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Advanced meters: the game-changer giving renewables their place in the sun

By Michael Thornton
Advanced Metering Infrastructure Business Lead

With a long-term annual average of 8.8 hours of sunshine a day, Perth is Australia’s sunniest city.  

It’s unsurprising then that embracing solar and renewables to be part of our energy ecosystem is part of a wider push set out in our State Government’s Energy Transformation Strategy for cleaner, more reliable and low-cost electricity.   

The strategy includes new ways for consumers to share or sell their excess electricity. It includes flexibility for retailers to offer time-of-use tariffs. 

It includes giving customers more information about how they are using their power. It includes community batteries and making best use of Western Australia’s natural advantages. 

But that change needs action. And action is just what Western Power, with the support of our State Government has taken.  

More than 100,000 advanced meters have been installed and are now operational throughout the south west electricity network. We have built the foundation of a radio mesh communication infrastructure and switched on the systems that will read these meters remotely.  

By June 2022, the number of advanced meters will be boosted to nearly half a million. Our advanced metering infrastructure is an enabler to our State’s exciting energy transformation – it simply can’t happen without advanced meters and the more frequent timely data.  

In the same way mobile phones and social media were game changers for communication, advanced metering infrastructure is one of the biggest and most innovative changes we’ll see to energy.  

How? Here’s just some examples of what they mean for our customers:  

An extra layer of safety in homes

If a home has an advanced meter installed Western Power will receive an alert if there are unusual patterns in the electricity flows, which can indicate a possible fault on the service connection to a customer’s property. We will send a field team out to investigate and act if required.  

Cleaner power

The existing network was built to deliver electricity in one direction: from large scale generators to consumers. With increasing amounts of generation from rooftop solar PV, electricity is now flowing two ways and creates new challenges to keep voltage stable.  

One solution would be to invest heavily in more infrastructure. Another would be to impose limits on the size and number of rooftop solar PV systems customers can install on the network. 

Neither outcome is good for customers, nor is it what we want to do.   

Advanced meters offer a solution because they give us a clear picture of power quality data, including the voltage and current levels, and how much renewable electricity is being fed back on to the grid, at regular intervals 24/7.    

That clear picture means more renewables can connect.  

Low-cost electricity

Advanced meters mean that more households can have rooftop solar systems, leading to cost savings for customers. Better data improves our ability to plan the network: we can better predict where our investment will benefit customers the most.  Advanced meters will allow customers to have more visibility about when they are using electricity. 

Advanced meters are a key part of the State Government’s roadmap to guide the integration of solar and small-scale renewables more broadly into the power system, particularly onsite generation, battery storage and energy management systems.   

I’m very proud to have led a passionate team across Western Power who have delivered this program. I would also like to thank our numerous partners that have assisted to date and will continue to do so as we install advanced meters for all our customers over the years to come.

 

A customer outside her house looking at an advanced meter after installation