Europe Tries Out EHS Technology

July 1, 1998
In Europe the markets for electric utilities are changing and in power generation, the national monopoly suppliers are being replaced by regional groupings,

In Europe the markets for electric utilities are changing and in power generation, the national monopoly suppliers are being replaced by regional groupings, privatized generation companies and independent power producers (IPPs). The competition in generation has arrived and is being implemented in a variety of mechanisms; for example, the power pools established in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia have operated successfully for a number of years. Large industrial customers already have a choice of suppliers in many countries, and the European Commission is promoting this open market approach across the continent. Freedom of choice for commercial and domestic customers with lower energy requirements has been discussed, and mechanisms are being introduced in some countries.

These challenges for electric utilities have led to the formation of energy companies with gas, water and telecommunication interests both in their local geographical region and wider afield. The public and regulatory drivers linked to energy efficiency and environmental issues combined with competitive market pressures will undoubtedly promote and extend the restructuring of these utilities. However, Europe is not a homogeneous, uniform entity. Regions and countries differ in energy usage patterns, industrial and commercial directions, climate and cultures.

In the United Kingdom all generation, transmission and distribution are now owned by commercial operators, many of whom are part of international companies. Four main companies are responsible for power generation. There are also a few independent power producers operating CCGT power plants and renewable energy projects. Transmission is by a regulated monopoly established as a public quoted company. Distribution is carried out by 15 regional companies, eight of which are American owned. The sale of electricity will be a completely competitive market for all customers in 1998 with no regional monopolies. This has been the case for customers with demands exceeding 100 kW since 1994. Against this background of a fully competitive market, value-added services for customer loyalty programs can have specific attractions.

The French and Italian utilities see opportunity for new business and increased profitability from technology-enabled new services. In Denmark, home energy control is being promoted to improve energy efficiency to address environmental concerns.

Automated Meter Reading To minimize operating costs and be in a position to offer a range of customer services, utilities across the world have been using various communication technologies in trials of automated meter reading (AMR). Even though the technology has been proven, large-scale installations are not widespread in countries like the United Kingdom. Many utilities believe they do not deliver sufficient benefits to the utility to justify the large investment on communication infrastructure. Similarly, standalone demand side management (DSM) programs have also had limited impact because UK utilities believe a wider package of customer services is necessary to gain a sufficient return on infrastructure investment.

A recent International Energy Agency (IEA) program conducted across 10 countries evaluated the interest in 33 potential services (Table 2). The countries involved in this program were Australia, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

The IEA concluded that current systems send around 300 bits per day, selectively broadcast to residential customers from the utility, but there are no wide scale systems with flow in the reverse direction. On a five-year time scale it was forecast that 1000 bits per day would flow in broadcast and selective messages to the customer and 200 bits per day would flow from the customer to the utility [Ref.1].

The ETHOS Project The ETHOS project (Energy and Communications User Interactive Services (Multimedia) Field Trials (Pilot Studies) of Developed Home Systems to EUROPEAN HS (EHS) Protocols and Specifications) was launched in October 1995 [Ref.2] to test customer acceptance of range of value-added services including domestic energy management, home security and appliance and heating control. It is part of the European Commission ESPRIT R&D program. The ETHOS objectives are: - Implement demand side management (DSM) functions using algorithms capable of managing sophisticated tariffs. - Research and develop value-added services that satisfy the needs of the customer. - Develop systems for integrated load management including energy controllers, TV/PC interfaces and temperature sensors. - Develop two-way communication gateways to the home. - Determine customer perceptions and reactions to services carried out in the field trials.

To achieve these goals a consortium was established that included utilities, equipment manufacturers and R&D organizations (Fig.1). This type of partnership is considered vital to ensure that the developments and trials proceed to a successful conclusion.

European Home Systems (EHS) It is possible to build individual home automation or energy management systems using a range of communication hardware, protocols, device controllers and user interface technologies. However, if cost effective systems are to become available, production in high volume is needed. Sufficient volume is unlikely if multiple proprietary standards are adopted, so open standards with inter-operability are considered to be the way forward, hence, ETHOS chose to use the EHS family of standards across the project [Ref.3]. The EHS specification defines the way electronic and electrical devices in and around the home can interact and communicate with each other. It is an open standard for a specific application area, the home. ETHOS uses a range of features across: - Physical media level specifications (on power line and twisted pair). - Communication protocol specification (message structure, addressing and routing). - Application level services (e.g. read the room temperature).

This is simply described as a wide set of application services supported by the single protocol running over multiple communications media, enabling a device to be plugged in and run straight away.

ETHOS is also developing inter-working services and thus demonstrating that EHS inter-operability between equipment built by a range of suppliers both within the project and purchased externally is a reality.

European Pilot Studies Denmark The pilot studies in Denmark include 100 customers located across the country selected in cooperation with their local distribution utility. The customer service functions being studied include: - Multi-utility meter reading (electricity, district heating, natural gas heating and water). - Load and comfort control including lighting, heating and blinds. - Two-way communication by TeleAction, (using functions provided by the telecomm network operator). - Possibility for direct load management and dynamic tariffs by public paging system. - Customer display of consumption and DSM advice on the customer's PC. The Danish trial installation is shown in Fig. 2.

United Kingdom Four regional electricity companies are participating in the UK trials. Each has approximately 100 customers with installations associated with the ETHOS project. A common theme is the use of the intelligent energy use control technology called CELECT. The main goal of one trial is to reduce peak demand on a specific area of an 11-kV network. These DSM benefits are being achieved without affecting customer comfort. Customers now have greater control over their home environment. Figure 3 shows an example of a UK trial installation and the main parameters being monitored.

Italy The trial in Italy has two main components. - The Energy Customer Assistant (ECA) is used to ensure that the maximum demand tariff, which is widely used in Italy for residential customers, does not operate. It prevents loads from being connected that would exceed the tariff value, taking account of the maximum demand of the present loads. The ECA provides metering information that can be displayed on a TV set connected to the IDEA-TV set top box. The IDEA-TV can display different kinds of messages and characters using a bi-directional communication channel based on power line carrier technology, which enables the customer to switch on appliances through use of intelligent sockets communicating using European Home Systems (EHS) power technology. - Automated meter reading service is an extension of the ENEL distribution automation system for the metering of gas, water and heating services and is under a special agreement with the Italian utility, Azienda Servizi Municipalizzati (ASM). It uses a new gateway providing two-way communication between the LV network and the meters equipped with the M-bus interface.

The ECA is particularly important to prioritize and turn off loads in homes that purchase on the basis of a low restricted maximum demand. Figure 4 shows the installation in the Italian trials.

France EDF introduced a new time-of-use tariff in 1995 called TEMPO to encourage the customer to shift usage from peak hours to valley hours or to adapt the level of comfort to the price of energy. The objective of this trial is to test on a large scale an energy management system adapted to the needs of existing installations and TEMPO customers using power line communications technology. Key outputs: - To assess the technical performance of the systems installed in different homes with a range of configurations and user behavior. - To test installers' reactions, customer acceptance and identify the most appreciated functions.

Current Status of the Project Since the three-year project started in October 1995, considerable development of equipment and specification of trial requirements has been completed. Prior to the 1996 winter heating season, the first phase of homes in the United Kingdom were commissioned. Their performance demonstrated the system could meet the needs of key customers such as the elderly and infirm. It is important to recognize that home heating control is a customer critical activity; you know very quickly if the system is not performing. Reliability is a key aspect of domestic systems. There is no skilled support available on site either for changing settings, trouble shooting or even simple repair. Our equipment has to perform as a complete system on demand. The main goal in one trial, a reduction in peak demand on the 11-kV network, was also achieved.

The Italian trials are associated with a large and widespread investment in distribution system automation. The initial installations have now been operational for some time and are performing well.

The ETHOS field trials are scheduled to finish in October 1998, after which the results of this large international co-operative program will be published.

Project Conclusions 1.For a utility to make a successful impact, the right package of tariff, equipment and route to market is key. The take up by installers is a significant component of market acceptance. 2. Customers are positive in their reaction to systems that provide greater comfort levels for same level energy cost. In social housing it has also been found that given this controllable equipment householders would trade up for comfort rather than down for economy. 3. A range of solutions is needed to meet the specific customer and utility goals. In one region/country energy efficiency and environmental concern may be uppermost, in another the need is to bind customers tightly to their supplier in an all-embracing package.

These markets differ from telecommunications where new services can be developed for the business user willing to pay premium rates and then rolled out for domestic use. Domestic utility customers are not great demanders of advanced services until they understand them and accept their ease of use.

For the final year of the project, advanced functions are being added. These projects will include full integration of domestic appliances, for example washing machines and dishwashers.

Summary This European Commission project involves a unique partnership whereby research organizations, electric utilities and equipment manufacturers have coordinated and shared their technical and marketing expertise. This change from the normal business strategy of intense competition seems set to find a cost-effective solution to provide domestic electricity customers with an acceptable range of value-added services. This standardization initiative will bring benefits to all the partners and the utility customers, and through the effective management of energy utilization it will help to satisfy the international targets established to protect the environment.

Acknowledgements ETHOS is supported by the European Union ESPRIT program. The contributions of all the partners to this project are acknowledged. The author is responsible for any errors or inaccuracies and is not making statements on the partners' behalf.

References 1. 'Evaluation of Communications to meet Customer/Utility Requirements for DSM and Value-added Services', J. R. Formby, DA/DSM DistribuTECH Europe, October 14-16, 1997, Amsterdam. 2. 'Two way Communications Project Launched in Europe', Technologies for Energy Management, Volume 4 - No. 3, March 1996 3. European Home Systems Specification Release 1.3, European Home Systems Association (EHSA), Exselsiorlaan 11 - Bus, B-1930 Zaventem, Belgium, March 1997.

Andrew Cross was awarded an honors degree in engineering mathematics at University of Southampton before joining the Electricity Council Research Center (ECRC) at Capenhurst, nr. Chester. He worked on the development of mathematical models for industrial energy processes prior to establishing a new group for research and the development of software for electricity network operation and design. In 1994 he was appointed director of the Power Systems Division of EA Technology where a team of 60 engineers and scientists undertake consultancy, R&D and build solutions for utilities worldwide in asset management, clean power, network development and intelligent control. Cross is a UK representative on the CIRED Committee and Rapporteur for Session 5 'Management and Utilization of Electricity'.

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