Columnists: Erwin Cornelis, eceee board member

Published on: 29 Jan 2021

Dear Mrs Simson, please help us know how much we consume

Dear Mrs Simson,

Our family is concerned about climate change. Hence, we are very committed to climate action. Two years ago, we installed photovoltaic panels on our roof. But we are also very much aware what impact our energy consumption can have on our climate. Therefore, we are closely monitoring our energy consumption – measuring is knowing.

However, since the installation of our PV-panels, we do no longer know how much energy we consume. Our revolving meter spins back, or forward, but it only tells us whether we have been a net producer or a net consumer. Soon, this meter will be replaced by a smart one. That device will provide us more details for sure, but, still, it won't give us any insight on how much we really consume. The reason is that neither device meter the flow of PV-power we consume directly.

Metering lays the ground for awareness about our energy consumption, in turn laying the ground for energy efficiency actions. This is the rationale behind Article 9 of the Energy Efficiency Directive, stipulating that "Member States shall ensure that [...] final customers for electricity, natural gas, [...] are provided with competitively priced individual meters that accurately reflect the final customer’s actual energy consumption and that provide information on actual time of use.” 

One would expect that the Energy Efficiency Directive puts the 'energy efficiency first' principle upfront in all its aspects. However, when push comes to shove, the directive falls short. The devil is in the details, more in particular in how this same Energy Efficiency Directive defines energy consumption, see Article 2(3): "all energy SUPPLIED to industry, transport, households, services and agriculture. It excludes deliveries to the energy transformation sector and the energy industries themselves"

This definition of ‘energy consumption’ has the unfortunate consequence that our distribution grid operator only includes metering when and to what extent we use the capacity of our grid connection in the smart meter's design. After all, this is what our grid operator is concerned about.

Our distribution grid operator also sees this meter as the frontier of its responsibilities and is very reluctant to intervene on our home grid beyond that point. Moreover, our operator argues that protection of the consumer's privacy waives their duty to meter our real consumption. So, the operator does not include this in the smart meter's design, although Article 7 of the Energy Efficiency Directive obliges them to support us in saving energy.

By contrast, we – consumers – we want to know how much we consume: it is our right to know! And it is our distribution grid operator, in charge of metering, who should provide us with actual consumption data. They only need to add one more meter, either on the line connecting our photovoltaic panels to our home grid or on the main line that  branches off to all our energy consuming devices. The operator only needs to add such a meter for prosumers. There is no need to add additional meters for consumers who are not prosumers because their offtake equals their consumption. And as there is no issue for the grid operator to know their energy consumption, why would it be an issue for the grid operator to know the real energy consumption of prosumers?

The Energy Efficiency Directive can impose such a metering obligation on the distribution grid operator. It only takes a correction of the definition for ‘energy consumption’. The definition could be corrected to 'all energy that is supplied to final consumers or is produced by final consumers and is irreversibly converted by final consumers to energy services’. Such a more correct definition of the energy consumption would allow Article 9 to serve its proper purpose.

Soon, our electromechanical meter will be replaced by a smart one. This smart meter will not fulfil our expectations, as its current design will not help us to know how much energy we consume. The installation of this not-smart-enough meter will lead to a lock-in and will prevent us from knowing for decades.

So, Mrs Simson, please, help us – help us to know our energy consumption. Consider our proposed correction of the definition for ‘energy consumption’ in the Energy Efficiency Directive. This directive is currently under review; now the time is right to correct it.

We want to know, because we want to act, act with impact as we want our children to live in a friendly climate. So, please, help us to know.

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Erwin Cornelis