Based on a new administrative arrangement, the existing smart meter gates can continue to be operated and new gates installed. The Federal Bureau of Information Security (BSI) has withdrawn the February 2020 court order and replaced it with similar transitional requirements. In March 2021, the Supreme Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia (OVG) initially suspended the obligation to install smart electricity meters in urgent procedures.
The legal dispute primarily revolves around the interoperability of the four smart meter models adopted by BSI through 2020. These are devices from EMH Metering, Power Plus Communications (PPC), Sagemcom Dr. Neuhaus and Theben AG. A “general decree” by the Bonn authority led to the obligation to install measurement points from these four manufacturers. On the other hand, a rider from the city of Aachen filed a lawsuit and won the preliminary proceedings before the Supreme Administrative Court. This ruled that the four gates were not properly checked for applicable requirements for technical interaction with other systems.
New Ordinance of the British Standards Institute
The British Standards Institution has now issued a new ordinance. In it, it states on the basis of Section 19 of the Point of Measurement Operation Act that the use of related products from PPC, EMH and Theben “is not associated with disproportionate risks and that the respective intelligent metering systems have valid certificates” for interoperability. In principle, this also applies to the Smarty IQ from Sagemcom Dr. Neuhaus – but provided that the required certification is “available within twelve months”. Meanwhile, the authority ordered the “immediate implementation” of the alternative decree.
In December and January, BSI has already issued the necessary certifications to SMGWs from PPC, EMH and Theben. They would have “demonstrated in the relevant conformity assessment procedures at a high level of testing” that they met the requirements of the relevant Technical Guidelines BSI-TR-03109-1, as stated at the time. This has been confirmed by an independent body.
At the same time, the bureau explained that this certification is in addition to the basic security check: “SMGW as the central communication unit of the smart metering system must meet the minimum legal requirements of the Metering Point Operation Act. While complying with the IT security requirements were verified in the certification Common Standards, and TR certification is evidence of SMGW interoperability.” Accordingly, the necessary functionality for defining measured values and interactions with other players in the smart power grid, such as the connection user and the gateway administrator, will be provided in the hardware interfaces.
In favor of energy transmission
With the new decision, BSI sees enhancing “the reliability of infrastructure rollout in favor of energy transmission”. It would be disproportionate to ban or stop the installation and further use, given that the CC-certified technology already on the market has reached a high level of security, which the British Standards Institute re-established. Software updates ensure that modules “can be raised to the legally required level of interoperability”.
The decision was preceded by an “extensive coordination process” “in order to restore legal certainty to the actors involved in a timely manner following the Supreme Administrative Court’s decision,” assures the FBI. A set of measures has been jointly developed, which, in addition to amending the Measurement Point Operation Act, also provides for the gradual development of technical standards. For this purpose, TR was reviewed “in a very short time” with a focus on functional interoperability. At the same time, formal matching procedures were established.
Smart meter gates are mandatory for households with annual electricity consumption of more than 6000 kWh, which should be achieved by an average of five or more people. Smart meter installation is also mandatory for solar panels with installed capacity between 7 and 100 kW or if consumers pay discounted grid fees for a heat pump or overnight storage heater or have their own charging points for electric vehicles.
According to a study, 17 percent of the population in this country had smart meters last year. Smart electricity meters and associated interfaces are key components for controlling and billing related decentralized flexibility options such as rooftop photovoltaic systems. According to the researchers, Germany urgently needs more resources to increase the flexibility of the electricity market and thus achieve the goals of the energy transition. Decentralized technologies, in which smart meters are extremely important, play an important role.
Last year, the Bundestag attempted to create more legal certainty for fitting the SMGW with a climate protection package. Accordingly, data from these metering devices should be sent directly to authorized bodies only if BSI assesses this as technically feasible and the Federal Network Agency agrees to the procedure.