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EDF Energy, suppliers and the University of Bristol have created a platform that will be able to test the preparedness of IT and communication infrastructures for the huge volumes of traffic expected to result from smart energy metering in the UK.
EDF worked with suppliers and academia on a project to create a software platform that will test the resilience of networks that will be used to move traffic related to the smart metering programme.
Under the GB Smart Metering Implementation Programme (SMIP), 50 million smart meters will be installed in homes and businesses in the UK, and a data and communications infrastructure will be set up to transfer data between smart meters in homes and businesses and the yet-to-be-established Central Data and Communications Company (DCC) which will manage the data.
EDF worked with BT and smart metering technology company PassivSystems to build the platform, known as Closing the Loop for Everybody's Energy Resources (CLEVER). The project was funded by the Technology Strategy Board. The technology and networking expertise was provided by the suppliers, and EDF supported it by creating scenarios that could occur when the smart metering project is live.
The three-year project, which also involved 3C Research and the University of Bristol, built a computer simulation platform that represents and models the smart metering information systems, communications networks and infrastructure, from the enterprise management systems through to the metering equipment.
"The UK smart meter roll-out programme is one of the most ambitious undertakings the country has seen," said Ash Pocock, project participant and head of industry, regulation and external affairs at EDF Energy. "But with such a project, no-one really knows how the performance of the complex communications and meter data management systems and dynamic traffic volumes will take effect. We need to understand these issues as early in the process as possible, and CLEVER enables us to do exactly that."
The models were built by University of Bristol and EDF Energy using communications network topologies proposed by BT and metering transaction scenarios developed by EDF Energy.
The project could be available to the entire energy industry if talks between the companies in the project, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and electricity regulator Ofgem come to fruition.
"CLEVER's real value will be as an industry-wide tool and we are in talks with DECC and Ofgem to use it to de-risk the entire UK smart meter programme." said Geraint Jones, project leader at 3C Research. "The ability to provide a large-scale simulator to answer questions based upon a wider variety of complex scenarios, strategies, traffic patterns, volume of installed meters and network architectures will be invaluable to the smart meter roll-out programme and all its stakeholders."
Being able to predict the pressure on the infrastructure will be critical in ensuring costs do not run out of control and industry is being encouraged to play a critical role in the smart metering project.
The National Audit Office said it expects the cost of implementing smart meters across the UK to exceed the current budget of £11.3bn. Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs the Committee of Public Accounts, said in July that the government's track record on delivering large programmes is patchy at best. "At the moment, the estimated cost is £11.3bn, but all our experience suggests that this budget will be blown," she said.
Photo by Tom Raftery on Flickr
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