One of the innovations expected to help Europe reduce its energy use and cut emissions is the smart meter, which shows exactly how much gas and electricity is being used in real time. Various smart meters have been produced in recent years, but the widespread introduction of advanced metering infrastructures has been blocked by the lack of widely accepted open standards to ensure the interoperability of systems and devices.
Now, thanks to a European research project, common standards have been agreed among all the key participants, paving the way for the successful rollout of smart meters.
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The project, OPEN METER, brought together 19 major players, including utilities, meter manufacturers, research institutes, and standardisation organisations. Together, they drafted open and public standards for smart meters supporting electricity, gas, water and heat metering.
Backed by a €2.4 million grant from the European Commission, the two-and-a-half year project helped draft the standards that will define smart metering in Europe. It means that OPEN METER has laid the foundations for a competitive smart metering market, says Nicolás Arcauz, the project’s coordinator. “By guaranteeing interoperability, technology providers and meter vendors will bring the latest and most efficient technologies to the market, thus differentiating themselves from their competitors,” he says.
By telling consumers about their energy consumption, smart meters can give them more control over energy use, and open the door to new energy saving technologies. They can also give utilities real time information about household energy use, allowing them to more accurately tailor grid supply to demand at any time.
OPEN METER’s draft standards – which have already been accepted by major European utilities - are based on already existing and accepted standards wherever possible, and are being fed into the European and international standardisation process.
At the project’s heart was the principle of the open standard. “We are building the telecommunications infrastructure to serve smart metering and smart grid, and we cannot do that based on proprietary solutions, which hamper innovation and competition,” says Arcauz, who is also the Metering Manager for the Bilbao-based Spanish electric utility company Iberdrola. “An open standard will remove the most important barrier for smart meter massive rollouts, which is that of not having a widely accepted industry standard with multiple technology suppliers enabling interoperability”, he adds.
The consortium estimates the total European market of smart meters at around €11 billion, with the technologies promoted by OPEN METER itself accounting for 70-80% of this, or €6.3-7.2 billion. By 2020, more than 100 million meters are expected to be traced back to OPEN METER.
Arcauz says the project has already spurred the key players to act. “What is exciting now is that out of hundreds and hundreds of pages of technical deliverables, manufacturers are bringing products to the marketplace that comply with the OPEN METER specifications,” he says. “And it is very rewarding to see that utilities are starting to have their business plans ready for large smart metering deployments, now that a competitive market has been created”, adds Arcauz.