Equipping power generation plants and consumers with intelligent metering systems and thus also with smart meter gateways (SMGW) is a central building block for a climate-neutral energy system. Functionalities of smart metering systems, such as the transmission of real-time data and control signals, are necessary to ensure reliable grid integration of volatile, renewable energy generation while consumption patterns are changing at the same time, e.g., through electromobility, storage or heat pumps.
The SMGW rollout in Germany has progressed only slowly so far and thus does not meet the requirements of a largely climate-neutral energy system. On 2023-04-20, the German Bundestag therefore accepted a bill to restart the digitization of the energy transition (GNDEW), which entails some amendments to the Metering Point Operation Act (MsbG). This development provides an opportunity to supplement existing FfE website articles and publications on smart metering systems (links under “More Information”) with current developments relating to the SMGW rollout.
The first part of this article looks at the progress of rollouts in Germany and other European countries to date. The second part summarizes developments in recent years regarding the legal framework for the smart meter rollout in Germany, as well as describing key points of the bill dated 2023-04-20. In the third part, the BSI step model for the further development of standards for the digitization of the energy transition in Germany is discussed, which is intended to serve as an impetus for the industry for the further development of technical standards and protection profiles within the framework of § 27 MsbG.
Status of Smart Meter Rollout in Germany and Europe
In terms of SMGW rollout, Germany has so far been among the laggards in Europe. In Germany, around 160,000 of over 50 million metering locations were equipped with smart metering systems by 2021 . In Denmark and Sweden, smart metering systems were already installed in 100% of households in the same year, and at least 98% in Estonia, Spain, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Norway (see Figure 1). In France, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands and Slovenia, the rollout rate in 2021 was over 80% . Apart from Germany, rollout in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Slovakia does not appear to have progressed on a larger scale to date.
Most EU countries are in the process of a full rollout for all metering locations. In Bulgaria, Hungary and Czech Republic, there is currently no rollout , . Slovakia, Germany and Belgium are currently pursuing a selective rollout for certain user groups. In Slovakia, there is a mandatory rollout for electricity customers with consumption above 4,000 kWh per year . In Germany, consumers above 6,000 kWh per year and system operators with an installed capacity above 7 kW are affected by a mandatory rollout. Within Belgium, there are different selective regulations for Flanders and Wallonia. In Flanders, the rollout is mandatory for newly installed meters, renovations and prosumers, while in Wallonia the rollout is mandatory for consumers over 6,000 kWh, prosumers from 5 kW and for public charging points .
Legal Framework for Smart Meter Rollout in Germany
The Act on the Digitization of the Energy Transition (GDEW) laid the foundation for the digital transformation of the German energy industry in 2016. In this law, the Metering Point Operation Act (MsbG) was introduced, which, among other things, stipulates the comprehensive installation of smart metering systems by 2032, if it is technically possible and economically viable.
In its general decree published in 2020 to determine the technical feasibility of installing smart metering systems, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) certified the smart metering systems of three independent manufacturers regarding data protection, data security and interoperability. This marked the beginning of the SMGW mandatory rollout. In March 2021, the certification was declared invalid by a court decision of the OVG NRW. In July 2021, a legal amendment to the MsbG established a legal, continued installation of previously certified devices. The voluntary rollout of such devices was permitted, provided this does not entail any disproportionate risks and valid certification can be expected within 12 months. The BSI established both criteria in a new general ruling in May 2022, again allowing the voluntary installation of smart metering systems. The general decree of 2020, however, was withdrawn by the BSI with effect for the past. An appeal against this withdrawal was filed in June 2022.
On 2023-04-20, the Bundestag accepted an MsbG amendment (GNDEW)  intended to accelerate the SMGW rollout, reduce bureaucracy, strengthen the legal certainty of the rollout, and distribute the costs of metering point operation more fairly .
Legal certainty and reduction of bureaucracy
The law clarifies that the BSI will prospectively carry out its mandate under the Metering Point Operation Act on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) to ensure uniform, efficient project management which is focused on the energy transition. The previously required market analysis and market declaration by the BSI will no longer be required. During its standardization activities, the BSI will be obliged to enter standardization partnerships with standardization organizations (VDE, DKE, FNN, DVGW) and research projects to accomplish an accelerated market implementation. It is made clear that the focus for the BSI is on SMGW standardization. Standardization of control equipment, charging equipment, heat pumps and energy-related processes is, however, left to industry. The Secure Supply Chain (SiLKe) is to become simpler, more cost-effective, and more practicable. To this end, shipping by courier, express or parcel delivery will be enabled. In addition, the three-manufacturer rule is to be eliminated, according to which BSI-certified smart metering systems previously had to be available on the market from three independent manufacturers so that the technical feasibility of installing smart metering systems could be established by the BSI.
According to the law, the rollout deadlines are primarily oriented toward the target year of 2030 in order to basically provide the necessary digital infrastructure for a largely climate-neutral energy system by that date. To accelerate the equipping of metering points with smart metering systems, it will be possible to start an agile rollout with already certified devices immediately after the law comes into force. New functions such as control and switching are to be made available successively through updates. The possibility of bundling several consumers or charging devices via an SMGW at one grid connection point (1:n metering) is to be strengthened.
The statutory rollout schedule will be adjusted so that the old rollout deadlines, which are difficult to achieve for some consumer and producer groups (rollout by 2025 for a large proportion of metering points), will be extended. The law provides for mandatory rollout from 2025 for consumers below 100,000 kWh p.a. and generators below 100 kW. By the end of 2030, 95% of the metering points to be equipped must be fitted with smart metering systems. For consumers above 100,000 kWh p.a. and generators above 100 kW, the mandatory rollout will begin in 2028. Of the metering points to be equipped in this consumer or generator class, 95% must be equipped with smart metering systems by the end of 2032.
Adjusted cost distribution
In the future, metering fees for consumers and small plant operators equipped with smart metering systems will be limited to a maximum of 20 euros per year. Network operators, on the other hand, will receive a greater share of the costs of metering point operation. In return, grid operators will benefit from expanded data communication options, such as quarter-hourly balancing of connected generation plants and consumers, and reception of network status data by default. In addition, the bill stipulates that all suppliers must offer their customers with smart metering systems dynamic electricity tariffs by 2025.
Step Model for the Further Development of Standards for the Digitization of the Energy Transition in Germany
§ 27 MsbG regulates the responsibility for the further development of protection profiles and technical standards for smart metering systems. Accordingly, further development is the responsibility of the BSI in agreement with the German National Metrology Institute (PTB) and the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), with consultation of the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information. This is done in compliance with the definition competence of the Federal Network Agency according to § 47. In the event of significant changes, the Gateway Standardization Committee chaired by the BMWK must be consulted. New protection profiles and technical guidelines, if approved by the BMWK, are announced by the BSI.
The Gateway Standardization Committee is composed of the BMWK, the BSI, the National Metrology Institute, the Federal Network Agency and one representative each from at least three interest groups. The associations must each represent the interests of end users, manufacturers and users and are appointed by the BMWK. The Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information provides advice to the committee.
The consultation of the Gateway Standardization Committee is intended to ensure publicity and transparency of the standardization activities and to query the acceptance and suitability of new technical standards.
As part of a dialog and coordination process with the industry on the design of future development stages for smart metering systems, the BSI and BMWK have published the “Step model for the further development of standards for the digitization of the energy transition” . Based on an industry input survey, SMGW use cases were collected and submitted to the Gateway Standardization Working Group of the office of BMWK’s working group for gateway standardization, which, like the Gateway Standardization Committee, is composed of representatives of public authorities, associations and organizations and acts as a driving force on the committee. The use cases were consolidated, structured, and discussed in topic-oriented task force meetings on smart grid, smart mobility and smart-/submetering.
Version 1.0 of the step model document appeared on 2020-07-31, and was subsequently discussed by the industry, i.e., the three task forces. A key points paper developed based on version 1.0 served as the basis for version 2.0 of the stage model, which appeared on 2021-06-18. After editorial work, version 2.1, which is still current today, was published on 2021-11-11. In future versions, the next development stages of smart metering systems are again to be worked out in exchange with the industry.
The stage model (version 2.1) describes 20 energy industry use cases (EAF), each of which represents a target image for an energy system-relevant service. The technical implementation of the EAFs is described by system use cases (SAF). SAFs specify the technical evolution of smart metering systems and identify actors and system units. The information flows and the functions of each system unit are described by function blocks (FB).
For example, EAF 14 (Provision of data for energy monitoring and value-added services electricity) is implemented by SAF 2.4 (Provision of high-frequency electricity measurements for energy monitoring and value-added services). SAF 2.4 is in turn assigned the following FBs:
- FB-SMGW-1.2 Acquisition of instantaneous electrical energy values,
- FB-SMGW-2.2 Transmission of instantaneous values of electrical energy,
- FB-SMGW-1.4 Time synchronization,
- FB-SMGW-1.18 Provision of transparency information for the connection user (local),
- FB-MTR_E-1.3 Measurement and provision of instantaneous electrical energy values.
The tariff use cases (TAF) 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 14 from the technical guideline TR 03109-1, which were already normative before the release of version 2.1 of the step model, have been restructured as system use cases and implement EAF 0.1, 0.2, 3 and 14. These EAFs are therefore already implemented in the form of the technical guideline and are described in the state of the art subdocument of the step model. SAF 1.x (SAF of development stage 1, corresponding to TAF 1, 6 and 7) or 2.x (SAF of development stage 2, corresponding to TAF 9, 10 and 14) are also described and assigned to the associated EAF. The previously non-normative TAFs are not described in the step model. Instead, new EAFs, SAFs and FBs are formulated. For the next, future development stage of smart metering systems, some use cases are already defined in the current version of the stage model (SAF 3.x), which are intended to complete the partial implementation of certain EAFs by SAF 1.x and 2.x or to extend certain EAFs which are already implemented.
The function blocks FB-SMGW-1.x (stage 1) and FB-SMGW-2.x (stage 2) for the smart meter gateway are already included at specification level in BSI TR 03109-1, BSI-CC-PP-0073 and PTB A50.8. In addition, in stage 1 there is the function block FB_MTR_Gas_SLP-1.x for gas measurement. In stage 3, FB-SMGW-3.x (stage 3) is added, as well as further function blocks that concern the measurement of water or heat, the Home Area Network (HAN), the control unit and the area of submetering.
The comparison with our European neighbors and the law on the GNDEW show that the digitization of the energy system must be accelerated as it is a critical building block for the success of the energy transition. At the same time, the standards for digitizing the energy transition must be continuously adapted to create suitable conditions for the widespread implementation of use cases that contribute to a climate-neutral energy system. In the unIT-e² project, we are intensively working on the digital infrastructure of the energy system and on testing the smart meter infrastructure in various field trials.
The contents presented were developed in the unIT-e² project. The research project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) (funding code: 01MV21UN11 (FfE e.V.)). The project executing organization of the three-year joint project is the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
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