By Jonathan Spencer Jones
According to delegates at the annual Metering, Billing/CRM Europe event in Amsterdam, The Netherlands last week, there are no overwhelming barriers to implementing and benefitting from smart metering and smart grids in Europe.
In an interactive poll conducted during the opening session, fewer than a half felt that regulation or the customer (43% and 47% respectively) were the biggest barriers to the future fulfillment of the benefits of these technologies, and interestingly fewer than a quarter (22%) felt that technology was the biggest barrier.
Notably too, as far as the customer goes, just over half felt the customer was no longer being forgotten in the development of the smart metering and smart grid infrastructures.
What then is the biggest barrier? According to Philip Lewis, CEO of the VaasaETT Global Energy Think Tank, who chaired the opening session, the biggest barrier seems to be in “making the first move” – be it by a utility or a country.
“The technology is there and the knowledge is there and the move can be made,” said Lewis.
That, of course, is in broad terms as much technology is still under development and knowledge is being gained through the many projects across the region – around 300, considering data reported earlier this year by the EC’s Joint Research Centre.
But these are mostly pilot scale and the EC’s 2020 climate targets, and the 2020 smart meter target of 80% rollout, are fast looming, when one considers that just for electricity the latter amounts to about 216 million smart meters, which is a more than four-fold increase on the current installed base, according to IDC Energy Insights.
Little wonder that the EC’s Fabrizio Barbaso, deputy director general in DG Energy, stated that it is time to move from research projects to large scale deployment in Europe.
Among the other questions in the poll, just over half (56%) felt that smart metering should be seen as an essential component of future access to the home, but almost two-thirds (63%) felt there is a major risk that energy-based services could become peripheral to the broader services offered by telcos.
The increasing involvement of telcos in the sector was illustrated at Metering Europe with companies such as Ericsson showing a home gateway development and Deutsche Telekom its involvement in a range of projects, including a prepayment system aimed initially at Africa. Add to this other new players in the smart homes arena and areas such as electric vehicle charging, and it is clear that the broader energy market in Europe is becoming ever more diverse, with new challenges and opportunities for all players.
Metering Europe 2011 was attended by almost 5,000 industry participants with the conference covering the broad themes of smart metering operations, smart customer management, next generation architecture, and meter data management. More than 200 companies participated in the expo.