Smart electricity meters are coming, but later

The electricity meter should become intelligent – and reduce energy costs for consumers. But the way to get there is long. Because smart measuring devices must meet high security standards, including against attacks by criminals.

It could be a while before intelligent electricity meters are installed in private households.

WWash the ash when the electricity for the washing machine is particularly cheap. Charge the electric car in the middle of the night. Or the electricity from the solar system on your own roof can be fed into the grid at good prices. Intelligent electricity meters are supposed to take care of that. But the introduction of these all-rounders of the energy transition has stalled. The first major electricity consumers should have been equipped with smart meters since last year. But the gateways that are supposed to connect the meter with the network operators and the electricity suppliers are still not permitted.

For most private households, such intelligent electricity meters are still a long way off. With them, only the familiar black meter with a turntable is exchanged for a digital electricity meter. It can “do a little more than the old meters,” says the energy expert at the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center, Udo Sieverding.

On the digital devices, the customer can see how much electricity he has consumed the day before, in the past week or in the whole month, for example. Reading the values ​​is still difficult, however: Sieverding complains that many devices have to be awkwardly connected to a flashlight. An employee of the electricity supplier has to come to read the electricity bill or the customer enters the data himself via the Internet.

The benefits of modern meters are therefore limited for electricity customers. “He also knows who his power guzzlers are,” says the consumer advocate. The higher costs of the new meters, for which a maximum of 20 euros per year can be charged, about 7 euros more than before, could probably not be saved in terms of electricity consumption with the help of the new devices. And if the new meter doesn’t fit in the meter box, it can get really expensive for the homeowner.

BSI is silent about reasons for delay

Around 88 percent of households in Germany are to receive these digital meters. The exchange is already in progress. However, it will be a long time before all households have received new measuring devices. According to the Federal Network Agency, all consumers should be equipped with modern measuring equipment by 2032. According to her, there were around 7 million electronic and a good 43 million classic meters in 2016.

The digital devices only become intelligent electricity meters when they have a communication unit and can send data over the Internet. But there is a problem here. Households with an electricity consumption of more than 10,000 kilowatt hours per year and operators of photovoltaic systems with an output of more than 7 kilowatts should have received intelligent measuring systems since 2017. Mandatory installation is planned from 2020 onwards from an annual consumption of 6000 kilowatt hours. If the annual consumption is lower, the electricity customer can apply for an intelligent metering system to be installed.

However, none of the access points that are supposed to transfer the data have received certification from the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Nine manufacturers submitted their devices, some years ago. The BSI is silent about the reason for the delay. “For reasons of confidentiality, the BSI cannot provide any information on the likely completion of the certification process for the smart meter gateways,” says a spokesman.

The certification process is complex

The security requirements for the access are high. Without adequate protection, hackers could manipulate the electricity meter or completely disconnect the house from electricity. Insights into everyday life, habits and standard of living of the residents could also be tapped via inadequately secured interfaces, warn consumer advocates.

“The certification process is complex and demanding. Both the BSI and the manufacturers are breaking new ground, ”says Nikolaus Starzacher from the device manufacturer Discovergy. “The BSI rightly takes its task very seriously and has it checked very thoroughly.” Dicovergy submitted its application later than other manufacturers and expects approval by the end of the year. Delivery can only begin once the BSI has certified devices from three independent manufacturers.

The large electricity companies are also waiting for the BSI’s decision. The utility Eon has already ordered 16,000 gateways for a small number of its around 6 million customers and expected certification by the end of the first quarter of 2017 – to no avail.