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SparkMeter brings smart grid functionality to underserved utility customers | Energy Access Practitioner Network

News

SparkMeter brings smart grid functionality to underserved utility customers

By: Daniel Schnitzer, CEO, SparkMeter

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SparkMeter was created out of recognition that low-income electricity consumers are best served when they can make payments on a flexible basis, and when the utility can control its customers’ energy consumption with consent and transparency to maintain reliability. SparkMeter enables grid operators to control customer loads and incentivize customer behavior in ways that will keep the lights on for everyone.

SparkMeter Mini-Grid Customer Case Studies

SparkMeter brings smart grid functionality to underserved utility customers, recognizing that low-income electricity consumers are best served when they can make payments on a flexible basis, and when the utility can control – with consent and transparency – its customers’ energy consumption to maintain reliability. Both mini-grid systems and central grid systems in developing countries suffer from high rates of economic loss and low levels of reliability. These two issues are interconnected: low payment rates result in poor cost recovery, which prevents the utility from being able to pay its bills and invest in system maintenance, which in turn results in frequent brownouts and blackouts. Furthermore, energy efficient loads on the consumer side are often unaffordable, and investment in resources on the supply side is often financially prohibitive to the utility. The combination of inefficient loads with short supply prevents the utility from being able to maintain reliable service, and low service quality is a disincentive for customer payment, which perpetuates the cycle.

SparkMeter enables grid operators to control customer loads and incentivize customer behavior in ways that will keep the lights on for everyone. In India, SparkMeter meters are being used by Husk Power Systems on a mini-grid serving over 150 households spread across a distance of a few kilometers. In Nepal, the meters are being used by Gham Power to serve 83 households, 25 micro-enterprises, and two cell towers on three micro-grids dozens of kilometers apart from each other. In Haiti, EarthSpark International uses SparkMeter to serve 440 customers on a single micro-grid. In Tanzania, E.ON Off Grid Solutions deployed SparkMeter’s system on a pilot micro-grid serving over 20 customers.

Each micro-grid utility puts SparkMeter’s flexible tariff system and load management to use in ways that are most beneficial to their business models. Through SparkMeter’s system, EarthSpark uses time-of-use pricing to charge a lower price for electricity during the middle of the day when solar energy is abundant.  In the evening, prices increase when electricity flows from more expensive battery-storage or a diesel generator.

Husk Power Systems and Gham Power charge an energy tariff as well as a “monthly plan” to set a minimum monthly revenue level from each consumer.  Both utilities serve very low-income households that would not otherwise provide sufficient revenue to the utility on a kilowatt-hour tariff alone; therefore, the monthly plan is necessary to provide a guaranteed minimum level of income to the utility so it can continue to “keep the lights on”.

E.ON Off Grid Solutions uses SparkMeter to accept payments from customers via mobile money. This solution allows E.ON Off Grid Solutions to operate its business with very high payment assurance and cuts out operating costs associated with in-person transactions.

All SparkMeter customers have access to ThunderCloud™, SparkMeter’s cloud-based software platform that gives them control of their metering assets. Through ThunderCloud™, customers can configure tariffs, place load limits on their customers, and monitor usage, payment, and grid status data in real-time.  These powerful features are made available to the utility at a low cost through an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. Training for utility customers takes just a few hours, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive thus far.

SparkMeter is excited to be the enabling technology for utilities – micro-grid and central grid alike – to serve populations around the world that have been marginalized and excluded from electricity service.  With its smart metering systems, SparkMeter unlocks a viable business model to connect millions of previously unserved people. To learn more about SparkMeter, please email contact@sparkmeter.io or visit the website.

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