Abdalla Juma Humaid Al Ali
Sr Mgr – Telecom Transmission Power – Telecommunication
Where Dubai continues to set the standard for smart cities and infrastructure-centric innovation, we’re proud to say that Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) is playing a key role in supporting the emirate’s ambitions.
As the authority managing the generation, transmission and distribution of both electricity and water across the emirate, DEWA is harnessing cutting-edge technologies to deliver an increasingly compelling customer experience to the city’s residents.
In one of our latest ventures, we sought to develop an integrated smart energy grid that would harness key data to benefit our customers through improved service provision and optimize our own power generation, transmission and distribution activities.
For the smart energy grid to work effectively, device communication and interoperability were of paramount importance – the seamless transfer and use of data was the central pillar of this entire project. Further, intelligent connectivity was also critical, allowing us to analyse key data and insights in real time.
We therefore had to ensure that the technologies underpinning the smart grid would meet our highly specific requirements.
We evaluated a range of options, including fiber optics, PLC, Broadband-PLC, Wi-Fi and Radio Frequency mesh between 2012 and 2015. However, after much deliberation, we eventually opted for Wi-SUN-ready RF mesh because of its economical, quick network deployment, scalability, security and connectivity benefits.
Since then, we’ve worked closely with smart networks, software, services, meters, and sensors provider Itron to establish the smart canopy based on radio frequency (RF) mesh technology.
The fact that Itron was a Wi-SUN Alliance member was a big draw for DEWA, as Wi-SUN compatibility was non-negotiable for us. The technology’s interoperability with third party product vendors would allow us to tap into the network for multiple applications – in this instance, both for smart electricity meter deployment and the implementation of applications to improve its distribution automation systems.
Wi-SUN-ready mesh networks are also proven to be reliable in reading remote devices, something that would enable us to collate key service-related information, such as consumption and distribution metrics much more frequently and easily.
The way in which the network devices interacted was also important. They needed to transmit data directly and reliably between each other, removing the risk of key information not getting back to our offices.
In the case of power failures, our devices can provide vital information thanks to the incorporation of last gasp technology. Our smart meters have enough energy to communicate power outages post outage, alerting us to the extent and location of issues so that we may identify and troubleshoot with precision.
Wi-SUN-compliancy has also maximized security, Security was a critical consideration, as well. Thanks to a robust certificate-centric method that ensures only known devices are able to tap into the network. If someone tampers with a meter or device and the coding changes, it will not work on the network anymore as the security certificate is removed. Yet at the same time, thanks to the open standards nature of the network, we were able to source the meters from different vendors.
Given the benefits, an RF mesh network with Wi-SUN compatibility was the logical solution. And thanks to support from Itron, we have successfully connected nearly one million electricity meters and 5,000 remote terminal units to the Wi-SUN-ready RF mesh network in Dubai in just four years.
With such extensive coverage having been implemented at speed and scale, we’re now able to paint a significant picture of Dubai’s energy consumption, allowing us to better plan and adjust distribution and generation activities as required.
With our smart meters, we’re able to record citywide energy consumption every 15 minutes, this data then being collected every four hours – a capability that has transformed customer experience. When a final invoice is requested, these can now be produced in real-time, for example.
We’ve also been successful in automating over 3,000 distribution substations in less than three years, with plans to add an additional 1,500 annually as key distribution automation sensors are set to play a significant part in accelerating our aggressive automation path.
Moving forward, thanks to Wi-SUN FAN providing interoperability for third party product vendors, we also have the opportunity to use the network for other smart city applications and devices in the future.
We will now begin to explore leveraging the RF mesh network for everything from electric vehicle chargers, gazelle tracking, still security cameras, wildlife cameras, solar panel management, and water manhole cover monitoring, and more.
Indeed, the smart energy grid is just the tip of the iceberg.