Smart meter and smart grid not ‘one single product’ nor ‘one single player’

Vincenzo Tartuferi

Exclusive interview with Vincenzo Tartuferi, Director – Energy & Utility Division, and Fabrizio Fontanesi, Director of Consultancy – Energy & Utility Division, Engineering.  Engineering is a silver sponsor at the upcoming European Utility Week.

What are you most excited about currently in terms of Engineering’s products and solutions?
Smart meters and smart grids are topics of great interest at the present moment, which have now entered everyday speech, so much so that sometimes they seem to be "the norm".

Fabrizio Fontanesi

And at least with regard to technology, that is probably the case, in the sense that we have technologies, or at least the knowledge required to produce such technology.

In Engineering, however, we are sure that smart meters and smart grids are not just a matter of technology, or in other words are not “one single product”. They are on the other hand, the organic fusion of technology and processes, roles and responsibilities, rules and timescales, projects and usability of the final product, which must involve all the operators in the value chain.

These beliefs have allowed us to start up production of the smart meter gas system in Italgas, the largest DSO in the Italian market with almost 6 million customers. The possibility of making this experience available to the larger European and world operators is what makes us really excited.

Engineering has also been involved in supporting the Italian regulatory authority in defining the operational rules that allow all market operators to use the information, mainly measurements, gathered by the various DSOs via the electrical smart meters. As is well known, from this point of view, Italy is surely a case of extreme interest in Europe, also probably worldwide, as the various DSOs have almost completed replacement of the traditional meters with the smart ones.

This experience has allowed us to understand the risks and problems that are typical of the post-delivery phase of smart meters.

What surprises you about this industry?
The current interest and the diffusion of the topics connected with smart meters and smart grids is very surprising, in spite of the fact that in Europe and in the rest of the world, there are issues between DSOs and regulators regarding the sharing of investment costs and their impact on the regulated tariffs.  The world economic crisis only accentuates such tension in this specific matter.

There is, however, another point that surprises me even more. On the one hand, the DSO, as manager of the distribution network, is the central operator in this process of transition towards an intelligent network; on the other hand, however, especially in a deregulated market, or one which is undergoing deregulation, it will be other operators in the value chain who will benefit from the tremendous opportunities following these interventions: think of the new tariffs based on actual consumption, the development of new tariffs for electrical mobility or the development of prepaid offers, to mention a few of the ones that Engineering is working on.
In this sense, we at Engineering do not consider these opportunities as “one single player”.