Smart Grid Integrity

Helmut Dönges, Dipl -Ing., MBA, Sales Director, Inductive Components, Magnetec GmbH, Germany


Advanced secure smart metering transformers

Every day we can read and see on news statements like: "A series of agreements to collaborate on four smart grid projects signed.", "International Smart Grid Action Network launched.", "Beyond the hype: making smart grids happen", "Building a smarter Electric grid.", but what are the real needs? Many countries all over the world are looking forward to replace, extend or modernize their grid infrastructure. In many cases, this is going along with new and intelligent smart metering devices to make smart grids overall reliable and efficient. Current Transformers made -of nanocrystalline soft magnetic materials, provided by MAGNETEC GMBH are providing the ideal transducer principle.

The increasing demand for smart meters in new, modern smart grids requires highly qualified and reliable current transducer technologies. The main question is, whether or not the current transducers are able to meet all requirements from the consumer side, from the energy supplier side and the metrology?

  • Consumers are mainly looking for actual consumption measurement, transparency of energy demand and energy savings without any doubts
  • Energy suppliers are looking for tamper-proof metering, secure remote readout and an increased accuracy for efficient data collection, control and billing
  • The metrology bodies have to consolidate all needs and in line with the standards, to insure long lasting quality of the energy measurement to avoid financial losses for distributors and consumers of electric energy.
A highly developed transducer principle such as the current transformer is an innovative technology and helps to ensure a consistently a high quality level on all the mentioned "user sides" explained above. Of course, it is easier to use existing transducer principles in meter solutions without any changes to promote a new product for smart grid technology. But new and innovative products offer a huge potential and high level of safety and reliability in terms of a consumer friendly energy measurement. Such innovations are developed with close communication of all needs between utilities and meter manufacturers, and also between the utilities and the consumer. It is important that the solution is not only driven by price, but also driven by the quality and the attractiveness of the product innovation. This means more security and reliability in the energy measurement within the smart grid and will be a good argument to penetrate the smart grid business. As is well known in the market, an increasing number of electronic energy meter devices for the smart grid use advanced current transformers compared to meters made with shunt solutions and Rogowski coils. The magnetic properties of current transformers from MAGNETEC are highly linear and stable throughout a wide range of temperature and comply with the dc-immunity requirement from the IEC standard 62053-21, providing high reliability for metering devices for the smart grid despite the sometimes non-ideal environment.

Although all technologies used in smart metering are susceptible to magnetic influence to some degree, the superior performance of current transformers should be considered carefully from the very beginning of any smart meter design. Without the use of current transformer technology, strong magnetic fields can cause distortion in billable counting. In recent times a huge increase in manipulation attempts has been observed worldwide whether in developing regions or highly-industrialized countries. The reason almost certainly is to reduce the apparent energy consumption for lower billing. Here the utilities have to detect revenue losses and continue billing accurately when tampering of energy metering equipment has occurred. Therefore, in general, many transducer principles in electronic meter devices show sensitivity to external magnetic fields when tampering attempts occur. These do not always necessarily need be produced with malicious intention, they can also occur from a stray field of electrical equipment or lines in the vicinity of the meter. To understand and to evaluate the influence external magnetic fields, a series of experiments should be made during the evaluation process and during the field tests of the energy meter. In the case of the influence of an alternating field with an electromagnet (e.g. 50 Hz transformer with I - Core), the sensitive input circuits of the meter with a shunt and with a Rogowski coil can be influenced very strongly. As an example, because of the absence of a magnetic core, the Rogowski coil is immune to magnetic interference caused by external permanent magnets. There is no need to shield the coil by a steel housing as is used for other technologies. On the other hand, the Rogowski coil is extremely sensitive to the external alternating fields mentioned above and has to be magnetically disconnected from its environment. For this purpose a magnetic shielding using a highly permeable material is needed and this needs to be very efficient at any time - even at low field intensities.

The possibility to influence a current transformer is much lower because of the closed loop principle of the magnetic circuitry. Measurements with an external alternating field do not show significant effects. This application advantage is based on the rotational symmetry of the CT (magnetic core and the winding). Figure 2 shows the virtual field lines of the primary current (green line) and the field lines of an external stray field (red) in the current transformer with a toroidal magnetic core. The primary current induces via the field lines a voltage into the secondary winding, which is available at the terminals. Generally speaking, it seems to be that for all the different measurement principles used in smart electronic energy meters, metallic shields are needed to make any attempts at tampering ineffective. In any case, it can be demonstrated that the current transformer with suitable screening and placement within the meter design can, in economic terms, be designed to be largely insensitive to both types of magnetic fields. Figure 3 shows two types with such an integrated shielding.

The development and understanding of current transformers in electronic energy metering applications needs more than just a simple testing of different transducer solutions. This must be taken into consideration in the development of meters from the beginning to avoid later adjustments in a finalized design of the meter. It could be too late. More and more meter manufacturers and customers are embarking on the development of smart meters for use in a modern smart grid. Current transformer-based technology differs greatly from the many other offerings in transducer technology that exist in this application field where, except for standard functions, they offer no real advantage. In the long run, they usually disappear from the market because they are simply not suitable for future demands and requirements within a modern power grid system. Table 1 shows a broad overview of different measuring principles under specific testing parameters.

The smart grid will, in the future, replace the old grid infrastructure. The requirements for this new generation of smart grid are increased significantly and require high-precision and safe measurement technology and in line with reliable components. Current transformers from MAGNETEC offer a combination of desirable properties from a technical and commercial perspective. The new combination of the current transformer with integrated shielding presents an excellent new opportunity to supply complete high-quality solutions to the global market for electronic energy meters. The new current transformer series, especially for 60A and 100A metering devices in particular can now compete on a cost basis with all widespread transducer systems such as Hall-effect transformers, Rogowski systems or shunts.

For over 25 years MAGNETEC GmbH has developed, produced and marketed high performance soft magnetic core products for many applications within electrical installation technology and industrial automation. The company has developed soft magnetic cores for current transformers, based on nanocrystalline alloys, over a number of years. Additionally, MAGNETEC is pursuing new technologies and applications in the renewable energy sector (photovoltaic and wind energy) and specializing in inductive components for EMC applications. For further information, visit: