On October 14, the seventh SAP International Utilities Conference kicked off in the Bavarian city of Munich, accompanied by near-freezing temperatures at the International Congress Center. The agenda included smart grids in the power industry, smart metering and billing processes, and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) software, which integrates data entry with existing IT systems.
The main focus of the 2009 event was the modernization of the power supply infrastructure – which meant that companies like Fujitsu, IBM, Siemens, and T-Systems were in attendance, as well as the usual power generation companies. Also among the participants were software providers such as Adobe and Microsoft and consulting companies including Accenture, Deloitte, and Capgemini.
The three-day event began with a keynote by Klaus Heimann, head of Service Industries at SAP, on changes in the energy market – looking ahead to 2020 – which made a great impression on the visitors. Heimann postulated, for example, that in Germany oil central heating systems could be banned from 2020 onward, while gas central heating systems could be outlawed from 2030. By way of comparison, he cited the European Union-wide ban on the manufacture and import of conventional light bulbs, which has been in place since September 2009.
Heimann also unveiled a road map for the period 2009 through 2011, introducing SAP enhancement packages (1 and 2) for SAP CRM 7.0 and SAP ERP 6.0 (SAP enhancement packages 4, 5, and 6), as well as SAP Business Suite 7 – 2010 and its new features. Look out for special article on this topic, which will soon be appearing on SAP.info.
In a nutshell, smart meters align electricity costs with total demand and grid load. Utility companies see them as an opportunity to optimize grid utilization and the existing power station infrastructure. In the end, smart meters will also mean that utility companies won’t have to make certain investments to enable the grid to cope with peak loads, so costs can be contained. The SAP AMI Integration for Utilities software, available since May 2009, now integrates meter and measurement data with SAP Business Suite 7.
As a result, power generation companies can use the software to integrate meter and measurement processes into their existing back-end systems. Ultimately, smart meters will give end customers a practically real-time overview of the energy they use, so that people can adapt their habits to the energy price applicable at any one time.
Unlike conventional mechanical meters, smart meters can send meter readings straight to utility companies without human intervention. Data can be transmitted through the power line itself or the telephone line.
One of the technological challenges of smart meters is to analyze the data gathered as fast as possible – in other words, in real time.