Smart solution

Eugene Mayer
COO Power Plus Communications

The smart grid is a simple idea: an intelligent power generation and distribution system that automatically balances and controls supply and demand to make maximum use of energy at minimal cost. But while the idea is simple, there are challenges when it comes to implementation and impact. It will drive a fundamental change in the way we consume energy and this starts with smart meters. As the communication channel between suppliers and consumers, smart meters transmit and receive detailed data on energy use. This two-way exchange of information means that consumers can play a more active role in the supply chain, taking greater control over their energy consumption, costs and carbon emissions.

While the shape of the final model for smart metering remains unclear, it will need to be underpinned by a solid communications network – something that is sorely lacking at the moment. Smart meters can only provide intelligent functionality if they are supported by a seamless communications structure that provides bi-directional transmission of consumption and control data in real time. Broadband powerline (BPL) technology does exactly that.

BPL, already widely deployed in Germany, turns existing electricity grids into an internet-protocol-based communication platform. Every power line becomes a broadband data interface and power grids turn into intelligent systems, connecting to meters in homes and businesses.

The smart grid will enable homeowners to monitor how well specific appliances are operating
The smart grid will enable homeowners to monitor how well specific appliances are operating

Because BPL uses existing power networks, gearing up the grid for the technology is fairly straightforward. It eliminates the need for additional networks, support services or third-party approvals, and reduces investment costs. Furthermore, as a ’plug-and-play’ solution, BPL can work instantly with any meter from any vendor.

A BPL-enabled smart grid has advantages for consumers in terms of savings. It will provide the technology to enable suppliers to introduce more flexible, lower-cost tariffs at non-peak times. Access to this broader range of tariffs should encourage consumers to reduce their peak-time consumption, reducing the need for extra plants to cope with peak demand.

BPL isn’t a static technology – its use of internet protocol means that additional smart-grid applications can be implemented as they become available. For instance, intelligent power networks could also be used for load management through automatic, time-of-day and load-dependent adjustment of appliances such as freezers.

The advent of smart metering will also support the creation of new revenue streams by the owners of the electricity networks themselves – the distribution network operators (DNOs).

The UK network is owned by a small number of DNOs – such as Scottish Power and EDF – which are licensed to distribute electricity in their own particular regions. As the UK moves towards wide-scale adoption of smart meters, DNOs are in a prime position to capitalise on the benefits of BPL.

A link between DNOs and BPL communications providers would also be an important step towards reducing the UK’s carbon footprint by supporting the integration of renewable energies.

Studies indicate that 60 per cent of companies in the energy market plan to invest in smart metering over the next three years. As the UK approaches its carbon reduction deadlines, BPL technology makes sense from all sides of the energy equation. With the smart grid poised to transform the way energy is produced, bought, sold and consumed, BPL will provide a vital communications platform to support large-scale low-carbon generation through renewable sources and by helping consumers to monitor – and improve – their patterns of energy usage. As an economic, straightforward and undisruptive solution, BPL is poised to give energy suppliers the power to turn the electricity grid of today into the smart grid of tomorrow.

Eugene Mayer

COO, Power Plus Communications


Studied electrical engineering/automatic controls at Constance Technical College, Germany, and obtained Batchelor of Science at Coventry University, UK


Started his professional career as a trainee at MVV Energie AG (Mannheim, Germany) and then worked as project engineer on the company’s powerline communication project

From June 2001 responsible for the day-to-day business of Power Plus Communications (PPC) as vice-president, project management/operation

Has been a board member and chief operating officer of PPC since 2005