Smart Metering Scandinavia points the way to future market challenges


By Jessica Stromback

Smart Metering Scandinavia is a regional smart metering event, attracting a wide range of participants due to the Nordic countries’ high level of smart meter rollout and deployment experience. This year the event focused on the concerns and challenges typical of the region. These challenges will soon be typical for other regions as well, as smart meter rollout continues around Europe.
The presenter from Vattenfall Sweden, Lars Garpetun, discussed the current need for upgrades of their smart meter system to improve its capability. Having begun smart meter rollout earlier than most, in 2003, with only minimal regulatory requirements, the first meters deployed did not include such functionalities as bi-directional communication, bi-directional meter reading, remote connect/disconnect, power quality information, etc. This causes challenges in systems interoperability and limits the types of meter-enabled programs implemented.  

One of the messages of the presentation was the need for an increase in both smart meter and communication system reliability. During the first year of full deployment (2009), Vattenfall had three periods where reliability levels dropped below 99.4 percent – the accepted company level. It has been decided that for the system to develop toward smart grid capabilities with higher levels of functionalities and requirements, both smart meter and data handling reliability should be improved.  

Sweden’s regulatory requirements stipulated only that residential consumer receive accurate monthly invoices. Network companies have therefore rolled out smart metering and are only now considering what they might do with them to enable consumer feedback. Both Vattenfall and E.On reflected this in their presentations. Vattenfall Sweden is investing in a new MDM system to increase their own awareness of alarms and events and to allow for Vattenfall Distribution to support customers with historical information regarding energy consumption and quality of delivery. This will be complete 2011.

The E.On presenter, Kristina Engstrom, detailed the improved processes, such as remote connect disconnect which smart metering has already delivered and concluded that a next step is to integrate SCADA with AMI/AMM. The Nordics’ capacity margins and network stability have been good, lowering the drive for demand response or consumption reductions. This combined with low regulatory requirements has meant that the larger national utilities in Sweden are able to upgrade their systems slowly as they progress.
There is, however, pressure both from regulators and third parties to use the meters to provide customer feedback. Finland has mandated a national smart meter rollout and requires 80 percent completion by January 1, 2014. Hourly meter reading and consumption feedback on the invoice, and a website are mandatory along with the capability for an in-home display. The utilities are analyzing the best methods for meeting these requirements.

Fortum is Finland’s largest utility and is 51 percent state owned. Fortum’s presenter, Harri Hauta-aho, reviewed responses to a consumer questionnaire on residential consumers’ preferred instruments for following consumption. Responses showed that saving electricity was important but consumers doubted their own ability to have an impact and were unsure what they should do.  However, 62 percent responded that an in-house display would be a good or very good method for tracking consumption. The next best was a web-based service at 59 percent. The least preferred were text messages with only 19 percent saying this would be a good or very good method for receiving information.
Fortum is now considering where and how different instruments for tracking consumption should be deployed. Issues include the metal boxes encasing many Finnish meters and blocking Zigbee communication, meters placed in the basements of apartment buildings, and issues surrounding HAN bandwidth.

Average household electricity consumption in Finland is high compared to the rest of Europe, at approximately 7,500 kWh a year. However for small apartments consuming only 2,500 kWh and spending approximately €200 a year on electricity, cost/benefit becomes an issue. One-solution-fits-all is therefore unrealistic.