Smart meteringThe gas directive introduced as part of the 3rd energy package provides for "the implementation of intelligent metering systems to assist the active participation of consumers in the gas supply market". It calls for consumers to be "properly informed of actual gas consumption and costs frequently enough to enable them to regulate their own gas consumption".
Smart meters are digital devices that record energy consumption at frequent intervals and can be remotely read. They also have new features that conventional meters lack. They support additional services, which are inexpensive because they can be remotely controlled and are fully automated. Smart meters are intended for blanket installation across large supply areas, and therefore generally differ from other, more specialised meter types, such as load profile meters, in their design, installation and data transmission technology.
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 will be vital to create a regulatory framework for nationwide standardisation of the specifications and functionality of these systems.
In principle, smart metering systems should be capable of transmitting data on the usage of any network-based (electricity, gas and district heating) and some non-network energy forms (e.g. oil or wood pellets), as well as information on ambient conditions such as room and outside temperatures. This means, for instance, that a gas system operator which installs smart meters at customers' premises could use existing infrastructure installed by an electricity network operator to transfer and process data. It will not be necessary to duplicate investments in communication infrastructure, and both gas and electricity system operators stand to make major cost savings and efficiency gains as a result. Efforts should therefore be made to enable the integration of a variety of energy forms with existing smart metering infrastructure, and the potential effects should certainly be included in economic feasibilty analyses.
The main advantages of smart metering are:
- Benefits for distribution system operators from increased efficiency in labour intensive processes such as meter reading, billing, and the interruption or restoration of service;
- Benefits for suppliers in terms of the availability of accurate, real-time consumption data, allowing them to offer new services;
- Benefits for consumers through the availability of more precise and timely information on actual energy use.