According to EurActiv, the European Commission is waiting to hear from an expert group before deciding on a whether to implement any legislative framework for smart grids. A task force was set up in November 2009 to study the issue and is due to report in June on the functionalities required of smart grids and the need for standards.
There is no current EU legislation on the deployment of smart grids, but there has been references to their development in previous initiatives, including a new electricity directive which requires smart metering systems to be fitted in 80% of homes by 2020. The European Commission has also earmarked €2bn of public and private investment to the 'European electricity grid initiative' in order to enable 50% of Europe's networks to operate as smart grids.
EurActiv got its information from a planning document which it says lays out four potential actions for a framework, planned for adoption at the end of 2011. These are:
• Do nothing.
• Issue recommendations on the roles of the actors involved and include a monitoring mechanism on deployment.
• Establish a set of guidelines and recommendations for member states on the implementation of smart grids.
• Create a new annex for the directives in the EU's third energy liberalisation package, laying down a European legislative framework and timetable for deployment.
It does seem, though, that the Commission is keen to consult on the issues and ensure that any new initiative (or funding) would address the practical issues involved in smart grid implementation.
There’s always potential conflict between government and industry when it comes to the implementation of new infrastructure technology such as smart grids. The argument is that governments may not necessarily choose the best technology or solution and legislation can, in any case, restrict innovation. It does seem, though, that the EU is being fairly circumspect in this instance. In any case, it’s the nature of smart grids to be flexible in the way they manage the energy they distribute, so some degree of inter-operability between systems, providers and countries is a good thing. Having the EU involved can only help that integration – the market doesn’t always get it right on its own.