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Development of Smart Grid and Smart Meters – the Swedish Experience

Submitted by on 25 Nov 2013 – 16:26

By Karin Widegren, Director of the National Co-ordination Council for Smart Grids in Sweden

The Swedish electricity market was deregulated in 1996, since when electricity trading and generation have been open to competition, while network operations are a regulated monopoly. The electricity system is increasingly integrated within the Nordic and Baltic electricity markets, and there is a joint renewable electricity certificate market together with Norway.

Sweden consumes a substantial amount of electricity per capita (~15,000 kWh per person per year), with a total electricity consumption around 140 TWh. The explanation for this is a large energy intensive industrial sector and high penetration of electrical heating and heat pumps in single family houses. The electricity supply is almost carbon-free with around 45% of generation coming from hydro power and 40% from nuclear. The remaining 15% comes mainly from solid bio-fuels and waste (~8.5%) as well as wind power (~ 5%). Wind power is the fastest growing source of renewable electricity supply.

The need for the development of smart grids in Sweden is primarily pushed by a rapid increase of renewable intermittent electricity production, mainly from wind, in combination with the uncertainty in the future long term capacity of nuclear power. The potential for demand response is also expected to be rather significant in the future due to the high level of electrical heating and possibilities for thermal storage using existing heat pumps and district heating systems as parts off future smart energy solutions.

Policy Conditions

The aim of Swedish energy policy related to the development of the electricity market is to foster fair competition and customer empowerment while safeguarding security of supply and fulfillment of environmental targets on both European and national levels. Sustainable development is central in Swedish energy policy and national targets are in several aspects more far reaching compared to the European 20-20-20 goals for climate change, renewables and energy efficiency. More specifically there are four national targets which are expected to have a large influence on the need for future smart grid solutions

Objective to reach at least 50 % renewable energy by 2020 as a share of total energy use

Objective to reach 20% more efficient energy use by 2020 requiring Increased consumer engagement

Spatial planning target of 30TWh wind power production by 2020 (7TWh 2012)

Objective to have a vehicle stock that is independent of fossil fuels by 2030

The challenges for all market actors are significant. A massive scale of investments will be needed in the years to come – not only in new sustainable power production but also in new distribution and transmission infrastructure. These investment needs are closely linked to the development of smart grid and smart meters. New technology will enable the electricity system to handle larger proportions of renewable intermittent electricity production and facilitate the implementation of demand response, empowering consumers and stimulating development of new energy services to all customers.

Smart grid is also an opportunity for economic growth since the global market for smart grid solutions is expected to grow substantially. Sweden is well placed to become a pioneer in smart grids. We have a deregulated, well-developed electricity market with environmentally aware customers and a well-expanded ICT infrastructure. Sweden has gained substantial practical experience through the full roll out of smart meters, already installed in around 90 % of Swedish households.

Smart Meter Roll Out

Sweden was the first EU country to indirectly mandate smart meters or more correctly automatic meter reading (AMR) also resulting in the deployment of advanced meter infrastructure(AMI). The AMR/AMI system architecture consists of the meters, data collectors and the network company’s data management system for billing. Sweden’s large scale deployment of AMR began in 2003 when the Swedish parliament decided that by 2009 all electricity customers should have monthly billing based on actual consumption from monthly meter readings for residential and small business customers. The reason for the relatively long transition period was to give enough time to prepare and make the necessary investments.

In 2006 additional amendments to the legislation were made relating to larger customers. The new legislation lowered the threshold for mandatory hourly meter readings from customers with fuses above 200 A to all customers with fuses above 63 A. Altogether, these requirements resulted in a full scale installation of AMR/AMI systems for nearly all Swedish consumers (5.2 million). Over the six years of the roll-out smart meter technology advanced significantly, resulting in different types of meters throughout Sweden based on when a network company procured the meters. The total cost for the full roll out of AMR/AMI systems is estimated at 1.5 billion euro.

The main goal of the 2003 electricity meter reform was increased consumer awareness and ability to control their consumption with more accurate electricity bills, simplification of the supplier switching processes, and better information about their actual consumption. It should be noted that there was no regulation as regards to functionalities of the metering system. Smart meters rather became a consequence of the mandatory monthly billing based on actual consumption, requiring automatic and remote meter reading.

Before the reform, electricity for most private customers was read on a yearly basis with billing based on the previous year’s consumption. Customers received a reconciliation bill for the difference between the previous year’s consumption and the actual consumption, as the network company didn’t know the actual consumption until the end of the year. To a large degree this also made the customers unaware of their actual consumption, causing frustration once a year when customers were at risk of receiving a large reconciliation bill for the whole year before learning about any change to their consumption. Since July 2009, customers receive monthly bills based on their actual consumption which has led to increased customer awareness and activity in the retail electricity market.

The next important legal step in the introduction of a fully developed smart meter infrastructure was taken in 2012, when a bill was passed in the parliament enforcing hourly metering at no extra cost for any consumers subscribing to an hourly-based electricity supply contract. This new legal requirement was in force by 1st October 2012. Although limited, early experiences show that so far rather few consumers have signed-up for this type of contract.

Lessons Learned

By 2009 all Swedish customers had smart meters and AMR systems. As with many jurisdictions, a critical factor for the Swedish roll-out of Smart Meters was the allowance for network companies to include smart meters as part of the asset base to ensure cost coverage.

There wasn’t much public opposition to Sweden’s smart meter roll-out. In part this was because the majority of the electricity bill in Sweden is the cost of electricity supply, not the network costs, so the cost of implementing the AMI/AMR was only a small fraction of the bill. Compared to other European countries, in Sweden concerns about the accuracy of data and customer privacy in conjunction with the smart meters has generated little discussion. In general the handling of the meter data is regarded as acceptable by the customers.

Over the years since deployment, many DSOs found that their roll-out led to both expected financial benefits and to non-financial benefits in service quality, customer satisfaction and improved safety on the network. The improved understanding of the grid behavior and load pattern has allowed network companies to make more strategic decisions about infrastructure upgrades and has reduced the risk of over-sizing assets. As a platform for other smart grid technologies, many future services will be enabled by the data and the functionality of the AMI.

For Sweden, the first step for enabling the customer to participate in a more efficient market was to build their awareness of their consumption. Increased customer awareness was a major driver for AMI/AMR deployment in Sweden. Once customers began to move from annual meter readings to monthly readings, they became more aware and concerned with their electricity use. This has set the stage for future technology and market pricing that will allow the customer to participate in a more active retail market.

In terms of AMI/AMR functionality, Sweden’s infrastructure does not yet have all of the components for customer demand response activities. Dynamic pricing, easy customer access to their own data with visualization tools or other components that improve a customer’s control over their consumption are not yet common across the systems, however the functionalities are in most cases sufficient to deliver significant benefits compared to the alternative of not rolling out the Smart Meters. With the new possibilities for all customers to sign-up to an hourly-based electricity supply contract customers will need support to facilitate their response to price signals from the market and any other load management programmes.


In May 2012 the government appointed the Swedish Coordination Council for Smart Grid (www.swedishsmartgrid.se) with representatives from authorities, organisations, the business community and various research settings. The Council’s role is to encourage, inform and plan for the development of smart grids that contribute to more effective and more sustainable energy use. The council is currently investigating different strategies for smart grid in Sweden and will be active until December 2014. One of the main tasks of the council is to develop a road map with recommendations on how to stimulate the deployment of smart grids between the years 2015 to 2030. Another important task for the council is to build a knowledge platform for smart grids to enhance the knowledge among different old and new stakeholders in the electricity market.