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Low-voltage smart meters promote energy conservation

I. Introduction

In recent years, global climate change has caused average annual summer temperatures in Taiwan to soar, increasing domestic demand for electrical power. As a result, insufficient standby capacity during the summer months is becoming the "new normal." So to guarantee a stable supply of electrical power while meeting Taiwan's international carbon-reduction commitments and realizing our nuclear-free aspirations, the government is expanding its renewable energy resource development efforts and actively promoting energy conservation.

To meet our energy conservation goals, we must transition to low-carbon energy sources and build an automated metering infrastructure (AMI). "Smart" electric meters and time-of-use pricing strategies can also be used to enhance demand-side energy management and energy efficiency while reducing peak power consumption and conserving energy.

II. What is a "smart" electric meter?

AMI utilizes communication and data management systems to link smart electric meters. Unlike traditional electric meters, smart meters have communication capabilities that allow end-users and power suppliers to exchange information. The system can thus replace human meter readers, and employ usage forecasts and analysis to help meet real-time power needs. Data monitoring and analysis can also optimize energy efficiency, automatically record power usage habits, and detect discrepancies between power transmission and end-use data to help prevent theft. The system automatically shuts off the power flow and sends a maintenance request when voltage or current irregularities occur, and also lets users manage their own consumption by checking usage data through the system platform.

III. Domestic smart meter installation status

Smart meters are generally of two types—low-voltage models used by most households, and high-voltage models for high volume consumers such as commercial buildings and factories. By June of 2013, Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Taiwan Power Company had installed smart meters at over 24,000 high-voltage end users. But since low-voltage users accounted for 51 percent or more of total power consumption during peak periods in 2015, they must be transitioned to smart meters much faster. Plans to accomplish that are as follows:

A. Basic principles for meter installation: Target users with energy-saving potential, prioritizing Taiwan's six major metropolitan areas and districts with power supply bottlenecks; eliminate communication bottlenecks by promoting modular units featuring plug-in communication modules.

B. Goals and schedule: Begin in 2017 with installation for 200,000 end-users; complete 1 million installations by the end of 2020; complete 3 million installations by the end of 2024.

C. Expected benefits:

1. By integrating smart meters and time-of-use payment programs, end-users will be able to select a program based on their consumption habits to conserve energy, reduce power requirements during peak periods, and maximize smart meter benefits. The number of households using smart meters is projected to reach 1 million by 2021, reducing power consumption during peak load periods by 275,000 kilowatts, equivalent to 40 percent of the First Nuclear Power Plant's Reactor No. 1 power output.

2. Domestic vendors will be encouraged to invest in new modular electric meters, develop dedicated frequency communication technology, and use domestic demand to train personnel and obtain performance certification so they can move into the international market. Output value between 2017 and 2024 is projected to reach NT$41.3 billion (US$1.3 billion).

3. By 2024, we will have detailed power usage information for over 80 percent of the country. Consumption scenarios from home energy management systems, power generating enterprises and users can thus be integrated to maximize AMI benefits.

IV. Conclusion

Smart meter deployment will provide the infrastructure necessary for effective energy control, and help promote domestic load management policies. Together with time-of-use pricing policies, smart meters will thus help consumers adjust their usage habits, meet energy conservation and carbon reduction goals, improve the quality of electric power delivery, boost energy efficiency, and promote the development of smart meter manufacturing peripheral industries. This will generate numerous benefits for our country as a whole, as well as domestic industries and consumers of electrical power.

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