Smart metering becoming widespread in Europe


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — February 8, 2010 – A large number of individual smart metering projects are underway or have been announced in Europe, according to the European Smart Metering Alliance’s (ESMA) latest annual progress report.

In Italy, Sweden and Finland, smart metering has been or is being fully implemented. Most other projects being announced are trials or pilot projects, in many cases being carried out before making a decision on a full rollout. Countries and large DSOs that have made announcements regarding full implementation of smart metering, committing themselves to rollouts by a certain year, include Norway, Spain, Electricité de France in France, U.K., the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland. In some countries individual energy companies are making their own decisions to rollout smart metering to their customers, for example Denmark.

Most of the new projects have been stimulated by the Energy Services Directive and 3rd Energy Package, and have a greater focus on energy savings. Nevertheless, despite this progress, the largest numbers of smart metering installations currently continue to be in the U.S., although these planned rollouts in Europe could reverse this situation.

The last year also has seen continued progress in smart metering technology, and in particular there have been developments related to customer feedback and energy control. In this area key developments have been the continued development of devices linking smart meters to home controls and appliances to support demand response and energy services. This has been a feature of 2009 as smart metering is absorbed into smart grid programs.

A related topic is the development of standards intended to make smart metering interoperable. These are being developed by the European Standards Organisation (CEN/CENELEC/ETSI) in response to European Commission Mandate M/441.

Despite the progress, a number of barriers to smart metering remain. The key of these are:

  • There remains much uncertainty about the quantification of benefits as practical experience and historical data are still lacking
  • There are many parties involved, and the benefits of smart metering may accrue to other parties than the ones that bear the costs. Most utilities cannot justify the costs on the basis of their own benefits
  • On a the large scale the rollout of smart metering is a very long and costly process, requiring considerable capital expenditures from the responsible market actors, while in many EU countries, there is a big opposition from regulators to increase the tariffs to final users to pay for it.
  • Lack of interoperability between different smart meter systems has been a barrier to the adoption of smart metering: no open registered standards exist that properly scope all of the different functions (metering, communications, presentation, and network). This has been recognized and the Commission, through Mandate M/441 and the FP7 Open Meter Project, with the support of industry, has launched a major program to put the required standards in place
  • There is also a lack of modularity and lack of flexibility of present mass smart metering so special needs regarding distributed generation, demand response, power quality, customer information, energy efficiency automation and services can only be met with high extra costs.