The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is to step up its support for smart metering and smart grids under a new strategy that will guide its investments in the energy and natural resources sector for the next five years.

This follows similar moves earlier this year by the World Bank and European Investment Bank.

The Bank, whose region of operations stretches from Morocco to Mongolia – and claims is its region’s largest investor in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects – says it has long supported investments in transmission and distribution, and over the 2006-2013 period increasingly developed this focus into efforts to promote the introduction of smart grids and smart metering. To support the sector transformation, the Bank will focus on investments in smart grids and smart metering, as well as improved use of information and communication technologies in electricity networks, and measures to improve price transparency and energy savings behavior.

The new energy strategy, which covers the 5-year period 2014-2018, is aimed to help the Bank’s countries of operations move toward a sustainable energy future. It is built around energy efficiency, which is identified as “the first and best response” to the energy challenges in the region.

Other focusses include demand side measures, the expansion of domestic and cross border markets including more extensive private sector participation, renewable energies, the development of carbon markets, and other clean energy production and supply.

“Our region of operations is dealing with the legacy of decades of command economies, which created some of the most wasteful energy sectors on the planet,” commented Riccardo Puliti, EBRD managing director for Energy and Natural Resources. “What the EBRD brings to this challenge is our focus on structural reform.”

Among its smart metering projects, the Bank lists notable examples as the two loans signed in 2010 in the Balkans, one with the Serbian utility EPS and the other with the Montenegrin utility EPCG. Both involved the wholesale replacement in key areas of the networks of all old, electromechanical meters with smart meters and the associated communications, meter management and customer relationship infrastructure.

Lessons learned by the Bank in implementing these and similar projects are:

  • Physically installing smart meters is relatively simple; the challenging but crucial dimension of these projects is ensuring that the meters form part of a fully integrated system from the individual customer through the substation right to the customer relationship and billing software.
  • The physical changes must be complemented by organizational and regulatory changes that enable the exploitation of the many benefits of these smart systems.
  • When installed in a comprehensive way, and when complemented by the right organizational and regulatory changes, the results can be dramatic. Commercial losses, which can account for 10% or more of electricity supply, have been all but eliminated in certain areas, demonstrating how rapidly and effectively efficiency gains can be achieved.