Typical Challenges faced in Implementing Meter Data Management Systems in Utility Distribution Space - Indian Context
Guest post by
Dilesh Deepak Dattani, Consultant, Oracle Practice, Enterprise Solutions, Infosys Technologies Ltd.
A lot of Indian companies in Utility Space have either already started or in the process of starting implementation of IT Systems to which would help in increasing their operational efficiency and reducing costs. In this post I would like to highlight some of the typical challenges which we come across in such implementation projects in India.
- One of the very important aspects in implementing a Meter Data Management (MDM) System is the parameters which the meters can record and provide to the system for downstream activities. A very common challenge in the utility space is the lack of a proper standard which governs the number of parameters that a meter is supposed to give. As a result of this, today in India we have meters of various makes which provide wide range of parameters. There is a lack of consistency in the parameters provided. That is the parameters provided are different across the meter manufacturers. This makes it difficult to design a system which could use these for various purposes like Billing, Reporting, and Energy Accounting etc. Moreover most of the meters in place, use different protocols and it becomes difficult for the head end system to be configured for receiving inputs from meters of different makes.
- Another challenge of implementing Meter Data Management Systems in a country like India is the Regulatory Rules which exists here for various functions like Estimation, Billing. Usually such rules would have been formed based on the older methods of data collection and billing. By Implementing Meter Data Management Systems the granularity of data available changes drastically and hence the regulatory rules too need to be in accordance with that. In absence of proper regulation rules there are risks pertaining to litigation by the end customer.
- Communication Systems and the coverage of the same becomes extremely crucial for implementation of such projects because it is the communication system which determines the speed and accuracy with which the data from meters reach the MDM. It is based on this data that all the subsequent downstream activities like reporting, billing , energy audit etc takes place. In a place like India this could be a big challenge as the consistency in connectivity is not guaranteed especially in remote areas.
- Yet another crucial aspect in any MDM implementation is getting the attributes of meters installed in the field. Invariably it so happens that a Survey needs to happen to provide the details for the meter. Besides this, information pertaining to the hierarchy of assets like feeders, transformers etc which are needed for doing an energy audit are also obtained through these surveys. There are multiple challenges in performing an accurate and fast survey. One of the issues is that the details/attributes of the meter which are usually printed on it are either wiped out completely or illegible. Moreover certain attributes pertaining to the meter has to be configured when the meter is installed. Hence Survey cannot provide these attributes and the only way is to extract the data by having a head end meter read system. An example would be Meter Serial Number which can be used as a unique identifier for the meter might not be directly available externally.