European countries that can afford electricity smart metering programs will continue with their plans, but smaller nations and new accession states are now likely to back out of smart metering schemes, as the Energy Efficiency Directive agreed by the EU’s member states late last year significantly waters down the billing and metering requirements found in previous drafts.

Countries yet to complete cost-benefit analyses for electricity (CBAs) include Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia and Portugal. Belgium, the Czech Republic and Lithuania have already completed negative CBAs and will not be implementing smart metering and smart grids.

Jonathan Lane, GlobalData's Head of Consulting for Power and Utilities, considers the fate of these countries’ smart grid plans: “While it is inconceivable that Germany will not implement smart metering given its large solar and wind generation sector, all the other undecided countries look like a significant risk and only Poland has a strong chance of a positive result. Together, the undecided countries account for 80 million metering points or 34% of the EU total.”

Lane explains: “The EU has watered down its proposals on smart metering in its EU Energy Efficiency Directive. Concerned about the cost of smart metering, many countries prefer to target energy efficiency via the public sector, energy retailer obligation mechanisms, and a focus on co-generation and district heating.

“The smart metering industry must take some responsibility for this result. It has been unable to deliver a simple, mass market product to Europe such as those found in the USA. The lack of an available frequency for radio mesh products used in the US has been a problem, but the industry has failed to find a solution that works across Europe at a reasonable cost. Why would a utility in Hungary buy a GPRS-enabled smart meter for €100, when it can buy a single-phase electronic meter for €10? Many European countries, including Hungary, already have ripple control system to manage the peaks produced by electric hot water heaters and do not need smart meters for demand response.”

Lane also argues that policy makers at the EU and national level are to blame due to their inability to articulate the purpose of smart metering in Europe. “Is it to drive energy efficiency,” he asks, “reduce non-technical losses, to enable large quantities of intermittent renewables to be connected to the grid, to support electric vehicles, to deliver demand response? Again, Europe can learn from the USA which has a clear focus on the biggest challenge – alleviating the peaks produced by air conditioning.”

GlobalData expects countries in Eastern Europe to focus on district heating measures to support their energy efficiency goals, and perhaps smart metering’s time will come again for these countries – perhaps when a frequency can be made available for radio mesh – but for now the dream is over.