Posted on November 26, 2014
Posted By: Trilochan Sahoo, Mukul Sarkar
Smart Grid connectivity continues to gain momentum as global utilities embrace the technology and invest in the infrastructure. Bulk of the investment is seen in replacing manual read, AMR meters with Smart Meters, capable of two-way communication. According to a new report from Navigant Research  , worldwide shipments of Smart Meters will peak at 131 million units annually by 2018, before beginning a gradual decline in shipment volumes. By 2022 Smart Meter shipments will decline to 114 million units per year, according to the report.
Home Area Networks (HAN) are a logical extension of Smart Meter deployment, dedicated to Demand Side Management (DSM) and energy efficiency improvement. A report from Pike Research estimates the total number of HAN households to reach 57.5 million by 2020  . Global revenue from HAN powered houses will rise from $127 million in 2012 to $1.1 billion in 2020  .
Although HAN technologies promise energy savings in the range of 10-20%, consumer acceptance has been tepid, due to the lack of:
– Technology standards
– Interoperability of HAN with smart technologies
Savings on energy bills continue to be a key driver for HAN.
This paper illustrates the key benefits and challenges in integrating HAN with Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI) systems and explains how consumers can leverage HAN to gain maximum advantage. It provides a high level view of possible interfaces between HAN, Home Energy Management System (HEMS), self service portals, AMI systems and other customer service systems to enable an integrated HAN system for maximum benefits.
Consumer empowerment through HAN
HAN building blocks:
One of the major drivers of Smart Grid technologies is the idea of empowering consumers to reduce their energy bill. Consumers value detailed information about their energy costs, and are interested in tools that enable them to modify their energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint. Home Area Network (HAN) provides utilities a powerful platform to establish a two-way communication with the consumers’ premises. It is a dedicated network that enables Smart Meter connectivity with household devices like displays, load control devices, and smart appliances. It features software applications to monitor and control these networks.
The following diagram illustrates the building blocks of HAN.
HAN – Key Components:
– In Home Display (IHD): Hardware display device that may show pricing signals, meter-based consumption, and bill-to-date information.
– Smart appliances: Smart home appliances (or appliances connected through smart plugs) which can be remotely controlled either through IHD or web-portals.
– Communication Network: HAN, Near-me Area Network (NAN), and Wide Area Network (WAN); the three communication networks shown (above) with distinct demarcation of boundaries.
– Software systems: IT systems in a fully integrated HAN consist of AMI Head End, Mobile Device Management (MDM), Customer Information System (CIS), and self-service web portals.
HAN – Key Benefits:
– Real time access to energy consumption: Consumers are able to view consumption patterns of different devices installed in the premises. On the basis of consumption, they can take decisions regarding energy efficiency, demand response, monthly bill, and many more. This also empowers consumers to switch to a different tariff plan, if required.
– Monitoring device performance: Hourly energy consumption pattern of devices helps analyzing device performance. This can help consumers arrive at a house hold energy efficiency program.
Grid reliability through remotely controlled devices/ appliances:
This architecture provides flexibility in controlling demand through auto-schedules by utilities or manual control by consumers. Moderating climate control from a remote location through an online web portal can be cited as an example. This enables utilities to effectively manage grid load by automatically controlling high energy consuming systems with HAN and Smart Grid infrastructure. The net result is a stress free electric grid that can eliminate potential blackouts.
Reduced CO2 generation:
Reduced CO2 generation: In the long run, HAN reduces net and peak energy consumption, consequently its carbon footprint, by sharing relevant information with consumers.
Creating a device schedule leveraging HAN:
The scheduling of operation time for different devices can be carried out by means of any IHD equipment, for instance laptops or iPads, with the scheduling application installed. The following figure illustrates a sample user interface.
– On the right pane, consumers can also schedule operation time, based on a location and within the range of 00.00 hrs to 24.00 hrs. This includes an option for the type of operation – ON (green) or OFF (red).
– After scheduling all the gadgets, consumers can calculate the expected bill with the help of the tariff accessed from the billing system. If the amount exceeds the budget, schedules can be fine-tuned to meet the budget. The schedule thus generated can be executed automatically by HEMS from the effective date. A similar scheduling provision can be availed from self service portal.
– HEMS will act like a master for all the smart appliances and switches.
HAN – Key challenges
Consumer acceptance of HAN is drastically lower than initial forecast on account of technical, financial and operational challenges. The key challenges include:
– Technology standards and interoperability: It is essential to have well-defined communications and platform technology standards to enable seamless integration and interoperability between HAN (from different vendors), Smart Meters and other IT systems.
– Data management/performance: Remote/in-house automatic device control requires availability of Single Line Diagram (SLD) of the electrical network within customers’ premises. Additionally, device operation history also needs to be maintained. This may result in voluminous data that may affect performance.
– Lack of defined regulation regarding device control ownership: The transaction ownership of different device control operations (like remote on/off) has not been precisely defined. This includes technological limitations in logging and monitoring audit history.
– Consumer awareness and acceptability: Consumer awareness about HAN and change management becomes crucial in increasing its acceptability. At this point, end-users aren’t entirely aware of the true potential of HAN.
– Technology reliability: New technology needs time to return stable and consistent results. During the stabilizing period, consumer awareness programs need to be strengthened to ensure acceptance by focusing on long term benefits.
Integrated HAN Architecture – Our Point of View:
Based on our experience with global utility clients, we consider the following aspects as critical to a results-oriented, HAN integration architecture.
– Standard certifications should be developed to maintain robust operational standards and enable vendors to produce compatible products, thus boosting consumer confidence.
– A comprehensive audit control mechanism for participating systems needs to be in place. For instance, customer-initiated operations need to be owned by customer and utility-initiated operations by the utility.
– Devices must be compatible with issues related to information security control, such as loss of privacy, data thefts, and other security breaches.
– The restriction on the storage of the number of operational details can also reduce data volume. The network SLD within customer premises may be stored in the HEMS only, which will be accessed by customer as well as the utility.
– Apart from all these technical aspects, a consumer awareness program is a critical requirement for the success of this offering. Such programs must be conducted by utilities, using advanced marketing campaigns across social media.
Pike Research: https://www.navigantresearch.com/
Gartner Research: https://www.gartner.com/technology/home.jsp
PG&E Home Area Network: https://www.pge.com/HAN/
Transparency Market Research: https://www. transparencymarketresearch.com/
Department of Energy & Climate Change: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-energy-climate-change
Zigbee Alliance: https://www.zigbee.org/