Austria's smart meter rollout - A case study of meeting local regulations

Engerati asks Landis+Gyr to reflect on its deployment with Austrian distribution system operator Netz Burgenland.
Published: Thu 15 Jun 2017

Many European Union countries are still in the pilot stage of smart meter rollouts so member state Austria’s large-scale deployments make a good reference point for distribution system operators (DSOs).

The country is working towards smart meter coverage of 95% of households by 2019, equivalent to 5.7m end points.

And Austrian DSOs are at the heart of deployments, both from an installation and data collection perspective.

Distribution companies are working within a tightly regulated framework to produce a smart meter rollout that meets Austrian requirements.

After the country mandated smart gas and electricity meters - following a favourable cost-benefit analysis - industry association Österreichs Energie laid out a set of guidelines for DSOs to follow.

Minimum requirements of the Austrian smart meter rollout are high security and privacy standards - smart meters can only transmit the overall electricity consumption of a household, not individual devices in a bid to protect personal data.

Meters must also have a customer interface and a remote ability to make daily meter readouts available to consumers via a consumption visualization portal.

Another mandatory function of Austrian smart meters is a breaker to allow the DSO to disconnect and reconnect the customer, in part to meet the DSO’s need to manage changes in household tenancies.

While other European Union countries are using a patchwork of communication technologies, Austrian utilities have set G3-power line communication (PLC) as the preferred data transmission protocol.

G3-PLC technology enables fast, secure and cost-efficient communication over existing power lines. Higher volumes of data can be transmitted and the technology is resistant to disturbances and capable of automatically adapting to changes in network conditions, making it a stable and reliable for smart meter rollouts.

Austria's smart meter rollout - from pilot to large-scale

Energy management company Landis+Gyr has been working within Austria’s regulated energy market by helping Netz Burgenland to go from pilot rollout to large-scale deployment.

Netz Burgenland, a fully owned subsidiary of Energie Burgenland, is one of Austria’s seven largest electricity DSOs and has more than 200,000 metering points in its network.

Landis+Gyr began a partnership with the eastern Austria energy company in 2015 with a pilot of 3,000 G3-PLC communicating meters and the head end system - “as a way to validate performance and build up IT systems to support the business processes”, says Landis+Gyr Austria country manager Helmut Scherzer.

A further 18,000 metering points followed in early 2016 and then in December 2016, Landis+Gyr secured a contract for the remaining 180,000 metering points as a part of the complete advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solution.

Commenting on the rollout so far, Peter Sinowatz, Managing Director of Netz Burgenland, says: “After 15,000 installed devices, the balance sheet looks very good. The smart meter installation is straightforward and the customers are fundamentally positive about the new technology."

Sinowatz adds: "We are currently replacing about 3,000 meters a month. And over the year the deployment will ramp up to more than 6,000 a month.”

Landis+Gyr’s Scherzer says the experience of working closely with Netz Burgenland since 2015 has highlighted two key learnings for a successful smart meter project.

First, the vendor-utility relationship has to be an open partnership with a clear alignment of mutual expectations between the DSO and the technology provider.

And second, the importance of pilots in allowing the DSO “to prepare and understand the complexity that’s needed to integrate a head end system into third party systems”.

“A pilot reveals how all utility processes are affected by smart meters,” says Scherzer,” and offers the chance to address vulnerabilities before a mass-scale deployment.”

Data privacy and security

Landis+Gyr is supplying an end-to-end AMI solution Gridstream comprising 200,000 E450 IDIS (Interoperable Device Interface Specifications) meters with G3-PLC communications technology and a head end system for data collection and control.

The Landis+Gyr customised security solution is based on the ‘secure store and forward’ concept, which means a data concentrator decrypts smart metering data and stores it in a security module.

Each device has an individual key enabling safe end-to-end encryption of even the smallest pieces of information and the audit trail functionality logs all the activities done on the system side.

“Tested in the field, the Landis+Gyr security concept has demonstrated a high-performance rate and provides the required level of network and data security as outlined by the Österreichs Energie’s Advanced Meter Communication System regulation,” says Landis+Gyr’s Head End System Product Manager Teemu Kiijärvi.

Smart meters and future use cases

Although a connectivity technology for 97% of Netz Burgenland’s rollout (the remaining 3% uses point-to-point communication), Kiijärvi confirms the G3-PLC protocol supports the DSO to meet its legal requirements of data privacy and security.

And alongside a Landis+Gyr head end system, the company also supplied a consumer information interface (CII) that enables use of third-party applications for end consumer engagement. Through the interface, the meter data can be shared locally without any delays.

Information provision from meter to consumer applications requires high-level security standards. It is therefore no surprise that both data security and privacy played such important roles in the development of the CII, explains Kiijärvi.

He says: “Landis+Gyr’s smart meter solution provides a future-proof standard interface that lets DSOs meet these challenges.

Smart meter rollouts are part of a utility’s need to scale up for the future as well as lay a digital energy platform for further use cases such as load management and home automation.

Kiijärvi adds: “Smart meters are a first step in preparing for the Internet of Things and the integration of new devices.”

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