Smart Metering & Customers
Following European legislation, smart meters are increasingly being rolled out across Europe. As part of the physical grid infrastructure, meters typically fall under the grid operator's domain. In almost all EU Member States the installation of such smart meters will thus be the responsibility of DSOs.
DSOs are ready to properly inform customers on questions related to smart meter installation. The rollout and related information and communication effort towards customers includes explaining what a smart meter is, how it works, why smart meters are needed, and where to go for impartial advice on smart meter functions and benefits. Clear information provision is essential to empower consumers.
Unplanned power interruptions are also key situations in which DSO communication to customers is crucial. European power supply ranks quite highly on a worldwide scale. However, blackouts do occur – for instance, in extreme weather situations. In spring 2014, EURELECTRIC carried out a research showing that European DSOs are going beyond their legal obligations and adapting to evolving customer needs, by moving from more traditional communication (TV, radio, press, phone calls) to such tools as social media and mobile phone apps. For more information, refer to our report on Communicating with customers in case of blackouts.
Smart meters and smarter grids imply more data handling from the DSOs’ side. Data handling and exchange are not new phenomena in the utilities’ world. There are two categories of data: basic information relating to electricity flows to ensure the functioning of the power system, and a deeper set of information which can reveal important aspects of consumer behaviour and is used by market parties for commercial purposes. For more information, refer to our report on data management for energy customers.
DSO access to smart metering data is essential in order to optimise the operation and planning of the distribution network. Metering information enables the monitoring of load and voltage in the distribution network, which is a core DSO function.
As a regulated and neutral entity, DSOs can act as a neutral market facilitator collecting relevant customer data and passing information on to retailers, service providers, and other market players via data hubs in a non-discriminatory manner. DSOs can manage data hubs either independently or together with ICT and telecommunications providers.
Customers remain the owners of their personal data and will have to give their approval before their data is shared with any third party. They will benefit from effective and independent verification and validation of privacy, secure customer data management, neutral data handling, transparency, and cost-efficiency.