The EU mandated rollout of smart meters accounts for 250 million smart electricity meters to be put in place by 2020. Up to now, only 12 member states have decided to go ahead with their rollout. Investments in smart meters are still limited on a European scale. This noticeable delay in the rollout of smart meters has several dimensions, but a fragment of the opposition against smart meters is based on misconception of what a smart meter actually is and can do for us.
Smart meters ensure accurate measurement and transmission of electricity, gas, water or heat consumption data or load profiles. They facilitate dynamic pricing based on its advanced time-based pricing mechanism. The smart meter will be connected to digital technology, communications and control devices. This creates an advanced metering infrastructure . In other words, the smart meter is not a solution in itself, but a central part of an infrastructure that offers various smart grid-related functionalities to various stakeholders to gain insight in energy data and usage.
With this insight, consumers will be able to better manage their consumption and, as a result, to potentially lower their bill. Accurate and more detailed billing information will improve their knowledge about how much electricity they consume. Smart meters will also help make consumer processes more efficient and reliable, leading to faster supplier switching and higher consumer satisfaction. In other words, to give the consumer as well as the utility the most accurate data on energy consumption, having a smart meter seems an obvious choice.
In most cases, the consumer will not read consumption data straight from the smart meter. Real data that are appropriate for consumers need to be presented in consumer friendly ways. There are several devices that can translate the data coming from the smart meter into understandable feedback on current consumption level, current bill and historical consumption. The functionalities of these technologies such as in-home displays (IHDs) should not be confused with those of a smart meter.
Research performed by VaasaETT, Empower Demand 1, is based on extensive analysis of more than 100 pilots. The study suggests an average energy efficiency saving from in-home display based feedback of around 9%. The follow-up research, Empower Demand 2, confirms that to realize such energy savings, the use of communication and feedback devices are key. Many consumers have been confronted with smart meter infrastructure technologies and related costs without sufficient understanding of how that technology might assist to manage their energy consumption.
ESMIG members produce all the technologies to realize consumer empowerment: smart meters with the correct functionality, IHDs, smart phone apps, web applications and more. All these are available on the market today. Below are some examples:
An example of direct feedback is an energy monitor: a technology for meters that show actual consumption from the meter and possibly individual appliances. With this type of feedback, consumers can have more information about their energy consumption, so effectively this technology can lead to itemized billing and customers can modify their behaviour to cut their bills. The advantage is that it is easy to use: the display and interaction is simple and intuitive.
These monitors are already put into service as part of the UK foundation phase rollout and have showed their effectiveness in significant customer behaviour trials in, e.g. Ireland, the Netherlands and various other member states.
Examples of indirect feedback are customer energy management (CEM) applications: a web application run by utilities and offered as a service to their customers. The advantage of this solution over monitors is that utilities can also engage with their customers:
offering real time analysis of detailed consumption data, providing energy savings tips, comparing energy savings with their neighbourhood and sending feedback to the utility.
CEM applications are in use in Europe, Asia, US, Australia and New Zealand. In Europe, they have been implemented for example in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Germany, UK and Switzerland.
Technology is an important and enabling factor in realizing the energy saving potential of smart meter enabled programs, particularly when developed in accordance with the needs of end-consumers, enabled through constructive regulation and introduced with outstanding consumer education. In ESMIG’s you may find a full account of available technologies from ESMIG members.
About The Author
Nicolle Raven graduated in European Law and Politics, with a Master’s degree in European Public Affairs. She worked as a public affairs consultant for 3 years in the energy and healthcare sector. After working for the European Commission on youth policy, she returned to the EU energy sector last year, as policy officer for ESMIG and as an Adviser with the Orgalime Partnership.
About The Organization
The European Smart Metering Industry Group (ESMIG) is the European industry association that provides knowledge and expertise on smart metering and related communications at a European level. ESMIG’s members are the leading companies in the European smart metering market: meter manufacturers, IT companies, communications product and service providers, home energy management product and service providers and system integrators. www.esmig.eu