Smart grids are energy networks that can automatically monitor energy flows and adjust to changes in energy supply and demand accordingly. When coupled with smart metering systems, smart grids reach consumers and suppliers by providing information on real-time consumption. With smart meters, consumers can adapt – in time and volume - their energy usage to different energy prices throughout the day, saving money on their energy bills by consuming more energy in lower price periods.
Smart grids can also help to better integrate renewable energy. While the sun does not shine all the time and the wind does not always blow, combining information on energy demand with weather forecasts can allow grid operators to better plan the integration of renewable energy into the grid and balance their networks. Smart grids also open up the possibility for consumers who produce their own energy to respond to prices and sell excess to the grid.
Smart meter rollout
The EU aims to replace at least 80% of electricity meters with smart meters by 2020 wherever it is cost-effective to do so. This smart metering and smart grids rollout can reduce emissions in the EU by up to 9% and annual household energy consumption by similar amounts. To measure cost effectiveness, EU countries conducted cost-benefit analyses based on guidelines provided by the European Commission. A similar assessment was carried out on smart meters for gas.
On 30 November 2016, the Commission published a proposal stating that all consumers should be entitled to request a smart meter from their supplier. Smart meters should allow consumers to reap the benefits of the progressive digitalisation of the energy market via several different functions. Consumers should also be able to access dynamic electricity price contracts.
A 2014 Commission report on the deployment of smart metering found:
- close to 200 million smart meters for electricity and 45 million for gas will be rolled out in the EU by 2020. This represents a potential investment of €45 billion
- by 2020, it is expected that almost 72% of European consumers will have a smart meter for electricity. About 40% will have one for gas
- the cost of installing a smart meter in the EU is on average between €200 and €250
- on average, smart meters provide savings of €160 for gas and €309 for electricity per metering point (distributed amongst consumers, suppliers, distribution system operators, etc.) as well as an average energy saving of 3%.
Data protection, privacy, and security
To protect consumers' personal data when it comes to smart meters and smart grids, the European Commission recommends various data protection and privacy provisions.
Consumer personal data is protected by EU rules on the processing of data and on the free movement of this data. This Regulation sets rules on who can access personal data and under what circumstances.
The Commission has also produced guidance on data protection and privacy for data controllers and investors in smart grids (Data Protection Impact Assessment Template supported by Commission Recommendation 2014/724/EU).
The Commission is also working on new rules on the exchange of data to allow market players to access vital market information while guaranteeing a high level of data protection, privacy and security.
The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), in cooperation with ENER and CNECT, has drawn-up security measures to help smart grid providers improve the infrastructures' cyber resilience. The proposal for a list of security measures for smart grids contains 45 security measures and the mapping of the identified security measures to potential threats.
The Smart Grids Task Force was set up by the European Commission in 2009 to advise on issues relating to smart grid deployment and development. It consists of five Expert Groups which focus on specific areas. Expert Group 2 aims to mitigate the risks to personal data and security of smart metering systems.
The Commission, alongside the Energy Expert Cyber Security Platform (EECSP), is preparing a strategy on cybersecurity for the energy sector under the Directive on security of network and information systems.
The Commission has also suggested developing a Network Code on Cyber Security to complement existing national rules and to tackle cross-border issues.
- High level Roundtable on Main Challenges for Cyber Security in the Energy System 24 March 2017, Rome
- Cyber Security in the Energy Sector EECSP - Expert Group - Final report
- Call for Experts: Energy Expert Cyber Security Platform (EECSP) - Expert Group - Deadline: 30th September 2015
- Commission Recommendation on preparations for the roll-out of smart metering systems
- Commission Recommendation on the Data Protection Impact Assessment Template
- Essential regulatory requirements and recommendations for data handling – SGTF
- DPIA Template for Smart Grid and Smart Metering Systems
Inventory of smart grid projects in Europe
The EU's Joint Research Centre, in close cooperation with the Directorate-General for Energy, compiles and periodically updates an inventory of smart grid projects in the EU.
In cooperation with Eurelectric, the Joint Research Centre also provides an interactive map of smart grid and meter projects.