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Smart meters are being installed throughout Europe but have been hindered by a lack of trust in the new technology
Smart meters are a new type of electricity meter that provide consumers with information on their energy usage in real time and can send regular meter readings automatically to suppliers. They can also identify and respond to power outages more quickly to better balance supply and demand.
Currently, smart meters are tested under the Measurement Instrument Directive (MID) using simple signals which contain a fixed amount of interference.
However, these tests for interference are not representative of the real-world conditions that these meters encounter. Modern devices such as power electronics, that process high voltages and currents, can cause ‘spikes’ of interference that are not covered by the MID test.
A 2016 study by University of Twente (Netherlands) indicated that some meters that had passed MID testing failed to give accurate measurements when exposed to high frequency interference conducted on the power line as may occur in a real-world situation. Under certain interference conditions, some makes of meter recorded energy consumption readings almost 600% higher, undermining confidence in this new technology.
The completed EMPIR project Electromagnetic Interference on Static Electricity Meters (17NRM02, MeterEMI) has helped to resolve this problem.
During the project the consortium collected waveforms at real-world metered supply points, where the smart meters are connected, and used these to generate a set of simplified waveform data that was ratified by replicating meter problems that occurred.
The project went on to develop an arbitrary wave generating testbed which was used to test 16 EU smart meters representative of those produced by manufacturers and electricity suppliers from around Europe. This revealed errors in several models of the meters when exposed to both appliance-generated and on-site waveforms captured at real metered supply points.
This testing has led to new prototype normative procedures for the future routine type-approval testing of meters in the presence of realistic interference. Discussions are currently underway in CENELEC TC13 WG01 which have been instigated by the results of this project. New normative testing procedures are expected to follow in the near future. When agreement in CENELEC is settled, then discussions with the IEC will follow to see whether there would be a requirement to develop general immunity standards for such disturbances/phenomena.
Dr Paul Wright (NPL) who coordinated the project said about the work performed:
“This collaborative work will support electricity consumers and manufacturers of meters across Europe by assuring confidence that all electricity meters bill accurately whatever the type of real-world interference they are exposed to. Our colleagues in Europe’s standards committees are building on this pan-European R&D work and are developing normative standards for electricity meters”
Other project outputs include
- An optical isolation amplifier was developed which provides the necessary electrical separation of various parts of the test circuit, essential to protect personnel and equipment.
- Developed a ‘benchmark’ meter and published its design to help settle any customer disputes related to the billing accuracy of their installed electricity meter. The benchmark meter is portable and small so that it can be installed in confined spaces, connected in parallel with the customers meter and left in-situ for a prolonged period. The meter also records the waveforms so that they can be used for further diagnostic investigations.
This research will allow meter manufacturers to provide smart meters that are free from environmental interference, prevent under or over-billing to customers and restore confidence in the use of smart meters in the electricity supply chain.
This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.
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