Echelon Corporation has announced two new additions to its family of second-generation intelligent, communicating electricity meters for use with Echelon's Networked Energy Services (NES) advanced metering system. The new meters expand the reach of the NES system to include the ability to communicate with heat, water, and gas meters over the NES communications infrastructure as well as the ability to offer sophisticated prepaid service plans to customers.
The market for smart meters is estimated at nearly 1.28 billion units worldwide--1 billion of which are outside the North American market. The new meters include a built-in Meter-Bus (M-Bus) interface (the European standard for connecting various consumption meters), making Echelon's NES System a leading candidate for the entire European and Asian automated meter management (AMM) and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) market. The NES system provides an open, bidirectional, and extensible infrastructure that enables a comprehensive range of utility applications that can bring benefits to every aspect of a utility's operation, from metering, to customer services, to distribution operations, to value-added services.
"Many European and Asian utilities provide multiple services to their customers, for example both electricity and heat, or electricity and gas," said Jeff Johnson, director of NES Product Management. "This means that the utility has multiple meters at the customer site, typically all near one another. With our new single and poly phase meters, we enable utilities to easily connect additional meters to the electricity meter and, through the NES advanced metering infrastructure, remotely monitor and manage these meters. The net result is lower operating cost for the utility and better service to their customers."
The inclusion of the M-Bus interface, a wired interface popular in heat, water, and gas meters, enables the NES meters to act as an "M-Bus master" for up to four attached M-Bus devices, allowing these devices to report alarms and be read over the network on schedule or on demand, and to be profiled over time.
The new meters also include an advanced set of features designed to enable utilities to offer prepaid tariff plans to their customers. Built-in prepayment features include an audible low-credit alarm, time-of-use reporting, and configurable emergency credit levels. Prepayment meters are ideal for consumers looking to manage their energy expenses. Traditionally, prepayment plans have required dedicated prepayment meters and dedicated prepayment infrastructure. With the NES system, any meter can be remotely converted into or out of acting as a prepayment meter, eliminating the need for dedicated infrastructure and meters, and the cost and consumer inconvenience associated with a service visit to change out the meter. This makes prepay features more available to consumers and lower cost and more flexible for utilities.
In addition, as with all NES meters, Echelon's new meters enable a comprehensive set of energy services, including: two-way automated meter reading; multi-tiered billing; time-of-use and real-time pricing; remote electrical disconnect and reconnect; distribution system asset optimization; electricity outage detection and restoration management; blackout and brownout elimination; comprehensive revenue protection; real-time direct load control; power quality measurement; and extensive tamper detection features. Taken as a whole, this set of features yields significant installation, operational, and life-cycle cost savings -- with a typical payback period of two to five years for most utilities.