Smart Grid Disparity Seen Among EU Members

Older members of the European Union (EU) are making progress implementing smart grid technology, but newer EU countries are falling behind, according to a European Commission Joint Research Centre review of 219 projects throughout the continent.

The report, which called smart grids a “key component in the EU energy strategy,” said the “vast majority of investments, amounting to about 5.5 billion Euros, were made in old member states (EU15), while new member states (EU12) tend to lag behind.”

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Distributed system operators (DSOs) are providing about two-thirds of the new investment in smart-grid projects, but the report said tweaks to regulations could make such investments even more attractive. As now written, regulations encourage DSOs to reduce short-term operating costs, dampening the incentive to pour money into long-term smart-grid investments. “The investment potential on smart grids will have difficulty accelerating without revising the current regulatory models,” the report concluded.

The generally positive European update on implementing smart-grid technology falls into line with other recent reports from around the world. Research and consulting firm IDC Energy Insights forecast significant growth in the smart meter market, saying the global industry shipped 5 million units in the first quarter of this year, and will exceed 71 million by 2015. In addition, GE said its units help lower electricity use in the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Department of Energy has been praising smart meter rollout in America.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.