The Smart Meter rollout can be more than just a challenge for the German energy industry. Tim Ulbricht, Managing Director of Kiwigrid from Dresden, sees opportunities particularly in the field of electromobility.
The rollout of smart metering systems finally heralds the digital and decentralized era of the German energy industry. But instead of just working through the paragraphs of the metering point operation act, energy utilities should consider the rollout as an opportunity for a full digital transformation. As the heart of the smart metering system, the Smart Meter Gateway is much more than just a gatekeeper for metering data. It is a digital platform in the customer’s building. It is the interface to the power grid and the engine that drives the convergence of heat and mobility. As with a smartphone, the added value is in the software and not in the hardware. The gateway enables all the players in the energy industry to achieve unprecedented added value.
The transport sector is one of the largest energy consumers in Germany and could be electrified with electricity from renewable energies in many areas. Car manufacturers and energy suppliers are still struggling with buyers for acceptance of e‑mobility. However, a PWC study assumes a market share for electric cars of 30 percent in 2030. As a result, investments in the expansion of the charging infrastructure will increase considerably over the next few years. Most of the major energy suppliers already offer charging infrastructure solutions for commercial EV fleets.
The deployment of the charging infrastructure opens up opportunities for further business models. For example, special tariffs for commercial e‑mobility are conceivable if they charge their company fleets during off-peak periods. Utilizing electric mobility as a controllable load would also be an option. Electric cars would then take up surplus electricity from the grid or feed it into the grid in case of congestion. This would not only guarantee security of energy supply, but also significantly reduce the economic costs for grid expansion at the low-voltage level.
Paradigm shift in energy retail
The convergence of mobility and electricity will thus bring about a major paradigm shift. Tomorrow’s customers will ask for services that effectively combine mobility, electricity and energy efficiency into one system. And which can contribute to making the energy system more flexible without compromising comfort. As a result, more and more customers see pure energy supply only as part of the whole. In particular, the market role of energy retail is thus changing from a commodity supplier to a system service provider. It also suggests that sooner or later car manufacturers will start offering their electric cars in packages with the right charging solution, including an electricity contract with flat rate and the necessary Smart Meter Gateway.
Smart metering systems — an opportunity for utilities
The prerequisite for all these new business models is data communication and charging control via a scalable, highly secure and standardized infrastructure — a task that Smart Meter Gateways will take on as the core component of the smart metering system. This is particularly the important in the low-voltage grid, where well over 90 percent of all renewables are connected and large parts of the charging infrastructure for electric mobility will be connected in the future. For all these reasons, it is clear that electric mobility will not scale in the long term without consistent digitization of energy systems, including a large-scale smart meter gateway infrastructure.
Original published in the Handelsblatt edition from 05.02.2018 “Energie — Das Ende der Wende?”