The key role of metering in energy markets
Metering and energy data management play a key role in today's energy markets. For instance, the acquisition and transmission of metering readings is indispensable for customer billing, forecasting and supplier switching. Metering has grown in importance in recent years as a result of calls for increased energy competition and improved energy efficiency.
Advent of smart metering
The most widespread type of meter, the Ferraris disc or induction meter, has been in use for over a century. Today there is a new generation of electricity metering technology — "smart" meters. The development of this technology has been driven by improvements in information and communication technology. Unlike the purely analog Ferraris disc meter, smart meters have no mechanical parts and are entirely computerised.
Smart meters dispense with on-site readings, as the metering data can be remotely read and automatically transmitted to the system operator. Smart meters also have a host of useful new features, such as bidirectional communication, load recording, multi-tariff metering and acquisition of supply quality data, that go far beyond the mere recording of electricity consumption.
Thanks to smart metering it has become possible to inform consumers in real or near real time of their actual energy use — for instance, via a web portal or external displays. This new development also paves the way for the introduction of flexible tariffs.
The time frame for the smart meter roll-out in Austria
Annex I of the new Electricity Directive that forms part of the 3rd energy package calls on member states to implement "intelligent metering systems" to assist the active participation of consumers in the electricity supply market. Subject to a positive economic assessment of smart meters by Member States, the Directive requires at least 80% of consumers to be equipped with intelligent metering systems by 2020.
Since its 2010 amendment, the Elektrizitätswirtschafts- und -organisationsgesetz (Electricity Act) has included, in sections 83 et sqq., provisions for blanket roll-out of smart meters in Austria, thereby transposing the third package requirements.
Among other things, it lays down that the Minister of Economy can issue an ordinance that contains the basic principles to be respected when rolling out smart meters in Austria – if a feasibility analysis turns out positive.
As Austria’s regulator, E-Control has also been entrusted with issuing a number of pertinent ordinances. For instance, we are to provide detailed rules for the type and scope of functionalities required of smart meters, the data to be collected, and the information to be given to customers.
If Austria is to adopt a transparent, open-ended and pro-competitive approach to smart metering that brings equal benefits to all consumers and market players, it is vital to have a regulatory framework for nationwide standardisation of system specifications and functionality.
Some electricity system operators have gone ahead with smart metering projects over the last years.
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