Singapore International Energy Week

Wanted: Smart meters for households

If the smart metering system proves successful after the trial, scheduled to start in early 2018 and to last for six months, it will be implemented across the island and allow consumers to see how much utilities they are consuming every half an hour.
If the smart metering system proves successful after the trial, scheduled to start in early 2018 and to last for six months, it will be implemented across the island and allow consumers to see how much utilities they are consuming every half an hour. This is the first time that an integrated system that will be able to read all utilities at once is being developed in Singapore.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Agencies call for proposals to develop technologies to read gas, water, electricity meters remotely

How much water, electricity and gas one uses - information that now comes only in your monthly bill - could become available in real time via a mobile application.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA), national water agency PUB and Singapore Power called for proposals yesterday to develop and test technologies that will allow for water, electricity and gas meters to be read remotely in a reliable and cost-effective way.

If the smart metering system proves successful after the trial, it will be implemented across the island with dual benefits - help households cut unnecessary use of utilities and save on manpower.

Currently, meters are read manually only once every two months, but the agencies hope the smart solutions proposed will allow consumers to see how much they are consuming every half an hour.

"This would allow consumers to make informed decisions on their consumption and conservation of utilities," said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran yesterday at the opening ceremony of the ninth Singapore International Energy Week at Marina Bay Sands.

The trial will start in early 2018 and last for six months, but it has not been decided which households or how many will be involved.

Singapore has had smart meters for electricity since 2014, but only for consumers who use at least 2,000 kilowatt hour of electricity a month and have switched to buying electricity from an electricity retailer or the wholesale electricity market.

Singapore households can buy electricity from only Singapore Power.

This is also the first time that an integrated system that will be able to read all utilities at once is being developed here.

It could involve the installation of new meters or retrofitting of existing meters with, for example, optical character recognition technology that will read the meter like how a person would, and record the information automatically.

"We think there will be economies of scale. Using the same platform to cover more meters will bring down the cost," said Mr Soh Sai Bor, acting assistant chief executive at the EMA's economic regulation division.

In the Intelligent Energy System Pilot conducted by the EMA in Punggol in 2012, a small group of households were given a portable device that provided real-time information about their electricity consumption. These households lowered their electricity consumption by a few per cent.

"In terms of utility bills of households, it was relatively small but, when all these little efforts are put together, they would translate into something more impactful in terms of reducing our overall energy consumption," Mr Soh said.

The improvement is expected to be greater with the upcoming smart metering trial.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Wanted: Smart meters for households'. Print Edition | Subscribe