HomeWorld RegionsMiddle East & AfricaEnergy Management: Meters on the Nile

Energy Management: Meters on the Nile

Ron Via
ABB Electricity Metering, Raleigh, NC, USA

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Egypt’s large population and strategic location in the Middle East-North Africa region has always made it a focal point in regional energy markets. During the past decade, the Egyptian government has implemented many reforms to improve the economy, including the privatization of many state-owned enterprises and liberalized rules for foreign investment. As a result, the Egyptian economy has benefited from increased growth and foreign business interest. The changes and improvements have also created a dramatic impact on the electricity supply industry.

The Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEH) has been working to meet the growing electrical energy needs of the country. EEH is one of the Middle East’s largest electricity utilities and serves 63 million users of the 68 million-plus population with an ever-increasing electrical appetite. It is EEH’s responsibility to optimize the transmission and distribution system so customers get the required energy with maximum efficiency.

Both the EEH management and government officials recognize that a well-regulated and reliable supply of energy is the cornerstone for sustaining economic growth in a country and are therefore the key to Egypt’s future prosperity. In response, EEH is implementing wide-scale energy conservation programmes for the country. It recognized that effective conservation strategies will reduce capital needs and provide fuel cost savings to keep energy costs lower – another important benefit for the expanding economy.

New metering system

By improving metering systems, better data for more accurate customer billing and the opportunity to obtain better data on energy usage patterns will become available. Using this data, EEH engineers will be able to improve their system capacity and load projections.

Taking action to meet this objective, EEH recently made a commitment to install a new state-of-the-art electric energy metering system. The solution selected by EEH will include the installation of 3300 ABB AIN Alpha high function, multi-tariff meters, supporting meter reading software systems, and sales support and service for the project. These meters provide precise time-of-use (TOU) metering data collection of critical system loads. The complete system project includes the installation of meters and suitable system software in the seven regional operations of EEH.

These precise digital meters measure real kWh and reactive kVAR energy and power demand. They also have the capability to record energy usage patterns on a multi-tariff, TOU basis. With these capabilities, the meters collect complete energy usage data when the energy is required and provide a precise record of system loading and energy requirements for the EEH system. These meters will be installed at the largest and most important electricity consumer locations and at major electricity substations in the national transmission and distribution grid.

With funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the EEH selected ABB Electricity Metering as a partner on this project. Meters, software systems and technical support will be provided from the US technology headquarters of ABB Electricity Metering in Raleigh, North Carolina. An ABB metering technology centre will also be established in Egypt to provide project support. ABB was selected because it offered the most complete, comprehensive, and cost effective solution for EEH’s Time of Day Metering Project and has previously contributed to improvements on Egypt’s electrical network infrastructure.

Power shift in Egypt

Through increased industrialization, energy use has grown rapidly in Egypt. Today more than 95 per cent of the population has access to electricity (up from 65 per cent only two decades ago). Total installed capacity has increased more than four-fold in the last two decades – from 3.8 GW in 1976 to more than 16.6 GW today. To meet current demand projections, another 9.3 GW will be brought on-line by 2010 to bring the system’s total capacity to nearly 26 GW.

According to USAID, this expansion reflects rapid economic growth, increased urban and rural electrification, and the introduction of energy-intensive industries. As a result, the government of Egypt not only gives high priority to expanding power generation and introducing renewable energy technologies, it has recognized that improving operating efficiency and reforming energy pricing policies to prevent the wasteful or inappropriate use of energy are essential components to meeting the anticipated electricity demand.

Egypt’s power sector is comprised of seven regional state-owned power production and distribution companies – all subsidiaries of the Egyptian Electricity Authority (EEA). In July 2000, the EEA began the initial stages of privatization and was converted into a holding company, though it is still owned by the state. The US Department of Energy reports that reform plans call for the future separation of generation, transmission, and distribution.

Distribution companies will eventually be privatized, while the EEH will continue to have responsibility for transmission lines and power generation. New power generation will be provided through privately-funded projects that will sell power to EEH. With these changes on the horizon, accurate metering is a priority to ensure the commercial viability of a privatized utility infrastructure.

Electricity usage

The Time of Day Metering Project will reduce technical and non-technical energy losses and provide the energy gains to neighbouring countries throughout the utility network. The project will enable EEH to:

  • Research the feasibility of new, multiple tariff billing programmes
  • Design tariffs to accurately reflect the cost to serve various kinds of electrical loads
  • Optimize meter reading processes via automated, computerized, hand-held meter reading devices
  • Minimize the human error factor
  • Enhance revenue security by having meters equipped to trigger alarms and log unusual or suspicious events during billing periods.

The new system introduces a robust meter reading process by installing state-of-the-art equipment to supply EEH with data for implementing complex tariff analysis. In addition, the utility will be able to access historical data on customer load profiles and power usage and collect service conditions and security information. Data retrieved from the meter will provide notification of attempted security breaches. EEH engineers will be able to monitor and analyse variations in service conditions by accessing databases of meter data. Using this data, EEH will research, test, and identify energy conservation programmes applicable to its particular network conditions.

Although EEH has previously applied multiple tariff schedules to small subsets of large consumers, the new Time of Day Metering Project is the first comprehensive electricity metering system in the region.

Design and application

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The Time of Day Metering Project will be deployed in the seven regional operations of EEH. Each region will be assigned a number of meters and hand-held devices to electronically collect readings from those meters. Each region will have the software to process and store data from the meters in a regional data warehouse (or regional station). A central data collection and data processing system will be installed at the headquarters in Cairo (see Table 1).

Once data is retrieved and stored in the regional station the software will be used to synchronize and sum-up the collected data for billing and engineering analysis. This will provide a total system picture of the energy usage patterns within each region as well as permit the summation of multiple meters serving a common load.


Figure 1. By improving metering systems engineers will be able to accurately project system capacity and load
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A small number of meters will be equipped with telephone communications and installed at test sites to automatically dial into the regional station to upload their readings. Acting as the meter data warehouse, the regional station will transmit its data to the central metering data server at EEH’s headquarters in Cairo. Data will be communicated through the EEH corporate communications network (see Figure 1). The central station in Cairo will analyse the data gathered on a system-wide basis. Data from each region can be analyzed and usage patterns can be compared, providing planners with a better perspective on emerging energy usage patterns and future requirements.

In the Time of Day Metering Project, the meter readers will use the DAP 9800 hand-held devices to automatically collect comprehensive data via the optical port on each AIN Alpha meter. As this is all automatically accomplished, the electronic transfer of complex readings from meter to hand-held devices eliminates several key points where errors might occur in traditional meter reading processes.

Metering hardware


Figure 2. The project is the first comprehensive electricity metering system in the region
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The AIN Alpha meters will be installed at selected medium voltage consumer sites to measure energy usage with an accuracy of 0.2 per cent of the real load. Each meter provides periodic and time-synchronized readings of multiple energy and demand tariffs as well as a detailed, recorded load profile of hour-by-hour energy usage data.

The AIN Alpha meter offers many unique features including:

  • Wide voltage range (57 to 480 VAC) which exceeds IEC standards for under and over voltage conditions regardless of the normal line voltages. The wide voltage range also protects the AIN Alpha meter from damage caused by large line voltage fluctuations or installation errors.
  • Wide current range offers extra protection in the event of sustained over-current resulting from accidental installation of incorrect CT ratings. The meters can continuously carry 12 A with no damage or serious deterioration of reading accuracy.
  • The utility can reduce meter inventories and save the cost of carrying these larger inventories due to wide voltage range, wide current range, and the AIN Alpha meter’s programmable and upgradeable features that enable it to serve many functions.
  • Fixed lifetime factory calibration eliminates the need for routine recalibration.
  • State-of-the-art security features include data security, communication security, event recording, reverse power detection and automatic self-tests.
  • Meter operation and data security are protected through lengthy power outages by a safety system including a super capacitor and battery backup combination.
  • A single meter type can be used for multiple configurations supporting a variety of features including import-export metering, load profile recording, pulse outputs and remote communications.
  • Designed for adaptability to extreme environment conditions, temperature range from -40à‚°C up to +85à‚°C at 100 per cent humidity (providing accurate operation from desert conditions of the eastern and western deserts to the hot, humid conditions of the Nile Delta).

    Reading the data

    ABB’s AlphaPlus software will be installed on each of the stationary and mobile workstations and on the hand-held meter reading devices that interface with the meters. Each meter has a variety of programme options to measure and report the information. Measurable parameters include all normal energy quantities of interest to the utility plus maximum demand quantities and various system conditions: kWh, kW, kVAh, kVA, average power factor, multiple tariffs, and load profiles.


    Figure 3. Data will be collected via hand held devices
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    At the central station in Cairo, EEH will employ MV90 software supplied jointly by Utility Translation Systems Inc. (UTS), a subsidiary of Itron Inc., and ABB for data segregation analysis. The MV90 features a standard interface with modular add-on capabilities and allows the utility company to purchase some or all of the modules as required.

    The MV90 base package maintains files as well as imports and translates information from a variety of systems. Users can define data validation criteria and the system will identify failed files, edit the information, and establish an edit log. The software creates translation summary, interval pulse data, interval load data, kVA analysis, and peak reports.

    EEH will be able to run the software over its corporate network, on a single PC using Windows 95 or NT, or on multiple PCs on a local area network. The additional MV90 modules include: data collection, data transfer, load research, load control, and real-time pricing. EEH plans to implement all of these modules during the course of the project.

    Accelerating the process

    Throughout the implementation process, ABB will train EEH personnel to install and maintain all the related hardware and software. Local ABB engineers will be deployed to work with EEH engineers to install the meters and related hardware. At the central station, they will train EEH personnel to get the most out of the software components to achieve understanding of the entire process and maximize the usefulness of the data collected. ABB has assigned a project manager to oversee all technical commercial schedules and other issues of the project. They will also provide the next level of local support to assure prompt maintenance and replacement parts for the Alpha meter.

    When fully implemented, this comprehensive solution will provide EEH all the hardware, software, data, and communication capabilities to handle a vast amount of data manipulation and provide EEH in-depth feedback on the collected information. Using this detailed information, EEH will be able to develop new billing processes and effective energy conservation programmes that meet the needs of a growing customer base.

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