Surprised not to have stirred up a hornet's nest when he first ranted about smart metering, our resident cantankerous commentator has another go, arguing smart grids are great - but we still need more power first if we are to meet our future power needs

A while back I had a slightly tongue in cheek, albeit opinionated, outburst about the concept of smart metering. I implied that electricity companies would welcome smart meters in homes because it benefits them to a far greater extent than it would consumers. While I still hold this to be largely true, I was surprised not to have been pilloried and castigated - among the more polite descriptions - for my somewhat outlandish comments. Maybe I was actually on the button.

More surprisingly, I didn't get a lambasting from those involved in smartening up the grid, because I hadn't specifically drawn a distinction between home metering and intelligent distribution metering.

What has prompted this month's diatribe was a conversation I had recently with one the people who sits on Beama's smart grid committee. He is a very practical chap and heads up what is probably the UK's sole remaining (albeit highly successful) manufacturer of switchgear and protection relays for power stations, DNOs and others.

He, like me, sees no future for Britain's power generation that does not include a large nuclear component, so we had much in common to begin with. Still, with Chris Huhne's latest u-turn, we may yet see an advance in our build programme.

We drifted onto the subject of smart metering and while I had felt that the earliest investment should come in reducing transmission and, more significantly, distribution losses, it seems that smart metering on the grid can at least alleviate or mitigate for some of those losses through greater efficiency. As we chatted it became clear that we shared a concern as to how all this might be implemented.

One of my great concerns relates to our privatised electricity sector. Nobody can ever accuse me of being a left winger, but I remain bothered about the incentive for private providers to invest in what is, in the main, a truly crumbling infrastructure. Naturally, the laws of physics dictate that there be losses in the transmission of power - especially in places where lengthy cable runs exist. But that doesn't excuse or explain subsequent losses in the distribution networks. It has long been held that for every 1kW of electricity used by consumers, as much as 3kW must be generated.

Dr Howard Porter, chief operating officer of Beama stated earlier this year that: "Crucially to make the ‘smart revolution' happen and realise the potential smart technology opportunities open to us, the energy and electrical sectors must ensure the right pan-industry skills are in place. We must be on the pulse of - and harness - convergence and the rapid developments in telephony, which will have a major role in network and smart grid solutions". I say hear hear to that. But, while the technology, expertise and cooperation may be able to be put in place, that does nothing to address any potential lack of will.

I see quite clearly how a smart grid would benefit control of energy consumption. I remain unconvinced that in isolation - without massive investment in generation (nuclear) and infrastructure renewal (from substations to cabling and transformers to switchgear) - such control delivers long term solutions to energy requirements.
The question is what is our priority? Part of me says we must champion the implementation of new smart grid technology. Another says that state of the art control of wholly inadequate power generation is less desirable than an archaic but plentiful supply.

For the nation's health, what's needed first, a state of the art kitchen with computer controlled appliances, or a ready supply of fresh ingredients?

Electrical equipment manufactured for the EU is designed to operate with an incoming supply of between 207V and 253V, which means electrical equipment has to accept a range of input voltages about its nominal design centre. But if the actual supply is higher than the necessary minimum the equipment will often consume excess power. For example, a resistive load subjected to a 5% overvoltage will consume 10.25% more power than necessary.  This excess consumption reduces equipment lifespan and increases ownership costs.

A factor key to relationships, marriage, keeping customers happy and probably life in general, is communication. In this respect, little technological black boxes installed in buildings are no different to human beings says Lee Harvey, director at ICS (Eastern)

Technology coming together and being installed on site, is similar to humans getting together in a meeting. Even the most intelligent group of individuals gathered together needs a chairman to control proceedings. Without a chairman, the temperature can quickly rise as everyone starts yelling at each other with no one listening. Everyone has information, everyone has a point of view and everyone has their own agenda.

In addition, all parties need to speak the same language. Any non-English speaking stranger would not understand the rest of the meeting. This forces them to just carry on doing their own thing, probably at odds with everyone else.  

The need for a chairman
Driven by technology, every building system manufacturer wishes to add value to their product range. Over the years, every supplier has added more intelligence into their building management system (BMS) or packaged unit. The greater the brain, the greater the perceived value and the more a supplier can charge. Packages such as window controls, split units, chillers, boilers, ventilation stacks and an overall BMS each aim to be as efficient as possible, and subsequently as dominant as possible.

Each system is often standalone and manages specific processes. This frequently results in one system trying to heat an area whilst another fights to cool it. The HVAC control will heat a classroom, whilst the window control, possibly set at a slightly lower set-point, will let all the hard earned warm air out to meet its pre-set target. This is very inefficient, costly and certainly increases a building’s carbon footprint, all in an age where green is good. Equally, the natural ventilation system, with its own controls, CO2 sensor and user interface, may fight against the under-floor heating. The end user, for example the teacher, could have two or three local user interfaces (displays, controls, dials etc) to understand.

And so a chairman is required. A BMS that has an overall view of the state of the building can call the shots, decide who speaks, who stays silent and who acquiesces. There has to be a system that takes a step back, assesses the control strategy required, and presents all the data to the facilities team via graphic interfaces. This marriage of technology does not need a Relate councillor, it needs a strong chairman who sets down the meeting rules and controls the agenda.

A common language
For twenty years, the building management industry has suffered from ‘Lost in Translation’. The capability for every electronic box to speak the same language has been hindered, not because of technological barriers, but because of political or commercial barriers. These common languages (open protocols) that allow systems to seamlessly work together such as BACnet, Echelon and Modbus have been promised for many years. I truly believe these technologies have now come of age and genuinely allow systems to seamlessly work together. They allow integration between complementary and competing packages. Many manufacturers still insist on proprietary protocols, which lock a client into a system for life. The only way they can extend a system is to buy more of the same. This leads not only to a lack of choice for the client, but is detrimental to the communication required for energy efficiency.

From a life cycle point of view, the client is unable to extend their system with an alternative competing system. Customers are bound to the same product source with the obvious consequence on pricing. From a construction point of view, complementary hardware cannot talk to each other and share data without open protocols. If nothing else, systems can share the same sensor inputs rather than each have their own temperature, humidity or CO2 sensors. This reduces the amount of peripheral hardware and associated cabling required, thus a smarter building ensues. When complementary systems work together, data is downloaded from adjacent systems, alleviating the need to manually enter data multiple times. For example, BMSs can automatically import set-points, frequencies, currents and speeds from drives or faults and flow temperatures and loading values from chillers.

A combined solution
Sometimes, you find a gem of a building management system. One that not only has open protocol, but also has a wide range of different applications combined within one system. When this happens, control disciplines such as HVAC, security access, lighting and other monitoring and control systems can be installed as part of one package.

When a meeting is attended by like-minded individuals, with a good chairperson, all singing from the same song sheet, then the result can be the clichéd 1 + 1 = 3.  When one combined system controls multiple disciplines, capital costs are reduced. The installation requires fewer networks, graphics PCs, project coordination, subcontractors, training, sales overhead, meetings, documentation and preliminary costs. In addition, with fewer suppliers involved, there is less wasted time with everyone arguing ‘it’s their fault’ when systems won’t communicate with each other. It is also less costly to add resilience to a single networked system, than seven different systems, all requiring their own redundant network.

A combined solution to HVAC, access control etc promotes a more efficient system across the life cycle of the installation. Operators can standardise on one system thinking. They have one system to familiarise themselves with, along with fewer training courses. An organisation has more opportunities for holiday, shift and sickness cover with different disciplines covering for each other. There are fewer maintenance visits required as single visits can cover both the HVAC maintenance and the access control maintenance. Stock levels are reduced and the local facility management team only need one supplier hotline to call when there is an issue.

Installers can also choose the right system architecture for the project. Often, greater distributed intelligence around a building leads to less cabling across the entire structure, thus communications cables carrying data replace multiple cables carrying sensor readings.
Finally, a combined system produces a smarter building. The presence detection within an access control system can instruct the lights to turn off. Occupancy can help to predict the load that will be required by the HVAC control and can also help reduce energy consumption. Intrusion events can automatically bring up the relevant CCTV information on the same graphics screen. Energy data can be produced by the energy management system alongside lighting usage data and building occupancy charts. Combined, synchronised data enables a more accurate analysis by the building’s energy manager.

Package integration can be applied in many vertical markets. In a local hospital, we have linked the air handling units (AHUs) in the library to the presence detection system. Out of hours, the air conditioning is dropped back to low levels to reduce energy consumption. If out-of-hours occupancy is detected, the AHUs are raised to normal levels. Equally in pharmacy areas, lighting is dimmed out of hours, and when a particular area becomes occupied, the lighting levels are raised. In the same areas, lighting is switched on when a fire alarm is activated. This obviously assists with the evacuation of the building.

In summary
As with many business issues or engineering issues, the answer is never technological. The solution is based around the people within the business. The answer is leadership. A strong decision maker at the start of the project to decide which system is going to call the shots, and what language they will all speak when they meet. These strong decision makers can be called end-users, contractors or consultants.

The facts and data on which they base their decisions, rather than good old gut instinct, can come from independent systems integrators who have experience in a range of systems and can help choose the best one to suit that allows future expansion and efficient installation.

With energy efficiency high on the Coalition’s agenda, we are continually seeing various initiatives put in place to control energy use, lower bills and diminish carbon emissions. The latest initiative in discussion is smart meters and how a national roll-out will encourage and direct the UK towards a greener economy.  As the Government calls upon industry experts and providers to submit proposals on how best to conduct this roll-out, Andy Slater, director at smart grid communications specialist Sensus urges the Government to consider all the variables that will contribute to a successful national roll-out

Details of the proposed roll-out of smart meters in the UK have now been revealed by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Ofgem. Viewing smart metering as integral to its ‘green deal’ – the policy of enabling households to reduce the amount of energy they use by improving their own energy efficiency - the government has proposed smart meters as the ideal way of increasing consumers' awareness of their energy use, giving them control over their consumption during peak times and allowing suppliers to offer innovative tariff structures, benefiting customers who reduce their energy consumption.
The Prospectus signifies a sense of determination by the government to roll-out smart meters across the country, partly motivated by the anticipated financial savings in the domestic and smaller non-domestic sectors. In the prospectus, the government points to anticipated cost savings of £17.8bn over the next 20 years, and a net benefit of £7.2bn. Furthermore, the reduction of the nation’s carbon footprint via smarter energy use will, in time, demonstrate the benefits of such an initiative.

Whilst the end results are deeply encouraging, there is a fear that this urgency to deploy smart metering systems could lead the government to unwittingly choosing a communication network that could cost the UK an additional £1.8bn if the meters fail to connect to the network, due to poor coverage. This is an issue that will be heavily dependent on the type of network technology chosen for the national roll out.

Leading industry players, including British Gas and Arqiva with BT, have already demonstrated their support for the roll-out, launching smart meter trials with different network technology. It has become clear the two technologies used in trials, cellular and long-range radio, are the two most debated options for national roll-out.

For a successful smart meter roll-out, key attributes the government needs to ensure are; A robust, dedicated network to ensure performance, security and availability to utilities, underpinned with service level agreements; A cost effective and very high first-time connection rate for meters enabling smart metering to be available universally to all, minimising second visits to homes and any additional engineering costs; a proven pathway for smart grid applications and other utilities, like water, to join in the future with minimal impact and a proven ability to cope with demand.

It is in some of these key areas other technologies, like cellular, can fall short. This also raises the issue that the government needs to begin stipulating targets for each of these variables in order to observe which network is able to meet them, thereby leading to a conscientious decision.

Meter connectivity for example is an issue that certainly requires a target, as adopting a network that fails to connect could end up costing the UK more than it aims to save. The government needs to stipulate the percentage of meters it anticipates covering by the smart meter network – a target of which should fall above 90%. Cellular provider Vodafone estimates only 70% of UK homes will have cellular coverage to their meter cupboard. This is not because of a lack of coverage but due to cellular signals not penetrating areas to where meters are actually located. Therefore if cellular is chosen as the network solution what will happen to the 30% (9million) homes that don’t have adequate cellular coverage?

When looking at other benefits for both communication technologies, it is clear that the benefits of long-range radio over cellular have not been fully appreciated. It is fundamental a robust communications network is stimulated to ensure the uninterrupted flow of information between customer and supplier. Significant effort should therefore be made to create a dedicated and cost-efficient, nationwide platform. In this instance it is too easy to assume this would be a key benefit for cellular as the network is already in place and proven to work. This would be a superficial assessment. The fact cellular is already in use for consumer mobile applications hardly assures it will be optimised for securely connecting fixed devices buried in cupboards and basements like our electricity and gas meters.

Although it’s a fairly new technology in Europe, long-range radio has proven to successfully provide high first-time meter connectivity rates and widespread coverage across urban and rural areas in North America. Experience has shown it to have a first-time connection rate to meters of greater than 95% within coverage areas - ensuring a minimal number of homes are left unconnected. Long-range radio services like FlexNet were designed from the outset solely for smart metering and grid applications which should instil some confidence into the market that it is a network that can be trusted, to serve its purpose. By offering a dedicated and secure network with universal coverage, long-range radio offers communications of a quality suitable for what should be regarded as part of the UK’s critical infrastructure. With the masts already in place the roll-out of this network would only take a matter of months.

Whichever communication network is selected for the UK, it must be the one that offers the best quality of service to consumers and business at a competitive cost. If a network type is selected which does not build and protect customer confidence with high meter connection rates and if financial savings could be jeopardised as a result of not doing this, then additional costs and delays will be experienced. Therefore, I urge the government in their consultation to consider setting targets for meters connection rates and to ensure new solutions, such as long-range radio, are fully considered.

For panel builders, using cable management solutions to identify wiring, terminal blocks and components is vital. Not only will clear identification aid future maintenance and reconfigurations, it will also offer reassurance to those responsible for health and safety. John McGee, product manager for identification and protection at HellermannTyton, looks at the cable identification solutions available and how panel builders can potentially save time and money

Cable management is an important part of panel building. Correct and clear identification offers a number of benefits, for both the short term and future use. Cable management technology has advanced significantly in recent years, meaning panel builders now have a wide range of differing solutions.  This ensures they can find the right solution to address a variety of issues.

With technologies constantly changing, panel builders will find themselves faced with new challenges. Over the next few years, those working in the panel building industry will need to change their knowledge base to account for greater integration of controls and measurement, utilisation of compact solutions and demand for environmentally-friendly measures.  Andrew Garfield from Schneider Electric discusses the solutions for the future

Despite the recession, manufacturers are still continuing to introduce new technologies to the market.  Coupled with this, the evolution and introduction of legislation is shaping businesses’ views of the future and the demands they place on suppliers including panel builders.

The increase in traffic on existing tracks combined with new high-speed rail projects means that rail traction is fast becoming an important load on electric supply grids. This in turn is focusing attention on voltage stability as well as the power quality of the surrounding grids. Rolf Grünbaum, Per Halvarsson, and Björn Thorvaldsson of ABB explain how FACTS (Flexible AC transmission systems) can enhance power quality in rail feeder systems

There are several ways to feed rail traction systems with electric power. One scheme used in many traditional electrification systems is to supply it directly using the fundamental frequency main power, ie, 50/60 Hz. The transmission or sub-transmission voltages are then directly transformed by a power transformer to the traction voltage.

A Government energy contest that will inspire the public to do likewise? Don’t make me laugh says our grumpier than usual old man

So UK Prime Minister David Cameron challenged Whitehall Ministries to compete to reduce energy consumed in their departmental headquarters during October.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne originally threw down the gauntlet to government departments back in May when he declared they must reduce energy use. The October versus September competition figures are to be made public. The ultimate aim is a 10% reduction across the central government estate of some 7000 buildings in an effort to to inspire the public to reduce their energy use.

Hmmm. One of the ways in which central government is looking to save energy is by negotiating with (imposing upon?) British Gas to deploy a 'payment by results' investment performance contract with the Home Office. Another is to spend money with facilities management giants Amey to deliver energy saving solutions.

Meanwhile, the Department of Media, Culture and Sport is deploying IT virtualisation (whatever that is) technology to reduce the number of network servers it uses. Over at the Department of Energy and Climate Change a trial is to take place using ceiling tiles that store heat during the day and release it in the evening. This initiative is part of the Technology Strategy Board 'Energy Efficient Whitehall' green technology project – now there is a name to conjure with.

Only the deluded or a fool (or Jeremy Clarkson) would decry the ambition of energy consumption reduction. While I am, at times, both deluded and a fool, I would never argue with the sentiments of energy saving – it’s just that I am more concerned with the immediate priority of running out of the stuff than I am about global warming (on which the jury remains out in my view). I would also remind anyone acquiescent enough to listen, that by increasing power from nuclear sources, we also help mitigate for environmental impact.

The other thing that is making me grumpier than usual is the dichotomy government presents between price and cost in all matters including energy conservation. For example, the excellent Building Schools for the Future programme would have seen a raft of new educational buildings that are both fit for purpose and energy efficient. Yet this, along with similar schemes, has been axed. The reason given is the usual nebulous one of wastage in the design and building process (for which I’ve seen no hard evidence).

The message this promulgates, against a backdrop of sweeping cuts, is one cannot spend money (thereby improving the immediate balance sheet), but one must save money in future (without having had the means to do so other than by shedding jobs or turning off lights).

As electrical engineers and contractors will attest, there isn’t much money around right now and where projects have been able to continue, the budgets have come under increasing scrutiny. In other words, there is the strong possibility that anything that’s not statutorily required will likely be removed from the schedule. Could this include niceties such as energy metering, lighting controls and such like? I couldn’t possibly comment.

I must keep this column brief because I feel compelled to write to Southern Electric and British Gas suggesting they improve their performance or I won’t pay my bills. Similarly, I have to look up Amey’s telephone number and see what they can do about my dodgy draught excluders.

Many organisations seeking to lower their carbon footprint are tapping into solar energy using photovoltaic systems, which are highly vulnerable to lightning damage. Ian Langeveld, UK and Ireland sales manager with Wieland Electric, discusses the importance of suitable protection for these systems

As technology has become an integral part of everyday life, measures to protect our devices and the systems that serve them have also increased in importance. Indeed, in some cases, protecting these systems has become critical to the business’s ability to operate. Thus, for example, protection against the damage that can be caused by lightning strikes is now just as important for many businesses as securing their buildings against intruders.

Now, with the growing use of photovoltaic (PV) arrays to harness solar energy there is an additional area to be considered when it comes to protection strategies. And with feed-in tariffs encouraging electricity generation from renewable energy sources this is an area that will continue to grow.

There are now less than 12 months to go before machine owners and manufacturers are required to comply with the new Machine Safety Directive. Paul Considine of Wieland Electric suggests there are benefits to making the switch earlier

For the last year or so machine owners and manufacturers have had the choice of complying with the old Machine Safety Directive, based on EN 954-1, or the new Directive, in compliance with EN ISO 13849-1 or EN (IEC) 62061. Some have chosen to make the switch early, while others have opted to wait until the last minute – in this case 31st December 2011 – before adopting the new Directive.

This is the story of a remarkable product manufactured by a similarly remarkable family-run power engineering company, and how it has made significant inroads into the supply transformer market. From technology to market in under two years the Wilson e2 is now specified by leading commercial organisations and blue chip companies.

Leeds based Wilson Power Solutions (WPS) is proud to celebrate the success of its e2transformer range - the UK’s most energy efficient distribution transformer. This is the UK’s first and only super low loss amorphous distribution transformer that substantially reduces operating costs and CO2 emissions. As a result the e2 is already delivering significant energy savings to businesses committed to driving down their energy costs and radically improving their carbon footprint.

The Wilson e2 - the highly efficient transformer brand

The unique e2 is the result of pioneering technology from WPS, a company that is wholly committed to engineering excellence, product innovation and the provision of cost efficient power solutions aimed at reducing environmental impact. The cause for celebration at WPS is that the e2 is a ‘home-grown’ product borne from the collaboration of a small R&D team with an equally small R&D budget at its disposal! Using proven technology and design the Wilson e2 transformers combine amorphous metal cores with low resistance copper conductors to provide unrivalled savings in both core and copper losses.

Groundbreaking Energy Savings -Reducing operating costs by up to 15%

Since its launch just two years ago the Wilson e2 has been able to demonstrate startling
payback results on the initial investment required. The e2 provides guaranteed savings through reduced transformer losses. These savings can be accurately forecast depending on the size of the unit and typical load. For example a 1000kVA transformer at 70% load will save 28,000 kWh (~£2250) per year through loss savings and achieve payback on the additional investment in just 2.5 years. Significant additional savings can be achieved through in-built Voltage optimization capabilities where site supply Voltage is high and Voltage dependent loads are present.

Corporate endorsement
The Wilson e2 transformer is helping numerous customers including NHS hospital trusts such as Whipps Cross University Hospital, the Natural History Museum and leading supermarkets, to reduce their operating costs and lower their carbon emissions. ASDA and Tesco have already recognised the very considerable benefits that Wilson e2 transformers are delivering to their bottom line.

Daniel Travers from the Tesco Corporate Purchasing team commented: “Tesco is installing the Wilson e2 transformer into its estate as we believe it will assist us to improve our emissions target whilst helping us achieve our commercial constraints. The team at Wilson Power Solutions have shown strong technical expertise and customer service.”

The smart Voltage Optimisation solution for HV applications
11-14% kWh reduction

An additional -5% to +7.5% tapping range is built into the Wilson e2 at no extra cost. This enables the operating company to optimise voltage supply from 415V to 380V according to the needs of an individual site, wherever the incoming supply is at medium voltage. This solution avoids the need to invest in supplementary downstream voltage optimisation equipment and represents an extremely cost effective VO for HV installations with a typical reduction of 12% in kWh consumption. The transformer also integrates smoothly with current installations without the risk of disruption. Endorsing the VO capabilities of e2 for additional savings, the Hilton Hotel in Portsmouth saw a significant kWh reduction of up to 14% after replacing their transformer. Similarly, food manufacturer Cranswick bacon recorded an 11% reduction despite increased production levels.

Key features
Lowest combined transformer losses
Built to IEC76/BSEN60076 standard
Interchangeable with most existing installations
Flange heights to EA35-1
Midel or oil filled
Available for ratings from 315kVA- 3MVA
In-built Voltage Optimisation capabilities
Eligible for an interest free Energy Efficiency loan from Carbon Trust

New – the Wilson e2 plus
The new Wilson e2 plus is currently undergoing final trials and is being introduced to provide an ‘intelligent’ Voltage regulation solution where supply to site fluctuates or a constant (+/- 1.25%) output Voltage is required. e2 plus comes with an automatic voltage regulator that operates on load tap changers to provide stabilised site voltage.

Wilson Power Solutions family business

• Wilson Power Solutions is the Yorkshire-based home of family owned businesses, Power and Distribution Transformers Ltd and Richard Wilson Dencol Ltd.

• Now under the direction of the third generation of a remarkable power engineering family, this privately owned group strives to meet and exceed the highest standards of quality, client care, environmental sustainability and social responsibility.  It has a successful and growing export division.

• Passionate about the environment, Wilson Power Solutions is the first UK power engineering company to be certified Carbon Neutral in 2008.

• Leading provider of energy efficient and sustainable power distribution products and solutions:
- Wilson VO – Voltage optimisation equipment for LV applications
- Chargetec battery chargers
- Power and distribution transformers up to 150MVA
- Wilson sustainable: Re-engineered transformers and switchgear
- Buyback of redundant transformers

To share in the cost savings and environmental benefits delivered by e2 contact Wilson Power Solutions for an assessment of your company’s energy management strategy, by calling the Sales Engineering team on

+44 (0)113 271 7588
For more information about products and services visit

The UK government is currently looking to smart meters as one of the key initiatives to drive energy efficiency, transforming the country’s consumption of energy by enabling consumers to make informed choices regarding their energy use, lower their bills and reduce carbon emissions. Andy Slater, director at Sensus, explains