Smart cities: IoT water management
The advancement of Industry 4.0, wherein networks of IoT equipment can be linked via cloud and optimised with AI, has unlocked many possibilities.
Not least of these is the developing concept of the ‘smart city’ - an urban space where crucial utilities are made as cost/energy efficient as possible, to the benefit of consumers, the environment and businesses.
However, whilst conserving heat, integrating renewable sources of energy into structures and designing buildings to be as efficient as possible are the obvious signs of this new paradigm, perhaps a lesser considered application for IoT is its effect on water management.
Re-thinking water utilities
Japanese multinational Hitachi considers water conservation to be amongst the primary challenges for urban developers in the modern era.
Citing research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which states that approximately 50% of the world’s population will live in ‘water-stressed’ areas by 2025, Hitachi is evangelical about the advantages of a ‘smart water’ model.
"Ageing water infrastructures, some of which have been in place for over a hundred years, need to be updated and upgraded with IoT technologies, allowing them to come online and communicate with other parts of the system and city,” said the company.
A network of IoT sensors can collect data in real-time and relay it to an integrated source, where it can then be analysed by AI (artificial intelligence) or machine learning software to identify areas of optimisation potential.
The sensor equipment could also detect faults and leaks in the pipe networks much easier, therefore allowing engineers the opportunity to effect repairs faster; an advantageous solution when current infrastructure loses billions of litres of water per day.
Enabling the change
Additionally, GSMA compiled a report illustrating the reasons for greater IoT integration with water utilities, including the end-to-end technical specifications for how it would be achieved.
The guide breaks down the ‘smart network’ into five categories:
IoT devices: sensors, smart meters, cameras, alarms, etc.
Communication services: telephone and internet networks (note: the arrival of 5G, which is almost 1,000% faster than the best 4G network, will be crucial for optimising IoT and generating real-time data).
IoT services: device management, platform hosting and data acquisition.
Big data & analytics: data insights and predictive analytics.
Enterprise applications: leak detection, network optimisation, quality control and asset management.
Forging this network, which may soon become the standard operating model for all utilities in the rise of smart cities, will be crucial to the future conservation of resources and ensuring that consumers have access to plentiful, affordable utilities.
For more information on energy digital topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Energy Digital Magazine.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.