The freezer logs on to the phone when it suddenly consumes too much power. The washing machine starts when the energy is favorable. The solar system feeds electricity from its own roof with good prices into the grid. This is how the new energy world could look like. Could – because on the required intelligent electricity meter Stadtwerke and other utilities are still waiting. It should have been started with its gradual introduction two years ago.
In many households, although the familiar black electricity meter with the constantly rotating disc has already been exchanged for a device with digital display. However, these modern measuring systems are not intelligent because they can not connect with network operators and electricity suppliers via the Internet. For this they lack the Smart Meter Gateway called communication unit.
Intelligent electricity meters should be able to do much more
The digital devices, for which a maximum of € 20 may be charged per year, would offer “hardly any added value compared to conventional meters,” emphasizes the electricity giant Eon. Intelligent electricity meters should be able to do much more. “Among other things, customers receive better cost control over their energy consumption, can identify power guzzlers, avoid back payments and have the meter read remotely,” says an Eon spokeswoman.
For these devices, however, consumers have to pay more – at 100 euros per year, the statutory price caps, which are graduated according to consumption, begin.
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A mandatory installation of the smart meter is only intended for larger consumers. Anyone who consumes more than 10,000 kilowatt hours a year or operates a solar power plant with a capacity of more than seven kilowatts should receive a smart meter as early as 2017. With an annual consumption of at least 6000 kilowatt hours, the installation should begin from the coming year. An average three-person household is usually below this mark. But he can apply for the installation of a smart meter.
Above all, smart meters should help to flexibly link increasingly decentralized power generation and consumption. The network operators hope, among other things, for a wealth of more precise data for accurate predictions of the electricity requirement. But their introduction has developed into a “never-ending obstacle course”, as the Federal Association of the Energy and Water Industries complains.
The strict audits of the Federal Office for Security in Information Technology
Smart meters are not only smart, they can also be the gateway for hackers in the power grid. Therefore, only devices that have passed rigorous testing by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) may be installed. So far, only one gateway has succeeded. In order to be able to start compulsory installation, however, three devices must be certified by the BSI. Eon has so far mounted only a few hundred pilot devices.
“The requirements BSI places on manufacturers are enormous,” says Bjoern Buchgeister of Aachen-based Devolo AG, who developed one of the eight devices still in the certification process. The BSI made additional demands during the course of the procedure. “The certification effort is significantly higher than expected.” That’s why Devolo will not be able to launch its smart meter this year.
The BSI affirms that it will not make any requirements that are unattainable. The certification of the first gateway last December showed that “it is possible to develop innovative technologies and smart solutions that ensure information security and protect the privacy of consumers,” says a spokesperson. The BSI was confident that further manufacturers would soon meet the requirements and that the mandatory rollout could begin later this year.
Not only at the sluggish introduction there is criticism
That comes too late for the Trianel public utility network, which owns more than 100 municipal utilities in Germany and neighboring countries. It wants out of annoyance over the sluggish approval procedure its Smart metering activities by the year end.
There are only limited perspectives, in the short and medium term “to be able to recover the investments made in this business,” says the spokesman for the Trianel management, Sven Becker. Germany runs the risk of “losing oneself in digitization in a technological small”.
But not only the sluggish introduction, there is criticism. The first-generation smart metering systems could do far less than originally announced, criticizes the chief executive officer of the Association of Municipal Enterprises, Katherina Reiche. “Figuratively speaking, the devices master the first two basic arithmetic operations with the addition or subtraction, but they can not reproduce multiplication or division.”
However, this is necessary in order to be able to control and switch power generation from photovoltaics and consumption in a residential district, for example. It is also not clear, “whether the next generation of devices will be able to do so”.
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