Smart meters

Europe’s smart meter rollouts – new report takes pulse

Current data projects 72% penetration of smart meters for electricity across Europe by 2020.
Published: Fri 08 Sep 2017

With the 2020 timeline fast running out for the mandated rollout of smart electricity and gas metering – at least 80% for electricity in countries with a positive cost-benefit analysis (CBA) expectation, what is the current status?

According to a new review from the EUs’ Joint Research Centre and the Energy Directorate, “appreciable progress has been made”.

While current smart meter figures are not given, the estimated member state commitments amount to close to 200m smart electric meters and 45m smart gas meters by 2020 at a total investment of around €45bn.

These correspond to smart meter penetrations among European consumers of almost 72% for electricity and 40% for gas. They indicate that while the 80% target should be exceeded in many of the deployment countries, the 80% EU-wide target will fall short.

Nevertheless, the report describes the figures as “encouraging”, also noting the fact that the business case for rolling out smart metering is “not yet overwhelming throughout Europe”, and is particularly challenging in the case of gas.

The report also determines that smart metering in Europe has a system average cost of between €200 and €250 per customer and is delivering benefits per metering point of €160 for gas and €309 for electricity along with, on average, 3% energy savings.

Smart electricity metering review

Breaking down the data for smart electricity metering, 14 European member countries (Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and UK) are currently proceeding with large-scale rollout by 2020 or earlier, or have already done so, according to the report.

For all of these the stated expected penetration by 2020 is 95% or more. Notably, in three of the countries (Finland, Italy and Sweden), close to 45m smart meters are already installed, amounting to almost a quarter of the 2020 total.

Two further countries (Poland and Romania) had positive CBAs but official decisions on the rollouts are still pending.

In seven countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Slovakia), the CBAs for large-scale rollout by 2020 were negative or inconclusive. In the cases of Germany, Latvia and Slovakia, smart metering is proceeding for particular groups of customers, with 23% penetration projected for each by 2020.

For the other four EU-27 countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary and Slovenia), the CBAs or rollout plans were not available to the report compilers.

Smart gas metering review

Turning to gas, just five member countries (Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and UK) have decided to roll out smart gas meters by 2020 or earlier, the report states.

A further two countries (France and Austria) have plans to proceed with a large-scale rollout but have yet to take official decisions.

In 12 countries (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden), the results of the CBA were negative.

The remainder have yet to conclude their assessment or in the cases of Cyprus and Malta, there is no gas network.

Smart metering next steps

The report states – and Engerati concurs – that care must be taken in interpreting the results as most of the key parameters are based on projections and forecasts, with few countries having got to an advanced stage in their smart meter rollouts.

A salient example concerns the UK, with the report projecting 100% diffusion of smart meters by 2020. However, this seems unduly optimistic, with the latest government statistics release giving the current penetration (as of 30 June 2017) at about 15% and an installation rate of a little over one million smart meters a quarter.

The report also offers some issues “to reflect upon” when considering next steps in smart meter deployment, based on lessons learned and experience acquired.

These include the need for an intensive communication effort to help consumers understand their rights and the benefits of smart metering. Another is the need for regulatory measures to provide incentives for stakeholders to ensure the quick development of smart metering products and services so as to speed up their uptake.

Further, prior to rollout, the need for a specific data privacy and security framework should be assessed.

For smart metering rollouts, it is strongly recommended that at least the minimum set of functionalities proposed by the European Commission be adhered to. And those countries not opting for large-scale rollout should review their CBAs, while those which haven’t completed them should proceed swiftly to do so.

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