Smart meters are a vital part of the modern power grid, as they facilitate energy saving, demand response and many applications such as virtual net metering and energy storage. At the same time they prevent electricity theft, which has become a serious issue in many countries.
Unfortunately, there is a great discrepancy between Eastern and Western Europe when it comes to the rollout of smart meters. According to Eurelectric’s latest Power Barometer, the western part of the European Union has achieved smart meter penetration upwards of 90%, while some countries in Central and Eastern Europe are mostly below 20%.
Specifically, the rate is below 1% in Germany, Poland, Cyprus, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Greece is at 6%, compared to 7% in Hungary, 16% in Romania and 65% in Austria. Eurelectric clarified that 34% of the meters in Bulgaria have remote functionalities, but that they do not fully comply with the EU smart metering requirements as there are no local requirements and no rollout defined.
It should be noted that the EU had set goals for a 48% penetration rate by 2020 and 56% for 2022 in terms of population coverage.
“Smart meters, a key technology for grid management and digitalisation, have reached 56% of EU customers, but are making much less progress in Eastern and Central Europe. Providing reliable data for utilities to handle peaks in electricity demand as more electric solutions enter EU buildings will be critical for managing an accelerating electrification rate,” Eurelectric said.
Greece is a negative example
In Greece, the Hellenic Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO or, in Greek, DEDDIE) carried out a large tender in 2021 to buy 7.5 million smart meters and install them by 2030.
One of the participants, Swiss company Landis+Gyr, took HEDNO to court for excluding it from the process over missing documentation. It resulted in a two-year delay.
A court has just ruled that Landis+Gyr’s complaint has no legal merit. The group immediately announced it would exit the Greek market.
The Swiss company operates a factory in Corinth which employs 900 people and produces smart meters with an annual capacity of 10 million units.
Lieberherr: We were excluded even though we are the only producer in Greece
“The decision is particularly dissapointing, since we were not given the opportunity to take part in the tendering process, but we were excluded from the pre-selection phase even though we are the only producer of smart meters in Greece,” Landis+Gyr CEO Werner Lieberherr said in a statement.
After the long legal battle, acquiring and installing smart meters in the Greek distribution network can finally begin.
The entire story is a negative example of how bureaucratic and legal issues can postpone investments vital for the energy transition.
Smart meters bring multiple benefits
According to HEDNO, benefits from the use of smart meters include the following:
– The ability to enact different power tariffs during the day with better peak load management;
– Preliminary power bills are no longer needed as the consumer receives a single final bill;
– Remote supply termination and reactivation reduces cost for the operator;
– Reducing electricity theft with benefits for consumers;
– More competition in the market as it is easier to change the supplier;
– Power outages are reduced and last a shorter time;
– Consumers may easily compare their consumption at different times and make better decisions.
Among other applications, there is the ability to have virtual net metering, where a consumer can install a photovoltaic system on one house to reduce his or her bill at another house. In addition, consumers can use electric car batteries to provide power to the grid and learn to optimize energy use during the day and night.