Increasing electric mobility requires utilities to position themselves strategically, irrespective of their role in the market. This also entails involvement with smart metering systems (German abbr.: iMSys) beyond the statutory requirements. Electric mobility and the aim of grid capacity utilization through iMSys not only complement one another – they are preconditions for one another. This is supported by the forecast registration figures for electric vehicles on the one hand and, on the other, the envisaged role for smart metering systems to enable sector convergence.
Smart metering systems facilitate bi-directional data communication and intelligent control of distributed energy resources. This makes it possible to control the local load on grids intelligently and thus relieve the strain on them. Electric mobility is playing a key role in easing the burden on electricity grids. But it can only take on this role if bi-directional or intelligent charging is possible.
Growth in e‑mobility and iMSys
In order to make electric vehicles viable as flexible energy storage systems or controllable loads, they must be available in sufficient quantity. The latest registration figures for 2017 from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrtbundesamt) show significant increases, with 29,436 plug-in hybrids (+114.2%) and 25,056 purely electric automobiles (+119.6%) registered. Forecasts such as that of the consultancy company PwC envisage further growth by 2030 to a market share for new automobiles of 30% for purely electric vehicles and a further 40% for hybrids.
The growth in iMSys is enshrined in law. The German Act on the Digitization of the Energy Transition provides for complete conversion of the energy system. The central point in the Digitization Act is therefore the introduction of smart metering systems, which make it possible to connect grids, generation and consumption with one another in an efficient and intelligent way. The smart meter roll-out is anchored in the German Metering Point Operations Act (MsbG), which regulates all aspects of installation and operation of smart meters. What are known as “smart meter gateways” (SMGWs) handle the communication and data exchange between consumers and producers, and allow integration of the smart meters into the smart grid in a way that complies with data protection and security. The timescale for conversion is also defined in the MsbG. All consumers with an annual consumption over 6,000 kilowatt hours are to be converted to iMSys by 2032. Metering point operators can also extend the roll-out to consumers below that level. In summary, this means: sooner or later, all consumers will be equipped with a smart metering system.
Electrification of the transport sector set to continue
The transport sector is the largest energy consumer in Germany after private households. According to the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen (Working Group on Energy Balances), transport accounted for 29.5 percent of end energy consumption in 2016. This corresponds to almost 750 terawatt hours. This quantity of energy could be provided by electricity from renewable sources in many areas and represents enormous sales potential for the electricity market. Depending on driving habits, the energy consumption of a household can double. But that potential can only be exploited if the acceptance of e‑mobility increases. Automobile manufacturers offer numerous incentives to buy an e‑vehicle, such as free electricity for charging. But the existing charging facilities are a crucial factor when it comes to considering a purchase. Investment in extending the charging infrastructure will increase significantly over the next few years. It is only a matter of time until providers will be using the price of publicly available charging current to cover their costs. And it is equally clear that, at that point, vehicle manufacturers such as BMW and Nissan will switch over to offering their electric cars as a package with the appropriate charging solution, including a flat-rate electricity contract and the smart meter gateway required to control charging and payment options. After all, the automotive industry would not be the first industry from outside the energy sector to move into trading in and selling energy. Google and its peers have been there before.
Exploiting expertise for new business models
Supplying electricity is the core business of the energy supply companies. They essentially control the processes; many of them already offer charging station concepts for company fleets as part of their service and product portfolio. Further diversification of their portfolio through cooperation agreements and partnerships with the automotive industry is also possible. Providing the charging infrastructure opens up opportunities for extending business models. Thus, for example, special tariffs for commercial e‑mobility are conceivable if they charge their company fleets in off-peak periods. Integration of electric mobility as a controllable load would also be an option. E‑vehicles would then take up excess electricity from the grid that they did not actually need at the time and feed it back into the grid during congestions.
Smart metering infrastructure – an opportunity for utilities
The prerequisite for all new business models is still collecting and distributing information and controlling the charging processes via a standardized communication infrastructure – a task that can be handled by smart meter gateways. Public utility companies, energy suppliers and grid operators should thus see the Metering Point Operations Act as an opportunity in this context.
Kiwigrid offers iMSys-based solutions for the distributed and digital energy world. With Kiwigrid’s high-secure metering infrastructure, metering point operators are provided with a comprehensive solution for the cost-effective rolling out of smart metering systems. In this way, they can create the foundation for customized added-value services for all market roles on a single platform.