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Smart electricity meters: Consume smarter electricity


With a smart meter you can use flexible electricity tariffs and identify energy guzzlers. Before you replace the old meter with a new model, you should know the legal situation.

Enlarge image

Modern electricity meter (symbol image): control consumption more precisely


Sabine Gudath / IMAGO

In the past, power supply in Germany was simple: the local municipal utilities provided the grid, supplied the electricity meter and the electricity.

In 1998 that changed with the "Law on the New Regulation of Energy Industry Law": Since then, every household has been able to choose from which electricity provider it wants to obtain its energy.

In official German, the providers are called electricity supply companies, the Federal Network Agency knows 1430 of them in Germany.

In 2016, things got a little more complicated with the “Law on the Digitization of the Energy Turnaround” and the “Metering Point Operation Act”. Since then, you can not only choose the electricity supplier, but also the meter operator, i.e. the company that provides the meter. According to the Federal Network Agency, at least 862 such providers are known, most of them offer their services locally, some are also active nationwide.

But why should one change the supplier of the meter, if one assumes that all devices comply with the same standards, are calibrated and measure roughly the same within a tolerance range? The meters differ in their ability to transmit the measured values ​​digitally. In order to understand why another metering point operator can be worthwhile, although the basic supplier has already installed a digital meter, first an overview of the confusing terminology.

The old analog meters with the rotating disc are called Ferraris meters, named after the Italian Gallileo Ferraris. These are to disappear completely from the cellars of the republic by 2032 and be replaced by a "modern measuring device" (mMe); So say the law. The year 2032 was not chosen entirely by chance in 2016 - analog electricity meters were calibrated for 16 years, so the last analog comrades installed must definitely disappear in 2032. If you do not take any further action, your basic provider will certainly contact you in the next few years and make an appointment for the exchange. If you read off the calibration period on your device, you will know more precisely when it will be so far at the latest. You must be informed three months before the conversion.

However, the fact that the new meters are digital does not initially mean any gain in convenience.

In order to meet the requirements, they only need to be able to show the current meter reading and daily, weekly, monthly and annual values ​​on site on a display.

A reader still has to come to read it or the customer has to do it himself - and because the small displays show different values ​​one after the other, reading them is even more complicated than with the good old analog displays.

Nevertheless, the provider may charge you money for the digital meter, staggered according to annual consumption: up to 3000 kWh per year, for example, 30 euros, up to 6000 kWh it is even 60 euros.

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It will only be more convenient than before the conversion if the metering point operator screws a so-called smart meter gateway onto the modern metering device.

This reads the measured values ​​from the digital meter via an optical interface and can send them to the operator via network cable or cellular network - there the customer can see at least quarter-hourly values, sometimes updated every minute, and sometimes also the current output in watts.

The combination of the modern measuring device and the smart meter gateway is called an "intelligent measuring system" (iMSys).

Ordinary households do not get this mandatory in the vast majority of cases, but only when they make an effort.

Anyone who does not want to share their consumption habits with third parties currently does not have to be afraid of an imposed "sniffer meter", as the iMSys are called in some circles.

The smart meter gateways are only mandatory if you consume more than 6000 kWh per year.

And there, too, there is still a delay after a court ruled that the devices on the market are not legally compliant.

The law has now been changed, the basic suppliers are postponing the mandatory installation a little longer.

Voluntary smart meter gateway

If you as an average household would like to benefit from the brave new world and would like to have a readable electricity meter as a complete package with an online platform, you can first contact your basic supplier and ask whether they have networked models in their range and which functions the online evaluation offers and what the measuring point costs;

however, the price limits described above do not apply to voluntary changers.

But there are also measuring point operators operating across Germany who offer intelligent measuring systems - with an online platform, API access and various additional functions.

You can switch to one without talking to your landlord, network operator or electricity supplier.

The law gives you free choice.

We have tried out the Discovergy offer in detail over a number of years. For 100 euros a year you get a networked meter that can send its data to the Internet portal in different ways. The monthly metering point fee of around 5 euros to your basic supplier for his non-networked device will then no longer apply.

In the best case, you can set up a network connection via cable. Then the meter can send data every second at no additional cost - that's the prerequisite for a very nice function: Discovergy uses algorithms that recognize consumption patterns of typical devices in the data, for example, identify cooling devices and break down their costs. In our case, the network had to be transported four floors down from the apartment to the meter. To do this, the technician installed a socket in the meter cabinet and placed one dLAN adapter on the meter and one in the apartment (we gave the meter a separate guest network to be on the safe side). After three years of operation, one can sum up: It sounds bold, but it works absolutely smoothly. If such a network does not work,you can book various cellular options at Discovergy.

Do you need that?

The online evaluation is more useful in everyday life than you might initially expect.

The tiresome question on the way to vacation whether the electric stove, kettle and iron are switched off can be answered with a quick look at the consumption diagram in the mobile phone browser - a forgotten hot device is noticeable in the curve.

The Discovergy portal can display all kinds of diagrams and, for example, visualize daily values, progress curves and comparisons with the past.

For hobbyists there is an API that can be used to collect the values ​​via HTTP and process them yourself.

The approximate device recognition is also useful and seems plausible.

There is demo access to Discovergy to try out the functions.

New tariffs

The detailed evaluation via smart meter gateway can not only be informative for the user, it also enables new electricity tariffs with flexible costs - but they have not yet really caught on. The small provider Awattar recognized this niche very early on and invented a tariff called Hourly. The idea: You don't pay a fixed price per kilowatt hour, but a different one every hour, depending on the current prices on the electricity exchange. You will be billed every month, so there are no prepayments or nasty surprises.

All of this motivates you to do your laundry and run the dishwasher at night;

Saving electricity becomes a sporting competition against the previous month's self.

Sometimes the market price is even negative at night, so that you only have to pay network fees and levies.

Basically: The less average your own behavior, the more you save because you avoid the expensive phases.

On the other hand, anyone who wants to cook electrically every day at 12 noon pays more during this period.

The catch with Awattar's offer: The company is currently not accepting any new customers.


In most cases, you cannot expect any support from the digital electricity meter of your basic supplier when it comes to evaluating and saving, the »modern measuring systems« are digital, but silent.

If you want a stylish evaluation as a complete package, you have to pay a little more for it.

A graphical evaluation in the browser is not essential, but useful in everyday life - depending on your habits, it can motivate you to save.

However, the new meters would only be a really big gain if more providers offer flexible tariffs and more consumers use cheap night-time electricity.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-12-05

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