Over the past five years, national developments and discussions in the field of smart energy have been focused primarily on rolling out intelligent metering systems (iMsys) and modern metering equipment (mME). In 2016, a legal framework for the rollout was created in Germany, with the publication of the Act on the Digitisation of the Energy Transition (GdeW) and the associated Metering Point Operation Act (MsbG). The implementation projects of the metering point operators were and still are mainly concerned with preparing for the rollout of iMsys and mME. This mostly includes the procedural and organizational design of future metering point operation, conception and procurement of new, or the adaptation of existing, IT systems (e.g. ERP, OVA and WFM systems) as well as testing of new equipment and communication technologies. These developments tend to focus primarily on providing standard services and thus on the electricity sector in particular (see also Section 35(1) MsbG). The scope will gradually expand to include additional services.
Other sectors and submetering – the next steps
Involving other sectors, such as gas, water and heating, currently only plays a minor role, or rather will only be tackled once the “obligations” in the electricity sector have been met. Getting other sectors on board is absolutely vital, however in order to overcome all the challenges presented by metering point operation and a holistic approach to capturing energy consumption values. The rollout also needs to include submetering elements such as heating cost allocators (HCA). This is even more important when you consider that space heating accounts for 75 percent of energy consumption in private households. If introducing intelligent sensor technology leads to increased transparency, which in turn contributes to a reduction in energy consumption, it clearly must also be extended to the submetering sector. The economic drivers for this are actually coming from housing industry businesses, which are inclined to exploit the technological possibilities a rollout of intelligent metering systems offers for their own purposes. Metering point operators in their dual role as owners and entities responsible for providing the necessary technology will expand their service portfolio and design new lucrative business models.
Avoidance of grid expansion, use of intelligent control technology and virtual power plants
In addition to creating more transparency in energy consumption, the possibility of avoiding further grid expansion (“intelligence instead of copper”) is another key driver for the introduction of iMsys. An iMsys per se is not capable of managing (controllable) consumption or generation systems (CLS systems) and needs a so-called CLS control box for that.
Just as involving other sectors or integrating submetering elements in these developments, CLS management is still being regarded as an “optional extra” with only the major distribution system operators addressing the issue in more detail at the moment. Yet, setting up such systems is a key foundation for establishing virtual power plants. Q_PERIOR has therefore been involved in the design of CLS management systems for some time and is thus an active driver of developments in this area.
The road to a smart city
The introduction of intelligent metering systems, the involvement of additional sectors for consumption metering and the use of management and control technology is primarily the responsibility of energy suppliers (ESC). However, the immediate capture of energy consumption values, their intelligent processing and collation for efficient and resource-saving use of energy is only one element of a linked-up, intelligent municipality (smart city).
The current development trend is towards more and more people living in urban areas. This trend brings new challenges (e.g. more traffic, more waste, higher energy demand, air pollution, lack of parking spaces). Not only is there a need to make energy consumption efficient, but additional sectors must also be involved in the discussions in order to meet these challenges (see Figure 2). In contrast to introducing intelligent metering systems though, there is no single entity responsible for “delivering” a smart city. Instead, the responsibility is spread across the energy supply, housing, public transport/car club, waste management and automotive industries. Having said that, utility companies still need to play a key role in many areas of the smart city concept.
ESCs already have the opportunity today to prepare for the challenges of the future in this respect, to see meeting these as a new business model and to develop them accordingly. Additional forces such as declining margins in the commodity business or new, innovative players entering the energy market are continuing to drive change.
As well as delivering intelligent metering systems, Q_PERIOR currently supports energy suppliers in almost all of the pertinent future-related issues. Furthermore, cross-sector energy projects are currently either being delivered or developed with some of Germany’s major vehicle manufacturers, submetering service providers and housing developers. This interdisciplinary and cross-sector expertise is providing us with the means to address the challenges a smart city presents, together with all the relevant stakeholders.