17. November 2022 By Georg Benhöfer, Stephen Lorenzen and Lars Zimmermann
Habeck announces restart of smart meter rollout
The smart meter rollout in Germany has been making very slow progress for many years. On 20 October 2022, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck, announced a restart of the rollout at the Future Energy Lab of the German Energy Agency (dena). In order to remove the legal and bureaucratic hurdles, a package of measures is to be developed and presented together with the industry that will significantly accelerate and simplify the rollout.
A new start worth waiting for
The German Act on the Digitalisation of the Energy Transition (GDEW), which includes the German Metering Point Operation Act (Messstellenbetriebsgesetz, MsbG), was published in 2016. The MsbG is intended to create binding conditions for the secure use of smart metering systems in compliance with data protection law. The smart metering system consists of at least one modern measuring device (also referred to colloquially as a smart meter) and the smart meter gateway (SMGW). The SMGW is intended to serve as a central communication interface for all metered consumption – from the consumer to authorised market participants. Using such smart metering systems is important for the energy transition. This is because while conventional power plants can adjust themselves to us consumers, wind and solar power plants pay less attention to our consumption behaviour. Accordingly, there must be a shift from consumption-oriented generation to generation-oriented consumption to make the energy transition a success. Digital intelligence systems, such as smart metering systems, play a key role in giving companies the technical capacity to react flexibly when energy is generated.
The MsbG thus created the legal basis for the rollout of smart metering systems – with the technical basis being formed by data security specifications (among other things), and the organisational basis being formed by the metering point operators’ obligation to set up this exact digital infrastructure.
The rollout of these intelligent metering systems (smart meter rollout), which had been slow from the outset, had recently come to a complete standstill.
With the ruling of the Higher Administrative Court for North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster, Germany (Oberverwaltungsgerichts [OVG] Münster) from 4 March 2021, the original pronouncement by the German Federal Office for Information Security (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik, BSI) regarding the technical possibility of rolling out smart metering systems was deemed unlawful. The BSI’s pronouncement is of great relevance for metering point operators (MPOs). It is the green light for smart meter rollout. Once the pronouncement is official, it is time for the MPOs to begin outfitting metering points with smart metering systems (iMSys) or modern metering equipment (mME).
After the industry initially received the green light, the OVG retracted, labelling it as a false start.
In response, the legislator – in close coordination with the unions – got busy working out adjustments to the German Metering Point Operation Act (MsbG). The resulting amendment to the MsbG came into force on 27 July 2021, and the BSI announced at the beginning of 2022 that all requirements for the pronouncement were now met. We went into this in more detail in our blog post from 16 December 2021.
Although everything seems to have been clarified again from a legal point of view, bureaucratic and technical hurdles remain, and these make it difficult to ensure a quick rollout.
Habeck makes a fresh start
Given the long and bumpy history of the German smart meter rollout, a clean cut and a spirited new start sounds like good news to us. dena itself, at whose event Habeck announced the new start, also very much welcomes this approach. ‘This is urgently needed, and it has to be comprehensive,’ said Andreas Kuhlmann, dena’s Chief Executive Officer. He goes on to say: ‘Renewable energies as well as electric cars and heat pumps will only be integrated properly into the grid if we have a digital energy system. Smart meters help to save energy, and smart control makes it possible to benefit directly from cheap electricity from renewable energies.’ All measures in this area are urgently needed at the moment.
So the industry is reacting positively to the announced new start. So far, however, there has only been an announcement – specific steps are not known yet. We are also waiting eagerly and will report on any further changes here.