With the recent announcement that load shedding schedules could take effect this winter, energy capacity and consumption continues to be a key concern for South Africa. According to Vodacom Business, the enterprise division of Vodacom Group, smart metering can help to restrict “load shedding” and the potential electricity-supply constraints that are already negatively impacting the local economy.
Vuyani Jarana, the head of Vodacom Business said, “Globally, utilities have used smart metering to successfully understand electricity usage and supply management. Locally, the introduction of smart meters, which is legislated in the Electricity Regulations Act of 2006, will allow the utility to implement new business models, such as time of use tariffs. This type of monitoring will help the utility to reduce peak demand while end-users will start to save money as a result of the insights gathered.”
Smart meters facilitate the communication between the utility and the end-user. Through real-time monitoring, utilities are able to measure site-specific information that provides insight into when and how much energy is being used. This allows for more accurate energy usage forecasts and also provides information to encourage end-users to consume energy outside of peak demand times. Smart meters have also been proven to reduce energy losses, and integrate renewable energy more effectively to further reduce carbon output.
“In addition to managing energy consumption, smart metering has the potential to make the greatest impact in improving energy efficiency and reducing energy costs. In fact, as a company we have already deployed around 3 000 smart meters to our sites and have realised significant savings,” said Jarana.
He goes on to add that it is estimated that by introducing smart meters to the UK, the country could save approximately £300 million a year. “I believe that South African businesses and consumers alike would benefit greatly by introducing this technology. As a country we would be able to reduce our carbon output and as consumers we could bring down our energy costs.”
The potential of M2M has not gone unnoticed. The EU, for example, has called for the introduction of smart meters in offices and homes by 2019. These devices will enable people to see exactly how much energy they are consuming in real time and it is expected to lead to a significant reduction in energy consumption.
“This is just the first step for utilities. Once energy supply and demand has been measured and managed, smart meters could be used to help with fraud detection, predict maintenance requirements and lead to smart grids which respond intelligently to variations in supply and demand,” said Jarana.
Smart meters are a component of machine-2-machine (M2M) communication and are being introduced around the world. As countries move towards establishing smart cities M2M communication makes it possible for them to offer an improved quality of life that is safer, greener and more efficient.
Vodacom recently launched a new ‘global data service platform’ (GDSP) for its M2M communications business earlier this year. This platform allows consumers to control SIM-enabled devices remotely from anywhere in the world. The GDSP platform provides utilities with the ability to manage the costs and complexities of deploying large volumes of SIM cards through the lifecycle of the deployment – right from seamless provisioning and activation to monitoring and control of usage.