February 2017, Vol. 244, No. 2


Transitioning to Smart Gas Meters Benefits Consumers

By Nicholas Newman, Contributing Editor

Utilities across the world are installing smart gas and electric meters, bringing an end to labor-intensive periodic meter readings at homes and businesses and inaugurating real-time, accurate monitoring of the amount and pattern of energy use. The introduction of internet of things (IoT) provides the gateway to the smart meter revolution.


The leading markets for smart gas meters are North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Valued at $ 1.59 billion in 2016, the smart gas meter market is forecast to grow at over 7% annually to reach $2.27 billion by 2021 according to Smart Meter Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2015-2025.

In the European Union, the impetus to install nearly 200 million smart electricity and 45 million smart gas meters comes from national governments. Funding of up to around $50.5 billion to utilities is to be provided by the European Investment Bank alongside six commercial banks (Barclays, Crédit Agricole CIB, HSBC, Santander, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd and Infracapital).

By 2020, almost 72% of European electricity customers and 40% of gas customers will have smart meters, according to a European Commission-issued September 2016 report, Benchmarking Smart Metering Deployment in the EU-27 with a Focus on Electricity.

Deployment of smart meters will vary according to the size of the electricity and gas market, and especially the absolute number and proportion of gas customers. Italy, for instance, with around 22 million gas customers, according to Eurostat, has decided to include gas users in its smart-meter installation program.

Spain is committed to electricity smart metering but with only 7 million gas customers is ignoring smart gas metering, at least for now. Likewise, Sweden, which makes wide usage of district heating systems and has fewer than 40,000 gas customers, has decided against installing smart gas meters.

The UK is the largest gas market in Europe with over 23 million customers and gas typically accounts for over 50% of household energy bills. Here, gas and electricity are commonly supplied in tandem and there are multiple suppliers. In these market circumstances, the government is pro-actively encouraging the installation of both gas and electricity smart metering.

Elsewhere, in Central and Eastern Europe, large vertically integrated companies provide gas and or electricity. In many urban areas, district heating is commonly used, and discussions around gas smart metering have been relatively limited.

However, as further moves are made to open up the energy markets (e.g., in Poland) and utilities become dual-fuel suppliers, smart gas metering and related smart services might offer a way of attracting new customers and increasing revenues. Despite this, contracts are being awarded on a city or regional basis. For example, Landis + Gyr is installing meters in Warsaw and S&T Group is installing meters in Wroclaw, according to Polskie Radio.

Main Drivers

For governments concerned with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy security and saving on energy imports, smart meters make sense and should be encouraged. Marketed as a customer bill-saving device, government agencies such as The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) in Great Britain, the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) in China, and in Japan the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), are promoting installation of smart meters.

Technological advances are the enablers of the smart meter revolution. Advances in technology in particular, the IOT, which enable measurement and control of energy usage throughout the energy chain, is the main driver of smart meter rollouts. A secondary driver is associated with the global expansion of gas pipeline networks around the world and investments in smart cities and smart grid infrastructure, such as in Barcelona, Dubai and Singapore.

For utilities charged with supplying and installing smart meters, there are also real and significant advantages in being able to monitor and control in real-time pipeline supply networks and usage as well as provide accurate customer bills. Smart meters facilitate greater responsiveness to a customer’s needs and internet of things technologies offer an opportunity to market a range of new services and gain additional revenue.

Smart meters equip customers with the ability to monitor and manage their energy use. Customers are able to track those costs and see the result of perhaps switching a radiator or two off. By providing immediate and accurate information on the consequences of energy use, customer behavior should be nudged toward smart energy use and savings. Britain’s Competition Watchdog found that between 2012 and 2015, customers overpaid utilities by £1.4 billion pounds a year because of uncompetitive standard energy tariffs.

The installation of smart gas meters might help tackle this problem but it remains up to the customer to actually look at their smart meter readings, as and when, they change thermostat settings or switch the kettle on. Perhaps surprisingly, in the UK, a major utility British Gas, discovered that its smart meter customers are on average 53% more satisfied than those still depending on standard meters and complaint rates are down by 21%. Computer Weekly found that dual-fuel customers with smart meters have saved around £26 a year off their bills.

Some Concerns

As with the introduction of any new technology, there have been concerns over health and the cybersecurity of smart meters. Around the world, smart meters have been blamed for dizziness, fatigue, headaches, seizures, memory loss and other maladies, reported The Daily Telegraph. However, Australian experts have sought to reassure customers of their safety, noting that smart meter radiation emissions are less than those of the ubiquitous mobile phone, according to Victoria state government.

Nevertheless, some customers have either refused entry to utility workers seeking to install such gadgets or demanded compensation via the courts. New innovative products often lead to patent disputes. For example, British Gas won a patent infringement claim brought against it by Smart-Tech, holder of a certain smart meter patent. Had British Gas lost, it would have been liable to pay out tens of millions of pounds in royalties to Smart-Tech.


The young smart meter market is being supplied by new entrants as well as traditional meter manufacturers. For example, traditional meter manufacturer Swiss-based Landis + Gyr was recently taken over by electronics giant Toshiba and German-based Diehl Metering. In Germany Diehl Metering has installed some 2,000-wired fixed meters, with an hourly reading interval, using a European standard for the remote reading of gas or electricity meters called M-bus.

The metering system is able to monitor pipe and energy networks and provide alternating tariff billing. New entrants, Singapore-based EDMI Limited and Poland’s Apator Group, are seeking market share in the developed world and emerging markets. For example, EDMI Limited worked with Advanced Metering Services (AMS) to install smart metering technology and operational services to electricity and gas customers in New Zealand.

It is clear that an emerging technology, such as smart gas and electric meters, is likely to require both technical and social adaptations during the introductory stage of its life cycle.

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