Enexis is an independent grid operator and one of the largest energy distributors in the Netherlands. Working with energy suppliers, it manages 2 million gas and 2.6 million electricity connections to customers in seven provinces, representing approximately one third of the Dutch market. In 2008, a European Union (EU) directive stipulated that 80% of energy customers must be able to monitor energy consumption by 2020. The Dutch government responded by making a legal requirement for energy operators to install smart metering technology in homes. To meet these targets, Enexis will need to deploy approximately 5 million smart meters, each transmitting energy consumption data once a day, every day. Since 2011, Enexis no longer installs conventional meters, every new meter installed in the grid is a smart meter. This means that during the first few years of rollout, smart meters are installed across the grid. To achieve this, Enexis had several options. Routing data via Power Line Connections (PLC) was impractical because, to work effectively, entire districts would have to install smart meters simultaneously. With the initial rollout limited to replacing faulty meters and new installations, this was not viable. Transmitting data via WiFi, another option, would mean home owners needing a guaranteed connection. “Because we install smart meters that are scattered across our distribution network, the most effective solution was GPRS over M2M SIMs,” says Lonneke Driessen-Mutters, Smart Metering Operations Manager at Enexis. M2M SIMs installed in smart meters would be able to transmit data via Vodafone’s comprehensive mobile coverage in the Netherlands, with no homeowner involvement and minimum installation effort. Enexis invited a number of mobile communications suppliers in the Netherlands to tender. After careful consideration, Vodafone was selected based on cost and service commitments. In addition, Enexis already had a relationship with Vodafone, as they provide approximately 3,000 of the company’s voice and data connections, so they knew the service they could expect. “We’re owned by local government, so our money is public money. The solution had to be cost effective as we have to be careful what we spend,” says Driessen-Mutters.
Enexis is one of the largest energy network operators in the Netherlands, managing around 4.5 million customer connections. As part of a European Union directive that 80% of homes must be able to monitor electricity consumption by 2020, it needed to roll out a secure smart metering solution. Vodafone provides the M2M infrastructure to support the rollout, and offers consultancy on best practice and strategic planning, particularly from its experience in the global energy sector.
A Vodafone SIM is integrated into the smart meter and transmits energy consumption data to and from Enexis’s data centres. An SMS ‘activates’ the smart meter each day, measuring energy consumption data from the home. The smart meter then transmits the data via GPRS and then switches off. This reduces power consumption and keeps transmission costs to a minimum. The SIM installation is supported by Vodafone’s ordering and activation system, using web-based tools to ensure high volumes of SIMs are delivered and managed. Real-time information on every device, including data usage, is integrated into the Enexis back-end systems. Vodafone’s M2M platform manages the SIM throughout its lifecycle including solution design and optimisation, logistics, installation, customer care and customised billing. The initial rollout covered 3,000 smart meters, but has since been extended to approximately 100,000 locations, with plans for a further 150,000 installations in the near future. This will be the natural replacements of conventional meters, added to requests from individual customers who can receive a priority installation of a smart electricity and gas meter for €60. “However, if we only install smart meters as a natural replacement and at the request of a customer, this rate of growth will not be enough to meet the EU targets,” says Driessen-Mutters. “We therefore at some point will expand the rollout by going door to door installing smart meters.”