Dutch energy sector en route to 'middenmodel'

The Dutch energy sector is speeding towards a new order in the meter market. Under the guidance of the Dutch government, a covenant with the rules for the new meter market must have been agreed by September 2006 at the latest.

In September 2005 the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs indicated that the automated process of exchanging meter data had to be made more efficient and more robust on a number of points. This was necessary to restore consumers’ confidence regarding active participation in the energy market. The loss of confidence is partly due to a variety of billing problems – it sometimes takes months before a consumer receives a final bill after switching supplier or moving house. A smart meter should be able to reduce the energy companies’ administration problems, because it allows them to read the energy meter remotely at any time.

In addition, an EU energy efficiency directive has recently come into force, which requires member states to ensure that, in principle, every household is equipped with a meter that makes individual consumption more transparent. Insight into their own consumption should stimulate people to save energy.

One of the ways to make the measurement data available is the large-scale deployment of smart meters. Research has been conducted into the advantages and disadvantages of various market models; agreement must also be reached on the functionality of the basic meter and the method of data exchange.

In February 2006 the Dutch Economic Affairs Minister proposed the new structure for the meter market. In this ‘Middenmodel’ the final control of all aspects is divided among several parties – the energy companies, suppliers and data measurement companies.

The energy company is the owner of the physical meter and is responsible for its installation and management. It must install a smart meter with the specified basic functionality when new connections and meter changes are made.

The supplier is responsible for all customer-related processes and decides the priority of installation. The collection and management of the meter data is outsourced to authorised and certified data measurement companies. Consumers are no longer free to choose a data measurement company themselves.

The proposed division of the tasks and responsibilities does not make the definition of the ‘basic meter’ easy. In addition to technological aspects such as the communication protocol, the functionalities of the meter infrastructure and the access to it must be specified. Work is in progress on the definition of this basic meter, under the direction of the Dutch standards institute (NEN).

There are plenty of opportunities for commercial parties who are able to make the diversity of the technical measurement infrastructure transparent for consumers through a ‘metering middleware’ platform. There are also opportunities for commercial parties who wish to offer other value-adding services.

The Dutch are committed to reaching consensus between all parties. As inventors of the Polder model we trust that the answers will be clear on Sept. 1.