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How Europe is Reshaping the Smart Metering Market

Eric Woods — October 3, 2012

According to our recent report, Smart Meters in Europe, by 2020 around 237 million smart meters will have been deployed across Europe and almost 90% of electricity meters in Western Europe will be smart.  However, it is not just a question of big numbers.  I see five key areas where Europe will have a significant impact on the smart metering market:

Mass PLC deployment: More than 130 million power line communications (PLC) smart meters will be deployed across Europe between 2011 and 2012.  PLC is already well established in Italy and other parts of Europe as the default communication model for smart metering.  However, the scale of the standardized deployments planned by Iberdrola and Endesa in Spain and ERDF in France will put greater pressure on meter suppliers to develop price competitive solutions with limited scope for differentiation in the metering systems themselves.  This will have an impact beyond these national markets.   Iberdrola, for example, has been working with other utilities to develop the PRIME standard, and the PRIME architecture is likely to be adopted by a number of utilities in Eastern Europe.  Utilities in Latin America and Asia are also taking a strong interest in the standard.  As well as driving down prices, the level of investment in PLC technologies is making Europe a center for innovation in other aspects of the smart grid including the use of PLC architectures for distribution automation.

Large-scale public RF adoption: By 2020, around one third of smart meter deployments will be based on public radio-frequency (RF) technologies, including GPRS, 3G, and 4G solutions.  Public RF will have a role in most countries that decide not to go for a universal PLC solution.  GPRS, for example, is already being used for early deployments in Great Britain and is likely to play a major role in the eventual rollout to 30 million consumers.  Such large scale deployments will help address lingering issues about quality of service, cost, and performance and make public RF solutions attractive to many more utilities around the world.

Home energy management and advanced metering: In general, there has been much less discussion in Europe on the role of smart meters in home energy management (HEM) than in the United States, but this is likely to change with the increased focus on energy efficiency.   The supplier-led rollout of smart meters in Great Britain will provide an important test case on the levels of consumer interest in advanced services associated with smart meters.   Germany is also likely to have an extensive specification for multi-utility billing focus on energy efficiency improvements.   Markets like the United Kingdom and Germany will provide scope for metering manufacturers to provide high-end solutions meeting extensive technical requirements including consumer features such as in-home displays.

Data brokering services: The deregulated nature of much of the European market and the real or notional split between distribution network operations and energy suppliers means that a need exists for secure and effective data exchange between different players in the smart meter market.  Such data exchanges have the potential to support a wide range of additional services that can utilize smart metering data.  The central data and communications company DCC in Great Britain is the most ambitious example, but similar issues will need to be addressed in other countries, even if the technical and commercial details of how data will be shared have yet to be agreed in most cases.

Putting privacy first: There is a particularly strong focus on data privacy in Europe, and extensive privacy controls are being included in the smart meter specifications for the Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom, among others.  Such requirements will drive further innovation from metering suppliers and service companies as they seek to ensure adaptability to a range of EU and nationally specified privacy requirements.

At next week’s Metering Billing/CRM event in Amsterdam, I’ll be chairing the Wednesday morning session on Consumer engagement and energy efficiency behavior.  I’m looking forward to a series of discussions on how smart metering is evolving in Europe and the chance to see additional examples of European innovation.

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