Standardisation efforts in smart meters


Trilations supports ESMIG (the European Smart Metering Industry Group) in its contributions to several European Smart Metering / Smart Grid standardisation groups. This article explains the role of smart metering in the evolving energy market, introduces the concept of interoperability and the need for standardisation and summarizes the current status and deliverables of the European standardisation efforts regarding Smart Metering. Finally, the outlook and next steps in the European standardisation scene are highlighted.

Challenges in the current energy market.

Currently, utility companies in Europe are trying to overcome new challenges such as diversification of energy production, greenhouse gas emissions regulation, energy conservation and a new liberalized market. It is clear that these cannot be resolved with the current infrastructure.  A next-generation grid, commonly referred to as “the smart grid” is expected to be an important part of the solution to these challenges.  A smart grid is the convergence of ICT with power systems engineering, where energy producers and consumers (including homes and small scale production installations) are interconnected and able to exchange information.

Why smart meters?

A smart meter is a utility meter that records consumption/generation at regular intervals and is able to send this information to a back-end system.  It usually has a number of additional functionalities like advanced tariffing, information provision, etc… Since smart meters are links between distribution networks and the house, they are a key factor for the deployment of the smart grid.  The smart meter’s functionalities can (in combination with effective communication) improve consumers’ awareness of actual consumption, and allow them to adapt their demand to market incentives. why smart meters

Why standardisation?

Standardisation is a way of achieving interoperability, which allows different components of the smart grid to communicate with each other, independently of the component manufacturer.  Smart meters need to have standardised functionalities in order to be exploited in a smart grid system, and to ensure the interoperability between different technologies.  As the Smart Grid and Smart Metering markets grow, the need for standardisation is no longer a national issue and needs to be settled at the European level.

Example of interoperability
interoperabilityAs mentioned above, interoperability is the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together (inter-operate) or to work with other products or systems, without any restricted access or implementation.   A car is a good example of an “interoperable device”; while the designs of different cars may be completely different, they remain interoperable because their “interfaces” with the outside world (car tires, fuel opening, driving controls) are all standardised.  The industry, society and consumers all benefit from this kind of interoperability brought through standardisation.

Smart meters standardisation

According to a Mandate from the European Commission, the European Standards Organizations are requested to develop a European standard comprising a software and hardware open architecture for utility meters that supports secure bidirectional communication and allows advanced information, management and control systems.

SM-CG deliverables

The Smart Meters Coordination Group (SM-CG) was created as an answer to the Mandate mentioned above. As it has a coordinating role, this group’s deliverables are informative documents to be used as input for standardisation.

Technical report

In December 2011, SM-CG produced a Technical report titled “Functional reference architecture for communications in smart metering systems”.[1] This report provides an overview of the existing standards that are applicable to smart metering and describes a standardisation approach to reuse existing standards as much as possible while being open to new proposals.  Furthermore, it determines additional smart metering functionalities and places smart metering in the context of smart grids.

The SM-CG reference architecture mentioned above, also defines the functional entities and communications interfaces in a generic smart metering system. It is intended to support the development of software and hardware architecture and related standards.

Use cases[2]

Based on the functional reference architecture mentioned above, use cases were defined to identify, clarify and organize smart metering system functionalities and requirements. Use cases have been described around the following topics:

  • Billing: describing the collection of billing data, the parameterization of the billing function, collection and connect/disconnect functions;
  • Customer information provision
  • Configure events, statuses and actions: describing the interactions needed to act on events and statuses
  • Installation and configuration
  • Supply quality: describing the communication needed to monitor power quality
  • Energy market events, describing the interactions related to customers moving in/out the premise and supplier switching

Next to the use cases, a repository with examples of smart metering technical requirements was also developed.

It is expected that the draft use cases will be approved by the end of 2012, after which they will be made publically available.  Interested readers may contact Trilations to obtain the link or a copy of the use cases when they are made metering functional reference architecture

Privacy and security

Privacy and security are important topics in European smart metering standardisation since the advanced metering system is regarded as a critical infrastructure.  Also, experience with smart meter rollouts has shown that consumers are concerned with privacy and will not accept smart meters unless sufficient assurances are given. Furthermore, using public networks and open standards makes smart metering systems vulnerable unless strong security policies and solutions are applied.

An additional report of SM-CG (to be approved by the end of 2012) will define an approach to define privacy and security requirements for smart metering standards; this approach is closely related to the risk analysis methodology developed by the Smart Grid Information Security working group.

Outlook and next steps

With the deliverables discussed above, the SM-CG has fulfilled the requirements of Mandate M/441. This group has inventoried the current standardisation landscape and defined generic reference architecture, on which it was possible to map all existing implementations. Based on this architecture, use cases and requirements have been formulated and handed over to the Technical Committees who will use them to further develop their standards related to smart metering. Furthermore an approach to define privacy and security requirements was identified.

Although no formal decision has been taken yet, it is possible that the SM-CG will decide to continue its work in 2013. If so, it is to be expected that next steps will be taken around the further development of the use cases and work will start towards a European set of Smart Metering Security requirements.

If you would like to obtain more information regarding this article don’t hesitate to contact Frank Sels via

Author: Tim Sablon


[1] This report is publically available on the CEN/CENELEC website

[2] Use cases describe how users interact with a system to achieve a particular goal. They are widely used to capture requirements in software and systems engineering.