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Aidon’s CEO Timo Chrons: Norway will lead the AMS race in the future

Norwegian network companies will get the world’s most advanced electricity meters. It is Norway that will lead the AMS race in the future, says the CEO of Aidon Oy, Timo Chrons in the article published in Energiteknikk magazine in October.

CEO Timo Chrons at Aidon Oy recommends that the network companies reduce the risk of errors by betting on more than one horse.

Chrons is on one of his many visits to Norway when Energiteknikk interviews him.

The top manager at Aidon expects to travel here frequently in the years to come. Several employees at the Finnish head office have even volunteered to move to Norway.

– It is in Norway that exciting things will happen in the future. We will be investing heavily in the Norwegian AMS market, says Chrons, on his way out of Aidon’s office premises in Asker to his hotel after a long working day.

– Norwegian network companies will get the world’s most advanced AMS systems, Aidon’s CEO states.

Chrons describes the Norwegian AMS market as the most challenging at the moment, particularly as a result of the regulatory requirements NVE are setting for meters and the entire system.

– Norwegian network companies will get the world’s most advanced electricity meters. It is Norway that will lead the AMS race in the future, says the CEO of Aidon Oy, Timo Chrons.

A great deal to strive for

– The suppliers have been given a great deal to strive for when it comes to complying with functional requirements for AMS that are the most advanced in the world. We are being pushed to operate in the forefront of technology and it is obvious that faults and problems may arise when unproven technology is put into service. For this reason, it would probably be a smart move for the network companies to protect themselves.

– What mistakes did the Swedish network companies make that you believe the Norwegian energy industry can learn from?

– Many companies had linked up with only one supplier and they got into serious difficulties when the latter could not supply what was expected. In addition, their focus was on satisfying the minimum legal requirements and bringing costs down to the lowest possible level. For this reason, many network companies have to totally replace their equipment as a result of the new AMS requirements imposed by the authorities, primarily with regard to smart meters. If the companies had increased their investments in smart meters by 10-15 percent, they could have avoided replacing these after a few years and thereby saved large sums of money. This would also have been economically sound.

Pitfalls

Chrons points out that the Norwegian network companies will be doing something they have never done before, i.e., rolling out AMS to their 2.5 million end customers. This is a formidable task.

– The companies need to know what this involves, what the pitfalls are and what the success criteria are. Then it is important to bring in expertise from people with experience of this.

He adds that the actual roll-out is a big thing in itself with considerable challenges when it comes to logistics, particularly as a result of the fact that electricity meters are usually located indoors in Norway.

Flexibility is important

Chrons adds that this shows how important it is to build flexibility into AMS. – The new smart boxes should have a service life of at least 15 years and the meters must “tolerate” the technology around them changing without needing to be replaced.

– What about the choice of technological platform for communicating the signals, e.g., over the mains or via radio?

– This will be important and there are many factors involved when it comes to choosing solutions. At Aidon, we use radio communication most. We no longer have PLC (Power Line Communication), says Chrons, who also previously worked at Enermet (now Landis+Gyr) for 17 years selling PLC solutions to the network companies.

Transition from PLC

He states that radio communication is best and refers to the fact that, in Finland, there has been a pronounced transition from PLC to this communication platform. A large company like Helsingin Energia proclaimed that it was not accepting PLC.

– Interesting technological developments are also taking place within PLC, but I think the future will be dominated by wireless technology.

Norwegian network companies could learn a great deal from the experiences of Sweden and Finland. They should enter into contracts with more than one supplier and choose several technological platforms.

Finnish success

Chrons thinks that the network companies in his homeland have been far more successful with their AMS roll-out than the Swedes.

– Among other things, the Finnish companies ensured they linked up with at least two suppliers and this has been a successful strategy. They have also installed more advanced meters that have an extensive degree of flexibility, in relation to the Finnish requirements in any case, he says.

He adds that the Finnish energy companies have also been clever when it comes to network benefits from AMS. They have a lot they could teach others in this area but they have not been as preoccupied with using AMS at end customers in the form of new services with HAN functions (smart homes) in the manner that Norway is preparing for.

– What are your ambitions in this country?

– Aidon has been in the game for a long time and established good relationships with Norwegian network companies. We want to remain a strong player in the future. We are not here just to disappear. We will be here for “all eternity”. Chrons refers to the fact that Aidon has more than half of the network companies in Finland as customers and that they have supplied about 35 percent of all the AMS meters installed. – We aim to achieve the same in Norway, he says.

Tough competition

– You will have really tough competition, from both established suppliers and newcomers, such as Echelon and Ericsson, won’t you?

– Yes, we are prepared for that. Competition is a good thing. We are confident that we can offer good technological solutions. It is also important to be able to refer to a presence in the market and the fact that we have established good contacts with the network companies. In addition, our supplies will be complemented by good partners with experience of the industry.

According to Aidon’s CEO, the company’s competitive advantage is linked to its investment in developing technology and the fact that they can offer AMS systems – meters and software – with a great deal of flexibility.

Advanced technology

– We want to be at the forefront with the most advanced technology. We have succeeded in that; our success in Finland in particular demonstrates that. In Finland, there were many companies that copied our solutions but then it was simply a case of becoming more creative and coming up with something new, Chrons says, smiling.

The challenges in the Norwegian AMS market will give us a further technological boost, he adds. – We believe that the Norwegian way of thinking will be adopted by the countries further south in Europe, particularly when it comes to using AMS as the foundation stone for developing smart networks. The European countries will come after but it is Norway that will lead the AMS race in the future, says the CEO of Aidon Oy, Timo Chrons.

Original text and photo: Stein Arne Bakken

Energiteknikk nr 7 – October 2012