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New possibilities with smart metering

After replacing more than half of its 56,000 meters with Kamstrup smart meters, the district heating supplier of Denmark’s second largest city, AffaldVarme Aarhus, has already reduced its water loss by 100 m3 a day. The utility expects to halve the payback period on its EUR 33 million investment with further optimisations based on frequent data.

In 2012, when faced with replacing two thirds of its worn out heat meters, AffaldVarme Aarhus (AVA), decided it might as well make the changeover in the most financially viable way possible. This meant replacing all its meters with remotely read meters as well as introducing leak surveillance and enhancing consumer involvement as part of smart metering solution from Kamstrup.
 
The increased amount of data has enabled a whole new level of analysis, troubleshooting and improvement options, and thus, the solution is also part of the plan for Aarhus to achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral in 2030.
 
Less water wasted and lower costs
In addition to providing a better overview of the heat consumption, the metering solution ensures that leakages are detected faster in the 2,000 km district heating network that daily supplies heating to almost 300,000 people.
AVA previously lost about 285 cubic metres (m3) of water per day. The utility expected the implementation of smart meters to reduce daily water loss by 50 m3 resulting in savings of around Euros 240,000 per year. At the moment, with just over 20,000 new meters not yet in operation, AVA has already reduced losses by 100 m3 per day – to the benefit of their bottom line as well as the environment. 
 
The smart meter roll out also gives AVA valuable knowledge about the state of their distribution network, which used to be an unknown factor. For instance, the utility did not know the condition of mains or if the dimensioning of pipes was optimal. 
 
"Today, we have the full overview of the network and that knowledge is our basis for managing and optimising the network in the most efficient way possible,” says Erik Brender, project manager at AffaldVarme Aarhus.
Moreover, AVA has practically eliminated administrative expenses for rectifying missing or incorrect readings. This provides their customers with both a safer and a less expensive heat supply – not to mention precise and accurate billing. 
 
Similarly, due to increased insights, customer service has been improved significantly and AVA is able to better identify and advise customers on how to optimise their heat system. 
 
Together with remote meter reading, AVA also introduced electronic meter controls meaning that heat meters check their own measuring precision using two identical flow meters and three temperature sensors. This saves AVA the costly annual process of sending engineers out to thousands of meters to carry out tests and replacements. In the same way, consumers are spared engineers' visits, which will be stopped two years after installation is completed.

”We did a business case for the project, but already now the results have exceeded our expectations. If we continue to see these kinds of results, I expect us to recoup our investment in perhaps just half of the meters’ expected 16-year lifetime,”

Erik Brender, project manager at AffaldVarme Aarhus

Transparency enables improved energy efficiency

As the business conditions for the heating area as a whole are changing, AVA will be more dependent on quickly and continuously determining how the heating system can be operated most economically hour by hour. 
 
This necessitates the kind of transparency in the distribution network that can only come from the large amount of frequent and accurate meter data made possible with remote reading. 
 
For example, comparing the customers’ consumption history with how much heat the utility bought, used and lost – and at what price – enables AVA to better match the heat production with the amount of heat they actually sell.
Also, if, prognostically, the utility can see that the temperature is likely to drop, it can use that knowledge to plan production optimally and, for instance, start building up heat in the network. 
 
Erik Brender expects that within a year, AVA will have established a smart heat grid which links production data with consumption meter data.
 
This will provide the utility with unprecedented opportunities for using historical data, consumption patterns, energy performance of buildings and more to further optimise the energy efficiency of its heat supply.

Meter data provides knowledge

For AVA, the shift to intelligent district heating has also meant an entirely new way of using meter data. This includes using meter data for more than just billing and giving customers direct access to their own data in the eButler app – Kamstrup’s online solution for visualising meter data.
 
A study by the Danish Technological Institute based on interviews of approximately 1,200 customers shows that, out of the 29% who tried using eButler, 73 % have used it again. They are generally very satisfied and have achieved substantial savings as a result of reducing their heat consumption based on the information in eButler. For the utility, the solution also opens up to a more valuable cooperation with the individual district heating customer which leads to further opportunities for operational savings in the distribution network.
 
Another example of out-of-the-box thinking with regards to the potential of meter data, is AVA’s idea to use a service meter – or technical meter – to acquire knowledge. The technical meter is a completely standardised meter, but instead of being used for billing purposes, it is used to gain detailed information on, for instance, the behaviour of residents or energy performance of buildings when compared to historical data or a reference house. This enables AVA to target their energy efficiency efforts even more effectively.

About the project

  • 56,000 district heating connections
  • Automated meter reading
  • System operation by Kamstrup
  • Leak surveillance
  • Electronic meter control
  • Time frame: 2012-2017

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