Netherlands DSO Enexis Netbeheer is working towards the creation of a smart grid that utilises smart energy meters and distributed automation equipment paired with cellular internet of things (IoT) connectivity.

smart grid

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Netherlands DSO Enexis Netbeheer has teamed up with Cisco Jasper, provider of an automated connectivity management platform for IoT devices, and Dutch mobile operator KPN, to optimise the working reliability of its expanding population of smart meters, gain vital insights into the functioning of its smart meter SIMs, enabling it to move quickly on troubleshooting and solving data communication issues, and manage large scale SIM activation as it scales up its data gathering operation. The smart distribution grid solution it favours enables the quick pinpointing of electricity outages and helps reduce the need for more copper cabling. Enexis wants to make optimal use of cabling that is already there.

The challenge of IoT

Enexis Netbeheer manages the connection and supply of energy to approximately 2.8 million households and businesses. By offering smart meters in households, Enexis Netbeheer’s customers can gain more insight into their energy usage.

But there are two major challenges Enexis Netbeheer and grid operators in general face challenges to ensure that energy finds its way safely from energy sources to consumer premises: getting the energy grid ready for the future, and ensuring the performance of the existing but aging grids. The need to address these challenges is driven by the transition of energy supply from a centrally generated to a more decentralised model, due to the increasing use of renewable energy sources.

The inclusion of renewables makes it more challenging to maintain a balance between supply and demand in the electricity grid as these sources depend on wind or sunshine. This makes the role of a DSO more complex: providing enough energy transport capacity for its customers, while increasing capacity through more efficient use of existing infrastructure.

smart distribution grid
Enexis Netbeheer distributed automation (DA) SIMs are installed in selected substations.

To address these challenges, Enexis Netbeheer is working towards the creation of a smart grid that utilises smart energy meters and distributed automation equipment paired with cellular IoT connectivity that can be managed efficiently.

Managing IoT devices

That is why Enexis Netbeheer makes use of Cisco Jasper Control Center, an automated IoT connectivity management platform for IoT devices. Control Center enables the user to oversee the SIM cards in all of its connected devices.

Enexis Netbeheer currently has more than a million connected smart electricity meters and approximately 1,800 remote terminal units (RTUs) in selected substations. The SIMs used for those devices are all managed by Control Center. It is working towards full connectivity with all 2.8 million of its customers.

The Cisco Jasper attitude is that none of the data from the smart meters is worth anything if it doesn’t actually get from the sensors to the analysis apps. Control Center provides the necessary insight into the functioning of the SIMs in smart meters and other components. If connectivity stops in any of the smart meters, resulting in sensor data not being transferred for analysis, Enexis Netbeheer is aware of it via Control Center and can do something about it.

Smart distribution grid: how it works

The platform automatically sends activity status alerts and updates, facilitates easy deployment and administration of SIMs, and allows Enexis Netbeheer operators to do in-depth problem solving.

“Control Center provides us with vital insight into the functioning of the SIMs in our smart meters and other components, adding value for our customers by enabling us to move more quickly on solutions to any SIM communication problems. It also enables us to easily manage large scale SIM activation, which is important as we scale up our data gathering operation.” Philip Westbroek, security officer for industrial control systems (ICS) and SCADA, Enexis Netbeheer.

Distribution automation enables Enexis Netbeheer to remotely turn circuit breakers on or off when there is an outage to minimise customer impact. The equipment’s SIMs are monitored and managed by Control Center.

This visibility increases operational efficiency because it reduces the number of physical visits personnel now need to make to the substations to assess equipment. Automation in the substations is being applied to decentralised components in the 50 000 substations in the service area for 2.8 million customers. The object is to pinpoint outages, most often due to cable damage caused by excavation works. Information from distribution automation in most cases avoids the need for a substation visit.

As an alternative to new switchgear a solution called Dali, Distribution Automation Light, is currently being rolled out. Dali emables flexible switching of public lighting  and management of the smart distribution grid. The aim is to equip all substations this way, which is the next step towards becoming a digital DSO.

Expanding smart meter solutions

The Enexis Netbeheer smart meter roll out is well underway, with the aim of installing 2.8 million by the end of 2020. Enexis Netbeheer is utilising the mobile network operated by KPN, one of the Netherlands’ leading service providers. It is one of the 50+ mobile operators that partners with Cisco Jasper to manage devices across 550+ mobile networks worldwide.

“KPN has a leading position in the national utility market for smart metering IoT solutions. Enexis Netbeheer needs a best in class network, including high level service and support, to be able to roll out smart meters flawlessly. KPN offers the Cisco Jasper platform as part of the service. This platform gives Enexis Netbeheer insights into the performance of their entire smart meter population. The combination fits well with the business ambitions of Enexis Netbeheer,” commented Carolien Nijhuis, managing director internet of things, KPN.

smart distribution grid
Automated management for millions of Enexis Netbeheer SIM connections is powered by Cisco Jasper Control Center.

“Enexis Netbeheer aims to be the leading player in energy transition. Therefore, a solid future-proof solution is crucial, including new connectivity technologies like LTE-M, which is a part of KPN’s connectivity portfolio and supported by the Cisco Jasper platform.”

The players

Enexis Netbeheer is a leading energy distribution systems operator (DSO) in the Netherlands with 2.8 million households and other customers in its network. As the regional monopoly provider on the network in the North, East and South of the country, Enexis Netbeheer has a responsibility, enforced through a government regulator, to ensure the supply of affordable, reliable and sustainable energy to approximately one third of the Dutch population.

Cisco Jasper supplies Control Center, an automated connectivity management platform for IoT devices.  More than 17,000 companies worldwide are using Control Center.

KPN is a mobile network operator and one of the Netherlands’ leading service providers.

This article originally appeared in Modern Power Systems.