EC seeks to monitor smart meter functions
EC seeks to ensure energy companies are passing on financial benefits of smart meters to consumers
EU monitors EU-wide smart meter
70% of EU customers to have electricity smart meters by 2020

European Union energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete has argued that the European Commission "monitor the functions of smart meters" deployed by EU member states, to ensure that the end-consumer realise the full intended benefits of advanced metering technology.

In a speech at the recently held Citizens' Energy Forum, Cañete said: "In short, meters shouldn't just give consumers information; they should help people do something useful with that information. Without this, they [consumers] are being short-changed.

"I am concerned that some of the smart meters that Member States plan to roll out will not include these features.

"So I will propose that the Commission monitor the functions of smart meters. From this benchmarking, we will decide if further action at a European level is needed.

"We may only get one shot at national rollouts of smart meters, so we should get it right."

Integrated energy union

The commissioner made reference to the EC's Energy Union strategy, which is aimed at achieving a sustainable, integrated energy union and 'forward-looking policy and climate change'.

The strategy, which was launched at the end of February, covered five key areas - internal market, energy efficiency, decarbonisation, energy security and research and innovation.

Cañete added the sixth dimension to the strategy, focused on consumers and their importance in the energy transition.

He stated: "The Commission’s Energy Union Strategy has been designed with citizens at its core, where citizens take ownership of the energy transition, benefit from new technologies to reduce their bills, participate actively in the market, and where vulnerable consumers are protected.

"Empowering and involving citizen-consumers and communities will be key to unlocking the full potential of every green energy transition strategy. A successful Energy Union requires the trust of citizens."

Empowering the energy consumer

The energy commissioner added that action needed to be taken in three key areas: market reform (linking retails and wholesale markets closer regular); consumer choice (choice of energy supplier; the choice to feed energy back into the grid; or the choice to group together with other citizens to strengthen consumer power) and access to information (especially on prices and costs, both at a Member State Level, and for individual consumers).

Cañete said that EC will provide guidance to EU member states to support them in changing national legislation where necessary, should it impede or penalise consumers for generating their own electricity.

Tariff systems, he said, should be structured in  a way that allows consumers to be connected to the grid "as a back-up" and be remunerated for the electricity they feed into the grid, avoiding extra charges - as is the case in Germany and Spain who have implemented taxes on households producing their own energy from roof-top solar.