Why the smart meter won’t budge a meter
What should it not be able to do? It should help customers save electricity and thus money, as well as shift electricity consumption to lower-cost times. Meanwhile, the smart meter is also supposed to help with the implementation of the energy transition. The utilities want to read the payers remotely and hope to be able to switch off the payers without direct contact to the customer. In italy, the national power utility enel has apparently had good experience with this.
But in this country no one wants an electronic payer. Instead of smart payers, the companies that want to sell such devices are now more likely to be sold. In the past ten years, for example, the payer manufacturer landis+gyr in zug, switzerland, has been sold by siemens via kkr (kohlberg kravis roberts) co.) and bayard capital to the japanese toshiba group.
In the future, comprehensive smart metering will enable real-time digital metering of electricity, gas and water consumption. Here, industry and politics have once again sent the european union ahead: according to the eu energy efficiency directive 2006/32/ec (2006/32/ec ), all households in the 27 member states are to be equipped with digital electricity meters by 2022.
"Intelligent" electricity payer. Photo: evb energie ag. License: cc by-sa 3.0.
In germany, the installation of smart meters is now mandatory in new and renovated buildings. With the revision of the energy industry act (enwg), all consumers with an annual electricity demand of more than 6000 kwh must also have a smart meter installed. Of course, the customer is asked to pay for the installation of the smart meter. The payer will also have to pay a higher rent and the customer will have to provide the dsl connection required for remote reading. Their power consumption and the self-consumption of the smart meter, which is higher than that of the classic ferraris payer due to the numerous additional functions, is of course also at the expense of the customer’s. In practice, the promised savings potentials are obviously far below the additional costs caused by a smart meter and probably do not even cover the costs for the payer rent.
Since 2012, all operators of power generation plants with a capacity of more than 7 kw that are subject to the renewable energy sources act (eeg) or the combined heat and power act must also install an electronic meter. In contrast to the classic electromechanical ferraris meter, which is calibrated for 12 years, a smart meter is only calibrated for eight years. At the end of the eight years, most smart meters were allowed to end up on the electronic scrap heap. The electronic components installed eight years earlier will have long been discarded by their manufacturers, and knowledge of the software implemented in the production of the meters may then also have largely died out. Since there are no binding standards and transmission protocols for smart meters, at least for the entire eu, each manufacturer cooks its own proprietary soup. In the meantime, an extensive zoo of gadgets has developed and new variants are constantly sprouting up like on a mushroom farm.
In order to curtail the proliferation of gadgets and standards, the european union, through mandate m/441 of 12. In march 2009, the standardization bodies cen, cenelec and etsi were asked to standardize smart meter functionality and communication interfaces for the electricity, gas, heating and water sectors. At the m/441 smart meters coordination group (sm-cg) meeting in brussel on 5.12.In 2012, it was noted that the eu commission’s mandate, formulated in mandate m/441, had been largely fulfilled and was being extended, at the suggestion of the smart meter co-ordination group, to accompany and coordinate the remaining standardization activities. According to available information, this proposal is supported by the eu commission.
Since the electronic metering devices are significantly more complex than the sophisticated electromechanical ferraris meters, there is generally a higher risk of error. The consequences of, for example, a failure of data transmission as a result of a router problem or other transmission failures do not yet seem to be bindingly settled. Friends of the switchable power strip, who disconnect their dsl router from the mains at night, were allowed to incur the displeasure of their power supplier.
Like all digital systems that are accessible from the outside, smart meters are likely to be hacked. If this is possible with scada systems that are so secure, there is reason to doubt that there is no such risk for smart meters.
And so one of the still fundamental problems of smart metering is adequate data protection. Since the beginning of 2011, the german federal office for information security (bsi) has been working on a so-called protection profile for smart meters. The current status dates from mid-2011. Inquiries regarding progress in the meantime have not been answered by the bsi. There does not yet seem to be a useful result, especially for the necessary cost-benefit analysis.
Even if the smart meters were to function flawlessly, they make little economic sense so far and so no one wants to have them. All discernible benefits lie with the utilities, which have been able to further reduce staff and automate customer contact to the greatest possible extent. However, to date there are no tariffs whose use has been made possible by a smart meter and which offer the customer a significant cost saving through a significant tariff spread.
A customer could perhaps receive an alert via a corresponding analysis software if he forgot to turn off the iron at home. Intelligent ball irons, however, now recognize this problem on their own and switch themselves off before the hat catches fire. The ability to determine remotely via a cell phone app when the better half has left his resting place and started the coffee machine is not necessarily a form of application that should serve as a sales argument for the smart meter provider, due to data protection considerations.
Will replacement soon be mandatory for almost all consumers?
Since the mass of customers does not want to access voluntarily and the spread of smart meters does not really get off the ground, it is currently being considered to reduce the mandatory limit to 4000 kwh annual consumption. This means that a large proportion of consumers in germany would be affected by the installation obligation and would have to purchase devices that, due to the lack of uniform standards, would most likely have to be replaced before the end of the eight-year calibration period.
The results of the field tests carried out with smart meters in recent years with selected households, some of which were rewarded for their participation with a free freezer, were quite sobering. For example, about 6-8% of the load could be reduced with the help of temporary, favorable or free freezing conditions. Be shifted to more expensive electricity tariffs. The results do not seem to be very promising with regard to the promised reductions in consumption.
It is possible that all the plans will ultimately come to nothing, because an electricity supplier will ask itself in good time what the customer actually wants. All experience teaches that the customer wants a certain benefit, in this case electrical energy. He does not want to be educated in energy policy, nor does he necessarily want to feel bad about his life all the time because of the negative environmental impact induced by his electricity consumption.
And there an electricity supplier could nevertheless demand the whole measuring and tariff-technical thought games with one blow into the garbage can of the history, if it were to give the customers a flat electricity rate. This idea may not yet become reality due to the existing legal framework. As the share of renewables in the overall electricity mix increases, variable fuel costs will decrease and the fixed investment cost block will increase. At least with e.On is already thinking aloud on this subject.