Gothenburg, Sweden — (METERING.COM) — December 6, 2012 – The penetration of smart electric meters in Europe was 18 percent at the end of 2011 and will increase to 56 percent by 2017, driven by large rollouts in Spain, France and U.K., in combination with nationwide rollouts in several smaller countries, according to a new study from Berg Insight.

The installed base of smart electric meters is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.5 percent between 2011 and 2017 to reach 154.7 million units at the end of the period. The high growth rate will be sustained until the end of the decade as nationwide rollouts are completed in France, U.K. and several other countries. A decision by Germany to introduce smart metering would extend the strong momentum for smart meters in Europe into the 2020s.

At the end of Q32012, eleven European countries had developed regulatory road maps for the full scale introduction of smart meters. The latest country to adopt this policy was Austria in April 2012. Sweden and Italy completed deployments at the end of 2009 and 2011respectively and Finland will be ready by the end of 2013, followed by Estonia and Norway in2017. France and Spain have set target dates in 2018, while Austria, Ireland, Netherlands and U.K. aim for nationwide rollouts to be completed during 2019/2020. Furthermore, the governments in Denmark and Malta have put their countries on track for full coverage of smart meters before the end of this decade by supporting rollouts by state controlled electricity companies.

Cyprus, Poland, Portugal and Romania are additional countries leaning towards regulation driven smart meter rollouts. Germany currently prefers that rollouts should be industry driven and considers only minor requirements for household customers with high electricity consumption. However, a cost-benefit analysis of the business case for smart metering due in 2013 may change this policy. In other European countries government attitudes towards smart metering ranges from keen interest expressed through active support for large pilot projects to virtual indifference.

Asa result of the massive replacements, smart meters will come to dominate the European electricity metering market, accounting for over 95 percent of the total volume, according to Berg Insight. After reaching a low point of 2.6 million units in 2009, demand for smart meters recovered in 2011 as massive installations began in Spain. In 2014 the market is expected to reach an inflection point as mass rollouts begin in France, UK, Netherlands and several other countries.During the second half of the 2010s, annual shipments of smart electricity meters will be in the range 25-30 million units.

Next generation powerline communication (PLC) technologies are a key enabler for the new wave of smart meter rollouts in Europe, with a market share around 85percent, say Berg Insight. The G3-PLC and PRIME initiatives, launched by ERDF and Iberdrola respectively in the late 2000s, have now evolved into complete standards, supported by commercially available chip sets from leading semiconductor vendors. Both standards have been approved by the ITU and the industry associations created to promote them are now cooperating around the new more comprehensive G.hnem PLC standard. In addition, the IEEE has launched a widely supported PLC standards initiative.

A certain degree of competition between PLC standards is a healthy driver for innovation that will do little harm by fragmenting the market, Berg Insight believe. All standards largely use the same underlying technology, which enables semiconductor vendors to use the same core platforms to create many different types of PLC chip sets. Regional variations will always be inevitable due to the different characteristics of electricity networks around the world. When it comes to large scale deployments, the balance between cost and desired performance will decide the choice between basic or more advanced PLC standards.