Electricity metering is simple when a commercial building is fully occupied by a single company: all that is needed is a main meter at the point of connection to the electricity network. However, when a commercial property has many tenants, electricity billing is more complex because users have different energy consumption patterns. This can be simplified by deploying an embedded network: a power distribution system with a parent connection to the electricity network and a main meter, combined with private sub-meters for internal billing.
The traditional approach has been to equip each tenant space with a power meter, each having a separate account with the local energy retailer, but this creates several management challenges:
An embedded network provides more flexibility because it is managed internally. If a large company requires many tenant spaces, the measurements from the respective power meters can simply be added. On the other hand, if there are plans to split a large space to accommodate many smaller tenants, the property management company can simply add new electricity meters.
Another issue with separate metering is that commercial solar power can be very difficult to deploy. If the property management company equips the facility with a solar photovoltaic system, how can tenants achieve savings? Unless an embedded network is deployed, there is no single connection point where solar power can be supplied, and providing a connection between the solar array and each tenant would be impractical and too expensive. The property management company could also connect the solar power system to the main network and export energy, but that would drastically reduce the financial benefit; Australian feed-in tariffs are 2 to 4 times lower than the retail kWh price.
Connecting a commercial solar power system with an embedded network is as simple as deploying a residential installation, only at a larger scale. There is no need to measure how electricity from the solar array is split among tenants; it is simply subtracted from the main power bill associated with the parent meter. In addition, there are two measures you can deploy to reduce kWh prices, which are not possible with separate metering:
The combination of an embedded network, bulk discounts and “solar as a service” can drastically lower the kilowatt-hour price in commercial and industrial facilities, making them much more attractive for potential tenants.