silos, explore Utilihive accelerators here.