Europe behind target for energy saving power meters

Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:13am EDT

* France, Britain going ahead, Germany is not - EU report

* EU won't reach 80 pct roll out goal, 72 pct achievable

BRUSSELS, June 20 (Reuters) - Sixteen of the European Union's 28 nations will go ahead with a large-scale roll out of smart meters by 2020, meaning the bloc will fall short of a target for use of the devices that can cut energy usage, a European Commission report said.

Unlike old-style meters with spinning dials still used in many European homes, smart meters give real-time consumption data that can encourage consumers to reduce usage. They also eliminate costly meter reading visits.

But their introduction in Europe has been held back by debate over who will pay for them - the utilities or the consumers - as well as by opposition from some consumer groups.

On the basis of a cost-benefit analysis, the European Union has a 2020 goal to roll out smart meters across 80 percent of the electricity users for whom the cost analysis is positive.

The Commission report, seen by Reuters, found that would not be met, but said 72 percent was achieveable, as 16 member states proceed with the large-scale roll-out by 2020 or earlier.

Of the major EU nations, Britain and France are included in the 16, but Germany is not.

There is also an issue over whether smart meters are delivering the right kind of real-time data on consumption.

In only eight of the 16 states are the smart meters being deployed fully in line with EU recommendations on functionality.

EU law does not set any specific target for smart meters for gas, although it refers to a "reasonable period of time". Just five member states have decided to roll out smart meters for gas by 2020 or earlier.

Landis+Gyr, the world's biggest maker of power meters for utilities, which is owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp, said even a 72 percent roll out was "extremely optimistic" because of the long lead time required.

The Commission, the EU executive, says smart metering can enable consumers to reduce energy use by some 3 percent, in line with EU goals to increase energy efficiency. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Mark Potter)

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