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Enhancing competition in the deregulated European gas distribution market


28 Apr 2009

The EUREKA E! 3688 INTELLGAS project has developed a cost-effective and easyto-use approach to forecasting gas consumption up to 48 hours ahead to keep the wholesale price of gas purchases under control. The project developed a hardware and software system that measures and corrects gas consumption figures at user premises, transmits the data to the distribution centre and then
uses it to predict consumption based on historic use data and temperature forecasts.

Deregulation of the energy market in Europe has led to much increased pressure on distribution companies to keep their costs under control. While existing and upgraded
supervisory control and data-acquisition (SCADA) systems enable gas suppliers to ensure proper operation of their networks overall, reliable and correct data about
when and how much gas is used is crucial to enable further analyses and accurate forecasting. In particular, gas distributors need to be able to forecast gas consumption up to 48 hours ahead and negotiate wholesale gas purchases accordingly – large penalties are applied if forecasts are more than 8% out.

New generation of equipment
Slovenian project leader Solvera Lynx supplies energy data management software to gas distributors, industrial users and gas network operators. German partner Feingeraetebau Tritschler specialises in explosion-proof electrical measuring equipment for energy networks, particularly natural gas. Gas-demand forecasting software came from South Korean software partner Wooam.Com.

“All three companies involved are SMEs and not able to fund the work required themselves,” explains Tomaž Oštir of Solvera Lynx. “EUREKA enabled us to access public funding. It is a really good way to help small companies to develop competitive new products. The EUREKA approach was also much appreciated as the minimal bureaucracy involved allowed the partners to focus on communications between themselves and development of the new products.”
Hardware and software advances Specific advances in the EUREKA project include development of an automatic
combined data-logging and volume-correction system able to function in a potentially explosive atmosphere at the consumer premises, use of the public GPRS mobile phone
network for particularly inexpensive transmission of data from often very remote sites, and advanced algorithms for the business processes required.

Measuring gas consumption directly is complicated because volume depends on temperature and pressure, requiring correction at the user premises to ensure the
consumers pays the correct amount. The new meter combines both volume correction and data logging in a single explosion-proof unit that provides its output directly to
the distribution centre over the general packet radio service (GPRS) mobile phone network. This is the first time all these functions have been combined in a single

The resulting data is then interpreted in the distribution centre using advanced algorithms developed in the EUREKA project to provide users with daily, weekly and
nnual consumption with graphic representation if required. Distributors can use the data on individual consumption not only for billing purposes but also to help inform and educate consumers about reducing energy needs – an obligation the EU has now put on energy suppliers.

More importantly, it allows optimisation for load planning and enables accurate estimation of overall gas consumption up to 48 hours ahead based on current and historical user data and weather forecasts. Before such estimates where often only rule of thumb. The system can be fully customised to different conditions – tariff systems, business information systems, languages – in European and non-European energy markets.

Ready for commercialisation
The resulting total solution offers many benefits for smaller gas-distribution companies and enables them to offer better service to their customers. At the same
time, it allows SMEs to compete with the large energy distributors, providing an overall competitive advantage in Europe and so reducing prices.

The hardware developed in INTELLGAS is now being commercialised in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. The software is available in Croatia and Slovenia and will soon
be delivered in Austria.

More information : Solvera Lynx d.d., Tehnološki park 21, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia,
Tel.: + 386 1 40 12 860, Fax: + 386 1 40 12 861,