Mälarenergi chose a wireless metering solution, when the Swedish government decided that all consumers must be monthly billed by 2009 - a strategy which pays off on the threshold of smart grid.

The Swedish smart metering experience

Handling renewables and electromagnetic disturbances

Many Swedish utilities merely chose to comply with the minimum requirements and decided to go for the immediately easiest system solution: electricity meters with monthly loggers and data transmission via power cables.

But since 2009, the world has changed a lot: The percentage of renewables is growing (Sweden has been instructed by the EU to increase the percentage of renewables to 49 % before 2020); the combination and number of electronic applications in homes including everything from energy saving light bulbs, heat pumps and chargers have changed significantly, and this picture is still changing.

A smart grid for handling renewables and a consumption pattern in tremendous change require more data from the low-voltage network and a higher performance on the communication with the electricity meters.

Therefore many electricity utilities are changing from PLC to wireless radio reading to comply with the new requirements.

Higher performance with radio-mesh meter reading.

At Mälarenergi, they today consider themselves lucky to have made the right decision for the major part from the beginning.

The managing director of Mälarenergi, Mats Håkansson, expresses it in the following way: “The first meters from Kamstrup had surplus capacity: energy registration in four quadrants, cut-off relay, voltage quality measurement, integrated data logger, etc. This was much more than we could make use of. But today, these features are being used, and among other things, we benefit a lot from the four quadrant measurement as many customers have mounted solar cell panels and can now be net settled.”

Dealing with electromagnetic noise

Another important parameter for Mälarenergi was the communication technology itself. From the beginning, the company chose to focus mostly on radio communication because of worries about electromagnetic disturbances in the power cables.

Electromagnetic noise disturbs the data transmission in PLC solutions (Power Line Communication), whereas wireless communication solutions by its very nature do not have these problems.

Sweden is in particular a very good example of how electromagnetic noise reduces the reading performance in a PLC system, making it a problem to collect data in time. For a great part of this noise, it originates from the comprehensive replacement of incandescent bulbs with energy saving bulbs.

Mälarenergi has a compound system for remote reading with 75,000 Kamstrup electricity meters read via radio and approx. 25,000 other meters read via PLC. To avoid electromagnetic disturbances, a low transmission frequency is used for the meters read by PLC, but thus the speed is correspondingly slow, and the communication reveals itself as being unfit for smart grid purposes.

From the beginning Mälarenergi chose to focus mostly on radio communication because of worries about electromagnetic disturbances in the power cables.

"To us, the integration between Kamstrup's communication infrastructure and Tekla's DMS is a real smart grid application as it provides us with detailed insight into the distribution network. This makes targeted troubleshooting and better customer service possible at the same time. And then this kind of technical integration eases the administrative works significantly.”

- Mats Håkansson, Managing Director, Mälarenergi

Network optimization

Through system integration

Mälarenergi's more forward-looking approach to smart metering is visible in the fact that the meter is considered to be much more than a cash register.

The company soon saw a number of other advantages of remote reading in relation to the optimisation of the supply network, and Mälarenergi was thus already from the beginning aligned with smart grid.

“Of course, the most important factor for us was to be able to provide our customers with correct, monthly billing of their actual consumption as payment on account is not very customer-friendly. But we also had an eye for how to utilise the technology to reap more advantages, among other things to get better insight in the supply network,” Mats Håkansson says.

To benefit better from the meters, Mälarenergi integrated the remote reading system with their Distribution Management System (DMS) by means of a so-called DMS AMR module. For some time, Mälarenergi had used the much applied DMS from Finnish Tekla as the most important link between the meters in the low-voltage network and the SCADA system.

Tekla's DMS is coupled with the electricity meters which can send a number of vital information directly to DMS for analysis purposes. Among other things, this applies to information about missing phases, overvoltage and undervoltage as well as push alarms in case of phase breaks.

Partnership between Tekla and Kamstrup

In 2012, Tekla and Kamstrup entered into a formal partnership ensuring easy integration of data from the Kamstrup meters with Tekla's DMS.

The partnership between Tekla and Kamstrup ensures that the companies adapt each of their systems to each other to keep integration works at a minimum.

Via Tekla DMS, Mälarenergi can send requests to a meter during a conversation with a customer to find any errors; and after repair of power outages, a so-called clean-up request can be sent out to relevant meters via DMS to check if all customers have their power back.

Open standards reduce the complexity

Mälarenergi thus proves the advantage of the transparent systems used by the suppliers. Open protocols and the use of standard components reduce the complexity of large system solutions, and this is exactly one of Mälarenergi's requirements to the smart grid of the future.

With the future-proof solution and the many experiences of remote reading, Mälarenergi is well equipped to step into the era of smart grid. However, some rocks must be removed, and some prerequisites must be fulfilled. Mats Håkansson mentions fewer systems and a faster infrastructure which among other things mean a plan to replace the PLC meters with another type of meters where radio mesh is a strong alternative. Then Mälarenergi will be one step further to getting cut-off information in real time and faster reaction to events and will have better possibilities of troubleshooting the low-voltage network.

A significant simplification of the system architecture is achieved because only one technology will be needed, namely one and the same radio mesh system which can communicate with both electricity, water and heat meters. Mälarenergi thereby again sets an example in designing its smart grid so that it also includes other consumption types than electricity. 

Mälarenergi is one of Sweden’s largest energy companies and has been a Kamstrup-customer since 2001.
Mälarenergi is a multi-utility delivering electricity to 144,000 customers, water and district heating to 15,000 customers and broadband to 54,500 households and 2.250 companies.

Metering system:
  • 75,000 Kamstrup electricity meters with Radio-Mesh communication infrastructure.
  • Kamstrup heat meters and water meters integrated.
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