Measurement and Metering Facilities as Enabling Technologies for Smart Electricity Grids in Europe


Completed Project


This research project on smart electricity grids was conducted for the Sectoral e-Business Watch (SeBW) 2009 in cooperation with the Institute for Automation of Complex Power Systems (ACS) at the E.ON ERC. The resulting report focuses both on economic and technical aspects. On the one hand, this was a very successful utilization of the research center’s resources, while on the other hand the interdisciplinary approach itself was an enrichment for the study.

This study focuses on the low and medium voltage levels, which correspond to the perspective of the consumer and the distribution network, respectively. The idea of smart grids is to improve grid performance and thereby to allow postponement of otherwise critical investments. On the consumer side this is done via Demand Side Management (DSM). Differentiated pricing and disconnection are supposed to induce demand responses so as to ease some of the burden during peak-load times. In contrast, the distribution network faces a very different issue: it needs to be prepared for increasing distributed generation. This entails updating of the protection systems and introduction of intelligent communication systems.

For the roll-out in the low voltage system, i.e. the installation of smart meters, lack of standardization is a major impeding factor. Industry and utilities so far suffer from high investment uncertainty. However, it needs to be recognized that serious efforts have been put into the issue, especially from the political side. Agents are the European Union, European institutions and some individual European countries.

Another important factor is consumer acceptance. There is evidence that monetary incentives alone are insufficient for appropriate demand response. Some consumers reject demand response completely though they do not trust their utilities. Research suggests that political support can relax this situation by restoring trust through consumer information.

The widely discussed issue of data privacy and security also impacts smart metering. Very sensitive data is gathered from consumers, so that, rules and guidelines need to be established to protect consumers and to allow utilities or other market actors to make use of those data and the greatest degree of freedom possible for smooth operations.

For medium voltage systems, where the requirements for measurement accuracy are less demanding, standardization plays an equally important role. It mainly concerns communication, synchrophasors (e.g. time synchronization) and synchronization systems (for example Precision Time Protocol, PTP). In fact, several standards exist for all important factors of the system. However, with a lack of coordination and consensus the situation is not so much different from the one in the low voltage system.

The main challenge that needs to be addressed in medium voltage systems is bi- or multidirectional information flows. This requires the use of Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs), which can be described as the counterpart of smart meters in medium voltage systems. A supporting factor for the roll-out of IEDs is that the current measurement devices are about to reach the end of their lifetime. They can thus be gradually updated.

New business models are expected to emerge for both systems. Areas like plug-in hybrid vehicles, virtual power plants and microgrids will expand in the near future. Consumers will also be affected by differentiated pricing schemes and intermediaries providing services like financing, installing and maintaining generation devices or allowing for the participation in a virtual power plant.

Two case studies are also part of the project. One case study is about the experience of ENEL, the largest electric utility in Italy. The company started a roll-out already back in 2001 and found that customer acceptance is fairly high, with 57% of customers changing their behavior. Furthermore, customers seem to really care about their energy usage and frequently check energy consumtion patterns and costs on their indoor device.

The other case study is about how the number and location of intelligent eletronic devices can be optimized in medium voltage grids. Common branches of all possible network configurations are considered and weighted by probability. For desired state estimation accuracy and given accuracy of individual devices, the number of devices installed in the identified spots can be minimized to the necessary amount. This is important as the devices are an important cost factor and IED investment can be reduced markedly with such an approach.

The role of FCN in this project, apart from project coordination, was to investigate the business- and consumer-oriented as well as institutional aspects. ACS provided input on the technical aspects. The contribution made by Carlos Muscas, University of Cagliari, Italy, is gratefully acknowledged.


Madlener R., Liu J., Monti A., Muscas C., Rosen C. (2009). Measurement and Metering Facilities as Enabling Technologies for Smart Electricity Grids in Europe, Special Study No. 1/2009, Sectoral e-Business Watch, October.



Prof. Dr. Reinhard Madlener

Director FCN


+49 (0)241 80 49820