By the Potencia correspondent

The news in early June that Endesa and Enel are piloting a smart meter project in Brazil with the objective of exporting their remote management model to the country has given the Smart Grid market a boost in the region.

Smart meters are designed to provide a detailed continuous account of the electricity being consumed.

Through the Brazilian distributor Coelce, Endesa and Enel are developing the pilot project using a similar remote system solution that Endesa conducted in Spain.

Coelce, which is said to be the first Latin American company to use remote management technology for residential customers, had over three million customers and electricity sales of 8.85 TWh in 2010.

In a press release, Endesa said 100 smart meters had been installed, which are the intellectual property of Enel Distribucion, in supply points and concentrators in the Fortaleza area.

Endesa explained the objective of this first pilot project in Latin America is to verify the technical operation and compatibility of the remote management solution developed by both companies.

“It is based on the model already in operation in Italy, the reliability of which is proven following the installation of more than 30 million meters”

Parallel to the installation of the smart meters, technicians from Coelce, together with Brazil’s Ampla and Chile’s Chilectra, are attending training sessions on installing the new equipment in the field and the operation of the remote management system.

Latin America is still in its infancy when it comes to rolling out smart meters. Brazil is also the first country in the region in the process of approving a regulatory framework for the implementation of remote management, according to Endesa.

The rolling out of smart meters by the Italian and Spanish companies is based on a model already implemented in Spain. The objective of this system was to allow all operations on the power distribution grid to be carried out automatically and remotely, marking the first step towards the creation of a Smart Grid.

To meet this objective, Endesa is replacing the meters of all domestic customers with a contracted capacity of up to 15 kW with the new smart meters. By the end of 2015, the company will have installed over 13 million new devices, which will be managed from the Operations Centre in Seville, inaugurated in October 2010.

Endesa says it is the first company in Spain to start the large-scale replacement of electricity meters with smart devices. In contrast, Enel has already installed more than 30 million devices in Italy, with significant benefits for both customers and the power grid.

But despite the recent efforts by both companies to promote the smart metering market, Latin America has been slowed to nurture its growth. This is despite the obvious benefit of promoting energy efficiency.

To understand why this has been the case one needs to understand the historical challenges of energy generation in the region, according to Smartgrid.com’s Alex Yu Zheng.

“Despite vast resources, many Latin American countries have not been able to develop secure, self-sustaining energy industries,” he argues. The problems generally fall into two categories:

  • Insufficient incentives for exploration and production
  • Insufficient development of domestic demand

Zheng adds: “These traps bring severe price manipulation, both internally and by external actors. This is disruptive to market operations, especially when consistent long-term pricing is needed to justify the financing of high-capital projects,” such as Smart Grid developments.

In order for the smart meters market to gain further strength, the region needs to develop an ability to manage its energy system in a more efficient way and to rely less on government handouts, he concludes.

But he also highlights that there are now initiatives in place with the aim of making sure this happens.

One is the Central America Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPAC), developed under the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP). This plan should bring $590m in new transmission investments, with the goal of attracting more foreign investment in generation assets for the area.

Separately, another major infrastructure investment plan is the Initiative for Regional Infrastructure Integration in South America (IIRSA), which hopes to create a common electricity market in South America.

Transparency and efficiency in both systems will make sure the market for smart meters grows in Latin America.

For more Smart Grid news click here.