Traditional PLC-based smart metering solutions require the installation of PLC data concentrators in remote and unattended second tier substations. PLC Data concentrators handle communications with the different smart meters installed at consumer premises, consolidate the metering data and send it to the AMI management systems.
This option involves storing confidential metering data belonging to consumers at remote and unattended locations, forcing communication devices to optimize data transmission to centralized management systems. Thus, interoperability between management systems and data concentrators in the field is a must.
Private cloud for smart metering would reduce on-field infrastructure complexity, minimizing data storage at remote locations while optimizing the operation of centralized management systems relaying on a reliable communication infrastructure.
On-field infrastructure is minimized by using a unique device per substation, which acts as a gateway between the PRIME PLC network and the IP networks. Therefore, considering that most current deployments involve the combination of PLC concentrators and a communication gateway, the number of on-field devices decreases considerably. Moreover, this new architecture has a very positive side-effect as it results on a significant security improvement due to the disappearance of sensitive data stored at the secondary substations. Sensitive data stored in the concentrators is not stored in the gateway.
Cloud-based and virtual systems are becoming more and more popular thanks to their maintenance efficiencies and scalability advantages. PLC network virtualization leverages the following advantages:
Improving maintenance and operation tasks: Current smart metering deployments involve multiple meter manufacturers and multiple concentrator vendors. Although interoperability among them should be taken for granted due to DLMS/COSEM standardization, different vendors may implement the standards in different ways (having an impact on deployments and troubleshooting operations). Current deployments require coordination of multiple actions from many different vendors. Having a unique concentration point that adapts to every meter in the network simplifies interoperability certification, troubleshooting and corrections at the DLMS layer.
- Improving Reliability: Cloud-based software solutions allow replication of servers in the power utilities core network to provide redundancy and high-availability of service.
- Improving Security: Core metering infrastructure can be strictly secured by different DMZs, advanced firewalls and secure databases.
- Reducing upgrading cost: Multiple AMI management systems can obtain information from this central software unit. If newer standard versions or data modelling are required by newer management systems, modifications are to be made in a unique central system instead of in multiple field devices (which might have memory or throughput limitations for those new features).
Considering the above-mentioned advantages, electric utilities are considering the use of PRIME gateways as a metering solution for deployment in rural areas. There, secondary substations are typically pole-mounted and concentrate a reduced number of meters.
Traditional data concentrators can only be installed in the Secondary substations connected to the MV grid with all the installation constraints related to this requirement.
It is, therefore, important to mention the added versatility and ease of installation the PLC PRIME Communications Gateway brings, as it can be installed not only at the MV grid but also at any point of the LV grid.
Teldat is bringing its more than 30 years of experience in complex communication networks to this new concept. For that reason, Teldat has recently launched a new REGESTA COMPACT PLC family of devices to cover the specific needs of Smart Metering deployments.