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Smart Utilities CEE - Industry Expert Interview Series

07.05.2013 | |

Interview with Milan Kalal, Senior Research Analyst at IDC Energy Insights. Supporting Association at this year's Smart Utilities 2013. Milan Kalal will be chariman at the Session: Innovations and Developments in Smart energy Infrastructure on Tuesday 14 May.

1. A number of countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have, thus far, shown very little interest in investing in or supporting smart meter deployments and smart grid updates. What needs to change in these countries to promote greater government interest?

Smart metering is not a question of "if", but "when". Utilities demand flexibility, with options that do not lock them into a single technology or solution (i.e., interoperable interfaces enabling future system updates and interconnectivity). System and data security will continue to play a key role.

Several drivers are at force supporting the smart metering market in Central and Eastern Europe, including the need to integrate renewable energy sources in the grid, to replace the aging infrastructure, and to optimize energy consumption. The smart metering market in CEE continues to be negatively affected by macroeconomic challenges, as well as delays in national regulatory frameworks. The complexity of the issues pertaining to smart metering – financing, privacy, security, and so on – has made national discussions challenging, particularly as such discussions need to result in sound national regulatory and legal frameworks to guide the rollouts.

2. Compared with Western Europe, many would see the central and eastern regions of Europe as some years behind? Do you see it this way? If so, when do you think more balance will exist between the two regions?

An EU provision from 2009 mandating the rollout of electricity smart meters by 2020 has turned Europe into one of the most promising smart meter markets. However, IDC Energy Insights' Smart Meter Tracker shows that market growth in Europe generally has proven to be slower than expected. Only Spain and Finland are currently implementing full rollouts. The majority of CEE countries are still testing the technology and/or completing national regulatory frameworks.
In Central and Eastern Europe, tender activity will pick up in 2013, but actual smart meter shipments are unlikely to increase dramatically during the year. Regional disparities within Europe will continue in the medium term, with meter deployments in Western Europe driving growth.

3. Do you feel that any utility companies in particular are leading the way in the smart energy transition in CEE?

In Central and Eastern Europe, smart metering market activity is expected to pick up in 2014 or 2015, when utilities in Estonia and Poland will be the most active in smart meter deployment.

4. How much importance do you feel utilities in the region are placing on customer engagement strategies?

Utilities will increasingly perceive smart meters as platforms to enable new customer services and customer engagement, focusing on functionalities that support smart grids downstream from the meter – facilitating services in the area of home energy management.

Practice has shown that consumer engagement should not be taken for granted, partly due to the fact that different customer groups behave differently and tend to respond in different ways to the provided information and incentives.
At present, given the limited progress of smart metering across the CEE region, consumer engagement is not yet the primary focus of utilities' investments. In future, utilities will put greater emphasis on home-area-network gateways to ensure the future benefits of smart metering are fully reaped on the consumer side.

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"We are testing the use of smart meters as the key component of future smart grids"

Interview with Pavel Cyrani, Chief Strategy Officer, CEZ.
Host Utility at this year's Smart Utilities Central & Eastern Europe 2013.

1. At the Smart Utilities Central and Eastern Europe 2012 conference, CEZ told delegates that it has decided not to proceed with further smart-meter deployments based on experience from previous large-scale pilot roll-outs. Does CEZ still hold the same outlook? If so, do you think this could change in the near future?

Our view of a large-scale rollout of smart-metering has not changed. We are still convinced that the value added to our customers through automated metering alone does not compensate for its costs.

2. Can you give a little more information on why CEZ does not place importance on further smart meter deployments?

It is not true that we are not placing importance on further smart meter deployment. We are testing the use of smart meters as the key component of future smart grids. They can function as a sensor, switching actor and information hub at every consumption point once there is need for it. Such need will only arise once homes will be equipped with multiple generation and storage devices that need to be controlled in a “smart” way such as PV panels or micro-CHP combined with local batteries and e-vehicles.

3. What efforts is CEZ taking to enhance consumer engagement in smart metering and the future smart energy infrastructure?

We are using our base of more than 35.000 installed smart-meters as well as other technology to further pilot different applications in order to find out where lies the biggest value for our customers is. We are also big supporters of e-mobility building up a network of charging stations and offering an e-vehicle charging tariffs.

4. Realistically, when you do you believe we might see mass deployment of smart meters across Central and Eastern Europe?

It’s difficult to judge – smart meters will only come hand-in-hand with the technology they are supposed to control. I estimate that within the next 5 years we will see smart-homes together with smart-meters as a standard for newly constructed homes. As for the older homes and buildings it will take longer than that.
Join Pavel Cyrani and register here for Smart Utilities CEE 2013 - this is your opportunity to hear CEE’s top smart utility professionals and place yourself amongst the region’s top utility decision makers to develop your business potential.

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Join Pavel Cyrani and register here for Smart Utilities CEE 2013 - this is your opportunity to hear CEE’s top smart utility professionals and place yourself amongst the region’s top utility decision makers to develop your business potential.

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"metering technology deployed in the field is more sophisticated in the CEE than in Western Europe"

Interview with Zdeněk Stuchlík, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO, ZPA Smart Energy a.s.
Gold Sponsor at this year's Smart Utilities Central & Eastern Europe

1. A number of countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have, thus far, shown very little interest in investing in or supporting smart meter deployments and smart grid updates. What needs to change in these countries to promote greater government interest?

As a rule, governments are always interested in having a reliable utility supply service. Governments will push for smart meter deployment and smart grid updates, provided these improve reliability and economy of energy supply. However, one should keep in mind that it is the end customer only, who finally ends up paying for all the costs. Obviously, the customer is ready to pay only if he gets a better service.

2. Compared with Western Europe, many would see the central and eastern regions of Europe as some years behind? Do you see it this way? If so, when do you think more balance will exist between the two regions?

I do not have the same opinion. From my point of view, the situation is the other way around. Nowadays, metering technology deployed in the field is more sophisticated in the CEE than in Western Europe. Let’s look on electronic meters penetration in CEE and WE. The majority of meters installed in CEE is already electronic, but the majority of meters installed in Western Europe is still mechanical one. This is one point; another point is energy management and load balancing. Everyone expects that AMM systems should carry this role, but in many of CEE countries this feature is already in place using RCR technology, which is proven by years of reliable operation.

3. Do you feel that any utility companies in particular are leading the way in the smart energy transition in CEE?

It's hard to say who's to be the leader. It could be Energa, a Polish utility, already purchasing AMM meters to be deployed in the north of Poland, or it might be ČEZ, a Czech utility, having installed a relatively large “pilot” project, putting to the test several technology providers by collecting loads of profile data from every metering point under tough conditions.

4. How much importance do you feel utilities in the region are placing on customer engagement strategies?

I think that the customer's engagement is really important, but it's not enough, to give them daily consumption profiles visible on In Home Display together with the information about actual tariff. You should give them some kind of home automation to be able to comfortable control their energy utilization, even if they aren’t at home. The system should be reasonable autonomous in order to care for the customer's comfort. Do not expect the customer to keep watching, what tariff is currently engaged and at the same time racking his brain, should he turn the wash machine on now or at midnight.
Join Zdeněk Stuchlík and register here for Smart Utilities CEE 2013 - this is your opportunity to hear CEE’s top smart utility professionals and place yourself amongst the region’s top utility decision makers to develop your business potential.

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Join Zdeněk Stuchlík and register here for Smart Utilities CEE 2013 - this is your opportunity to hear CEE’s top smart utility professionals and place yourself amongst the region’s top utility decision makers to develop your business potential.