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Smart grids and meters

Allowing greater flexibility, smarter grids and meters are key to the integration of more renewables in the EU’s energy system.

Benefits for consumers

Smart grids open-up the possibility for consumers who produce their own renewable energy, for example from roof-top solar panels, to sell it back to the grid. With smart meters, final customers also get accurate and regular measurements of their energy use, and get billed only on electricity they actually use. This puts an end to incorrect bills, and back billing, which are currently a significant concern for consumers.

Smart meters can provide close to real time feedback on energy consumption, enabling consumers to better manage their use, save energy and lower their bill, for example, by adapting their energy usage to different energy prices throughout the day. Moreover, smart meters enable consumers to actively participate in energy communities and energy sharing schemes.

Through smart metering, network operators get a better insight into each part of the network. This allows them to better plan their investments and manage their infrastructure in response to the requirements of their customers, therefore reducing network operation and maintenance costs which are ultimately borne by consumers through network tariffs.

Smart grids development

In order to reach the Fit for 55 and REPowerEU objectives for renewables and energy efficiency, it is estimated that about €584 billion of electricity infrastructure investments are needed between 2020 and 2030, in particular in the distribution grid. Investments in digital solutions such as grid optimisation at distribution level will help reduce further expenditure on enhancing the existing grid infrastructure, allowing for the faster deployment of electric cars, decentralised renewables, heat pumps and other technologies - by using existing infrastructure.

Smarter grids are the backbone of the digitalisation of the energy system, hence increased investments in data exchange between transmission system operators (TSOs) and distribution system operators (DSOs), efficient infrastructure and network planning are key to accelerating the development, implementation and upscaling of digital solutions across the entire energy value chain. The Digitalisation of Energy Action Plan, adopted in October 2022, aims at effectively promoting investments in smart grids.

The deployment of smart grids is one of the 3 priority thematic areas of the Trans-European Networks for Energy aiming to help integrate renewable energy, complete the European energy market and allow consumers to better regulate their energy consumption.

Smart grid projects that benefit at least 2 EU countries, are identified as Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) and are key to reinforcing energy security and the integration of renewables across the EU. The smart grid projects that apply for a PCI label are evaluated and proposed for inclusion in the Union list of PCIs by the Smart Grid Regional Group established under the TEN-E Regulation. For more information, explore some examples of PCIs selected under the smart grids deployment thematic area.

The EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC), in close cooperation with the Directorate-General for Energy, compiles and periodically updates an inventory of smart grid projects in the EU. In cooperation with Eurelectric, the JRC also provides an interactive map of smart grid and meter projects.

The Commission also supports the development of smart grids through research and innovation projects, funded by Horizon2020 and Horizon Europe. In particular, the Commission initiative BRIDGE combines smart grid and energy storage projects to cooperate on themes of common interest and ensuring the fast development and market uptake of smart grid solutions .

Smart grids task force

To advise on policy and regulatory directions for the deployment of smart grids in Europe, the Commission set up a smart grids task force in 2019. The task force consists of 5 expert groups which focus on specific areas and have worked on key topics such as standards, cybersecurity and demand side flexibility. The outcome of this work has been largely agreed by industry, European standards organisations, public authorities and consumer organisations, that participate in the task force.

The reports, minutes, presentations and meeting agendas are available on the smart grids task force dedicated webpage (CIRCA BC), which is a collaborative platform that gives access to all task-force documents, via the platform library.

Deployment of smart meters

Smart meters should allow consumers to reap the benefits of the progressive digitalisation of the energy market. Consumers should also have timely access to their energy consumption data and dynamic electricity price contracts.

To deliver on these fronts, smart meters must be equipped with the right functionalities, under the Electricity Directive EU/2019/944. Moreover, national authorities must closely monitor that they get the most out of the sizeable investment of smart meter deployment and that the smart metering systems they install serve the system as a whole and deliver benefits and satisfaction to consumers and businesses alike.

According to the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) Market Monitoring Report (energy retail and consumer protection volume), 54% of European households had an electricity smart meter at the end of 2021, while in 13 EU countries, the penetration rate was over 80% at the end of 2022.

study from December 2019 on the deployment of smart meters in the EU found that by 2030 the investment in smart metering systems can reach an aggregated amount of €47 billion (if 266 million smart meters are installed, corresponding to a penetration of 92%). Furthermore, it was estimated that the cost of installing a smart meter in the EU is on average between €180 and €200, while on average, smart meters provide savings of €230 for gas and €270 for electricity per metering point (distributed amongst consumers, suppliers, distribution system operators, etc.) as well as an average energy saving of 2 - 10%.

To maximise the value of metering data, especially the high potential offered by fit-for-purpose smart meters, the Commission adopted Implementing Regulation (EU) 2023/1162 in June 2023. It aims to improve access to metering and consumption data by introducing requirements for interoperability and non-discriminatory access. These measures empower consumers, through digitalisation, to actively participate in the energy transition and enable energy service providers to develop new, beneficial services and products. Additionally, in July 2024, guidance was published to support the streamlined reporting of national implementation of these rules, further enhancing the integration and utilisation of smart meter data across the EU.

Data protection

Consumer personal data is protected by EU rules on processing and free movement on data. Smart grids and meters may have an impact on personal data and privacy, which is why the EU has taken a series of measures to uphold data protection rules.

One example is the impact assessment template updated by the Smart Grids Task Force in September 2018, and which serves as guidance on data protection and privacy for data controllers and investors in smart grids.

In addition to data protection and privacy, cybersecurity in the energy sector has increasingly become an issue, closely related to the development of smart grids and meters. The Commission is committed to mitigating any risks and enhancing resilience towards cybersecurity.