Quality of Europe’s electricity supply improved by regulators’ incentive penalty regimes


Lord Mogg,
Brussels, Belgium — (METERING.COM) — February 27, 2009 – Continuity of electricity supply is improving in Europe, with customer minutes lost per year decreasing almost continuously since 2002 and the number of unplanned interruptions (excluding exceptional events) stabilising, the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER) has reported in its latest benchmarking report on the quality of supply.

The report covers three types of electricity quality – the availability of electricity, i.e. continuity, the speed and accuracy with which electricity customer requests are handled, i.e. commercial quality, and its technical properties, i.e. voltage quality.

In terms of continuity of supply the report finds that monitoring schemes are in place in at least 21 European countries. Short interruptions are monitored by approximately half of these countries, but only two countries collect statistics on transient interruptions. Most countries also collect some information on the cause of interruptions, but only a limited number consider incidents at all voltage levels in the continuity of supply statistics.

The report finds that national regulatory authorities devote great attention to the commercial quality of the services provided for customers. However, while it is apparent that there are significant differences between member countries concerning the nature and number of indicators applied, the number of identical (or at least partially identical) regulation concerning these has grown considerably.

Commercial quality standards for distributors are now in force in a minimum of seven countries (punctuality of appointments with customers, time for meter inspection in case of meter failure) up to a maximum of 15 countries (time from notice-to-pay until disconnection). The most frequently applied standards are aimed at supply availability, such as restoring supply as fast as possible after a disconnection due to a non-payment.

From the viewpoint of improving commercial quality, the CEER says it welcomes the spread of smart meters. It allows increasing productivity, such that distributors can dispense with scheduling meter reading appointments for most works that require access to the meter, when the meter is inside the customer’s house. Remote control systems allow the distributor to obtain readings without visiting the customer, to increase or decrease connection power and to interrupt the supply in case of non-payment and to restore it quickly after payment. Customers can further benefit from the introduction of smart meters as they can inter alia get information on their consumption profile or guidance regarding the off-peak supply periods.

Regarding voltage quality the most important norm is the CENELEC norm EN 50160, although in several countries, requirements have been introduced other than the ones stated in this norm due to dissatisfaction with the current edition of the EN 50160. In addition the monitoring schemes for voltage quality developed in different countries show no harmonization among countries, in areas including devices, voltage levels and voltage disturbances to be monitored, number and localization of instruments, classification of dips and swells and reporting and publication of results.

“Dips or swings in voltage can cause severe problems for customers and can carry heavy costs for businesses,” comments Lord Mogg, president of CEER. “It is necessary to have an appropriate voltage quality standard. CEER is not satisfied with the current European norms for voltage quality. Thus, we have been cooperating with CENELEC on the revision of the current standard (EN 50160) in a way which adequately meets consumers’ needs.”