E.ON has become one of the first companies in Germany to manage customer PV systems using smart meters. The meters include an additional control that prevents grid congestion by managing generation from the solar panels.

The PV systems are connected to the grid operated by Bayernwerk, one of E.ON’s regional distribution subsidiaries. Flexible output control makes E.ON a pioneer in implementing the technical requirements of the VDE Network Technology Forum (FNN), and in the use of control boxes as part of a fully functional test system. FNN is the organisation developing technical standards in this field.

Control boxes and smart meters can be used to reduce or increase the power output of PV modules from a remote location, and also to provide information about the technical condition of the solar panels as well as other measured values. The data as well as encrypted control signals are transmitted via a communication gateway inside the smart meter. This ensures compliance with the maximum security standards defined by the Federal Office for Information Security.

“What sounds pretty simple is an important milestone on the path towards the digital, smart electricity grid,” says Paul- Vincent Abs, who is responsible at E.ON for smart meters. “The control box/smart meter combination allows both the generation and consumption of renewable energy to be optimised.”

The work done by E.ON in this field is sponsored by the Ministry of Economics as part of the “Smart Energy Showcase – Digital Agenda for the Energy Transition” (SINTEG) program. The aim of this initiative is to develop and demonstrate model energy supply solutions for the future in so-called showcase regions.

Four pilot projects

In four regions of Germany E.ON has launched pilot projects for the rollout of smart meters. On the islands of Fehmarn and Rügen in northern Germany and in Saxony- Anhalt and Lower Bavaria a total of several hundred customers in the E.ON grid areas of Avacon, Bayernwerk, E.DIS and Hansewerk will participate in the projects.

The background to the pilot projects is the statutory obligation to install intelligent metering systems for customers with an annual consumption of more than 6000 kWh. Operators of plants funded under the Renewable Energies Act (EEG) with an installed capacity of more than 7 kW are also likely to be under an obligation to install such systems from autumn 2017.

Future rollout

Altogether, after the completion of the rollout in 2027, around 20% of all electricity customers in Germany should have these intelligent metering systems installed at their properties. At E.ON, this will affect more than a million customers. A far greater proportion, approximately 80%, will be equipped with an ‘intelligent’ meter, which is an electronic meter without a communication module.

This follows a recommendation put together for a commissioned Ernst & Young report in 2015, which suggested a tailored approach based primarily on economic viability. Under this policy the 15% of consumers that use more than 6000 kW of energy per year and the 10% in new or renovated buildings, plus the 5% that produce CHP and solar and wind energy would all have smart meters. The majority (70%) of consumers, including smaller businesses and households, whose energy consumption is less than 6000 kWh per year would have ‘intelligent’ meters.