Gas meters provide smart two-way communication of accurate data

Paul Boughton

Smart metering systems, which combine smart gas, electricity meters and visual display units into one metering system, have been installed in more than 18 000 UK homes.

Natural gas accounts for more than half of domestic energy usage in many European markets, and therefore, a significant amount of household carbon emissions. With increased global demands for energy, volatile fuel costs and increasing CO2 emissions, the need for smart gas metering has never been greater.

As the European Union aggressively promotes its 20-20-20 goals - increasing energy efficiency and share of renewables by 20 per cent and reducing green house gas emissions by 20 per cent, all by the year 2020 - utilities throughout Europe are turning to smart gas meters to ensure efficient gas energy and distribution systems.

The most common type of gas meter in almost all residential and commercial installations in Europe is the mechanical meter. However, its inability to connect with smart metering systems coupled with inaccuracy in measuring over time, therefore providing poor billing, means mechanical meters are becoming a thing of the past.

In comparison, smart gas meters provide utilities with a two-way flow of accurate data required to manage energy use more efficiently. The inclusion of two-way communications enables the utility to remotely programme meters with tariff updates, change meter configuration, obtain meter readings and provide additional information to the consumer through an In-Home display. Consumers benefit from being able to monitor and lower energy usage, costs and carbon footprint in real time.

The United Kingdom is one of Europe's front runners in the adoption of smart gas meters. Landis+Gyr currently enjoys a high market share and has shipped almost 2 million meters including approximately 1.2 million prepayment meters, highlighting this niche in the UK market.

Supporting these positive steps towards smart metering, the UK government, together with various industry parties, launched the Energy Demand Research Project (EDRP) - four trials that investigate how customers respond to better information regarding their energy use, and how long this response lasts. Smart metering systems, which combine smart gas and electricity meters and visual display units into one metering system, were installed in over 18 000 UK homes. Landis+Gyr is participating in three out of four trials supplying its Dual Fuel, electricity and gas meters as well as its In-Home display unit, the ecoMeter. The final reports will be complete in August 2010.

Furthermore, Italian utilities will replace 16 million gas meters with smart gas meters between 2012-2016. The smart gas meters are being rolled out to meet the Italian Regulatory requirements, improve energy efficiency and, for multi-energy utilities also distributing electricity, to leverage the important investments already made in AMM solutions.

With experience on its side, Landis+Gyr has now turned its sights to the rest of Europe, introducing a complete range of smart gas meters to meet the unique needs of European member states. Its electronic smart gas meters offer advanced technology needed for efficient gas distribution. The meters have been designed to cater for the special needs of liberalised energy markets.

Landis+Gyr's smart gas meters can be used as standalone meters, or fit into the meter point configuration concept, based on the Dutch NTA standard for smart metering. This means that the meter can communicate with each unit in the smart metering system, including the In-Home display. Additionally, it allows integration of multi-energy and multi-utilities into one system under the Landis+Gyr Gridstream solution concept.

Further features of a Landis+Gyr smart gas meter include an integrated valve for automatic connection and disconnection, allowing utilities to remotely switch on and off gas supplies when properties are left empty. It also allows utilities to provide new and innovative payment schemes such as pay-as-you-go.

The meters measure gas with extreme accuracy using ultrasonics, a bi-directional acoustic beam that measures gas flow. With no moving parts to wear, there is no deterioration in accuracy compared with the mechanical meter. The smart gas meter will also precisely measure gas regardless of the angle the meter is installed. Additionally, temperature compensation is easily provided to promote fairer gas usage cost in different climates.

Such accurate metering not only saves costs but also improves energy management. With changeable modules and flexible functions, the smart gas meters have been designed to handle all future developments.

Samples of Landis+Gyr gas meters are being requested by many utilities throughout Europe to carry out their own smart metering trials. The company has already shipped 40000 meters to the Netherlands and has recently signed a contract with Dutch utility Enexis for further smart gas meter deliveries.

Landis+Gyr AG is based in Zug, Switzerland.