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Turning data into business value

Aaland Islands, Finland

Precise billing, a better grid overview, improved customer service and smooth integration of renewables are among the benefits Åland’s power distributor has experienced from their smart grid investment.

For Åland’s Elandelslag (ÅEA), their OMNIA solution from Kamstrup marks the switch from simple AMR to a complete high-performing smart metering system including 15,500 smart meters, a wireless infrastructure and a meter data management system.

The switch was motivated by a combination of the shortcomings of their current 10+ year-old system and Finland’s legislative requirements for utilities to be able to do hourly readings. With the rapid developments in the area of smart metering, ÅEA knew that a new and advanced system would give them more data, which would allow them to make more precise estimations as well as offer their customers fact-based service and an improved product experience.
From pilot to turnkey
After a successful pilot, ÅEA chose Kamstrup for their turnkey project. “Rather than running several systems in parallel, we needed one that we could rely on. Getting the full solution from the same supplier makes everything easier, including integration with other systems,” explains David Karlsson, CEO of ÅEA.

The actual meter roll-out began in 2014 and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2018. “We have about 5,500 meters still to go, so we are about two thirds in,” says David Karlsson. Currently, between 100 and 150 meters are installed every week and the benefits of the new system are already very clear.

“Rather than running several systems in parallel, we needed one that we could rely on. Getting the full solution from the same supplier makes everything easier, including integration with other systems.”

-  David Karlsson, CEO of ÅEA.

The benefits of real-time data

Both ÅEA and their customers have experienced a number of benefits from the new metering solution, says David Karlsson: “As soon as a meter is powered up and taken into use, we use the meter for invoicing, so there’s no delay for customers.” As the new meters display the hourly consumption instead of the daily consumption, it also makes it easier for ÅEA’s customers to keep track of their electricity consumption. 

But the main benefits lie in the possibilities that come with more frequent data. In addition to now being able to bill customers more accurately, the data from the grid gives ÅEA more insight into the distribution network in terms of power quality, voltage quality profiles etc. resulting in more precise diagnostics, focused trouble shooting and targeted investments.

Fact-based service
Previously, when a customer called ÅEA about a supply problem, the company often had to send someone to the customer’s house even though in many cases the problem turned out to be a simple fuse that needed to be switched. With the new system, these unnecessary, costly and time-consuming service visits have been heavily reduced. 

Today, when a customer calls, ÅEA is both able to evaluate the need for a service visit and to better advise the customer on what to do. David Karlsson explains: “The value of having more frequent data is the knowledge it gives us so that we can have smarter conversations with our customers when they call. The conversations we have now are based on facts.”
The same goes for getting a quick and full overview after one of the storms known to hit the Aaland Islands. Being able to get a full overview in the control room of every meter in the grid will help to target efforts after a storm. David Karlsson calls it a more intelligent process of elimination.

The new and much more advanced system also allows ÅEA to switch off the electricity to customers remotely, which is a huge advantage. Previously, it could take hours to get to the customer e.g. in the event of power quality issues or delayed payments.

“The value of having more frequent data is the knowledge it gives us so that we can have smarter conversations with our customers when they call. The conversations we have now are based on facts.”

-  David Karlsson, CEO of ÅEA.
Smooth renewables integration
Over the course of the last few years, the interest in renewables and micro production has increased among ÅEA’s customers. The company expects prosumers to become an important part of the electricity market in the Nordic region in the future, which places new demands on the grid. 

This was an important factor for the company in choosing their metering solution says David Karlsson: “We bought all the new meters with the functionality to measure consumption as well as handle production. In that way, if a customer with solar panels produces more power than he needs, it goes back into the grid, and we then pay the customer for the surplus.”
This ensures a fair and lower electricity bill for the customer and makes solar panels more attractive, which benefits the environment. 

ÅEA is also able to see if a customer has installed solar panels without informing them. This is of course valuable knowledge because the company needs to know the exact amount and location of production in the grid. Even more important though is the safety issue involved if ÅEA is not able to go out and check that panels are installed correctly, which may otherwise jeopardize the safety of people working on the grid, e.g. in connection with a power failure.

Looking forward, ÅEA’s focus continues to be on the value of data, says David Karlsson.

“For us, it’s about getting the most out of the data we have. Going forward, we are looking into using hourly values for grid calculations. This will enable us to make more precise estimations rather than building our grid on assumptions. Assumption is one thing – knowledge is something else”.

-  David Karlsson, CEO of ÅEA.

About the case:

Comprehensive OMNIA Smart Grid system, including:

• 15,500 smart meters
• Wireless communication infrastructure
• Meter data management system

Timeframe: 2014-2018

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