What does a smart meter do?

Smart meters dispense with on-site readings, as the metering data can be automatically transmitted to your system operator. The technology used has been around for some time, but only now it is getting cheap enough for blanket installation.

Cost reductions in information and communication technology have made this possible. Unlike the purely analog Ferraris disc meter, smart meters have no mechanical parts and are entirely computerised. Even so, they are not nearly as complex as the average mobile phone. On-site meter reading is no longer necessary; instead, the metering data can be automatically sent to your energy supplier. Smart meters can send data to the central system but also receive information from it.

On top of this, smart meters have a host of useful new features that go far beyond the mere recording of electricity consumption, such as

  • recording and saving detailed meter readings (e.g. 15-minute readings recorded over several days);

  • two-way communication with the system operator;

  • load metering, i.e. metering the electricity consumed for each quarter of an hour;

  • the possibility to apply combined pricing models; this enables use of weekend rates, rates designed for second homes or singles, and rates for users of heat pumps;

  • bidirectional metering, i.e. correct recording (and billing) of distributed generation such as PV or micro CHP plant in households;

  • recording of quality parameters;

  • providing a communication interface for external application (such as other meters, household appliances, in-house displays that show consumption values etc.).

“Thanks to smart meters, it is now possible to tell consumers almost immediately – e.g. through a web interface – how much energy they have consumed. And they also enable the market to come forth with more flexible pricing models”, says Harald Proidl, our Head of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. Work on such a web interface is already under way. The smart meters’ agility in terms of information provision and the pricing flexibility they enable are important groundwork for an electricity system with much more distributed generation and much more volatility due to wind power feed-in.