‘Towards the Smarter Utility’ – Highlights Scale of Challenge Facing the Industry

Stratford HotelKey decision makers from some of the leading UK energy and infrastructure businesses met on 18th May in Stratford-upon-Avon to discuss the scale of the challenge presented by the proposed roll out of Smart Grid technology in the UK.

This year’s event focused on the major challenges and opportunities of delivering a Low Carbon platform for the UK, and examined the unique challenges presented by new metering technologies and the need for building and integrating smarter networks into the current infrastructure.

This was the tenth year of this event, which was presented under the Centre for Essential Industries initiative – an on-going programme of conferences, events, papers and roundtable discussions organised by AMT-SYBEX in conjunction with our clients and industry partners.

We were delighted that the event could also be attended by IBM, with whom AMT-SYBEX has been working for over a decade on high performance database solutions.

Working with IBM Research at their Innovation Centre in Hursley we have recently developed Smart DTS, a next-generation version of our Data Transfer Solution (DTS) for Smart Meter Data Management that uses IBM Informix TimeSeries DataBlade technology to manage enormous volumes of sequential meter readings and interval data in a rapid and reliable manner, without requiring extensive investment in IT infrastructure.

“Towards the smarter utility”, was one of the best received yet, with delegates enjoying a high level of networking activity plus useful discussion which examined the Smart theme from a variety of perspectives such as:

  • The potential impact of smarter grids on the Network Infrastructure companies and regulatory bodies
  • The implication of the introduction of smart meters on the energy and utility suppliers
  • The role and readiness of technology providers to enable the Low Carbon market and impacts of smart metering
  • The customer perspective and what all this may deliver for them

The fifty-strong audience, made up of key business and technology decision makers, were involved in interactive discussion and detailed presentation sessions from:

  • Alan Claxton; Director of Energy Futures, Energy Networks Association
  • Iain Matthews; Smart Metering Marketing Development Manager, Energy Retail, Scottish Power
  • Vivian Corbett; npower Smart programme
  • Darren Bentham; Director, Universal Metering Programme, Southern Water
  • Duncan Sedgwick; Advisor to the Energy Sector
  • Mark Thompson; AMT-SYBEX
  • Andy Stanford-Clarke; Distinguished Engineer, CTO Smarter Energy, IBM Global Business Services.

Response at the event was exceptional with a very high calibre of presentations and lively, entertaining and sometimes controversial discussion topics. The resounding note from the day was that while the industry faces a challenge, it is achievable provided all parties work together and have clear, open and honest communication with each other and the end consumer.

A number of themes emerged from the day:

  • Industry must lead, the government have set the mandate for the roll out of smart meters by 2019 and whilst some of the requirements are unclear, the industry must step forward collectively to meet the challenge
  • This necessitates beginning to take action – focusing less on uncertainty or what cannot be done – and moving forward to what can be done
  • Lessons can be learned from the experience of other countries and industries, particularly large scale communications to the general public, e.g. the roll out of the Digital TV switchover
  • Customer engagement and early experiences with the new technology will drive the profile of deployment
  • Special effort must be made to help customers understand the benefits of the technology to them. This will improve the perception of the roll out, improve access rates to homes for meter installations and will be a key factor in ensuring success
  • A key element for the industry would be to ensure energy systems and processes are flexible enough to adapt to changing requirements

Presentation Overview
The Smart Grid Challenge, Alan Claxton
“The road to the smarter grid” discusses the UK energy policy and the low carbon transition plans, and how it will provide the foundations for smart grids.

Beyond The Prospectus: The Retailer’s Challenge, Iain Matthews
The expectations and timelines for SMART have been set, but the retailers’ challenge remains in terms of technology, data, consumers and more.

Smart Metering: From Strategy to Implementation, Vivian Corbett
Reviewing npower’s Smart programme structure, Vivian presented the impact of Smart, including the strategy and implementation challenge facing all energy retailers.

The Challenge for Network Businesses, Darren Bentham
In his presentation Darren covered the lessons learned so far by Southern Water in the Universal Metering Programme and the issues facing a network business when dealing with consumers and the similar challenges and issues that the energy industry may face.

The Customer Challenge, Duncan Sedgwick
This customer focused presentation, demonstrated typical attitudes that consumers are likely to have in regards to Smart and its impact, a case study from Digital UK being used as a good example of the lessons learned from a large scale change project.

The Smart Metering Experience in New Zealand, Mark Thompson
Mark shared his experience and lessons learned of smart metering in New Zealand and how it might compare with a smart meter roll out across the UK.

The Smart Planet, Andy Stanford-Clarke
Andy Stanford –Clarke looks at the first steps towards a smart grid, by first addressing the smart meter, the benefits of it from a business perspective and the uses of it for consumers especially in regards to awareness of their energy usage.