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Electric meters: history and types of meters

Electricity meters are devices that measure the electrical energy of an electrical circuit or service. Typically the unit in which consumption is specified is the kilowatt and they have been a part of homes now for years.

In Spain, we know that electricity was first used in 1852; it was a pharmacist from Catalonia who decided to test this type of lighting in his pharmacy, while in Madrid they were trying to install lighting in the Congress of Deputies. Years later, some of the most emblematic areas of Barcelona such as Las Ramblas or the Montjuic Castle were lit up with the use of a dynamo. And, as this electric power had generated a huge amount of interest among the population and companies, in 1876 the electrification of the country began at an industrial level. But it was not until the arrival of the alternating current light and power system at the beginning of the 20th century and the possibility of transporting it from one place to another, that the electricity system at a national level was developed.

During the Spanish civil war and post-war period, supply was very poor, since demand increased by 27% per year and the country suffered a severe drought between 1944 and 1945. In later years, many changes and regulations were finally introduced regarding energy. It was in 1996 that the European directive was approved on common rules for the internal electricity market.

Over these years, the electricity sector has undergone numerous transformations and has gradually adapted to new technologies. Many of these changes have, to a large extent, affected electricity meters.


Electricity meters: analogue or digital

Electricity meters have changed significantly in the electricity market as new technologies have been developed. However now there are a number of different types of electricity meters in households enabling consumers to control their electricity use. But, what are the main differences between these?

  • Analogue meters: this is the oldest system for measuring electricity consumption. Some have a small window with a red mark that rotates in accordance with the current consumed, just below the five-figure meter, which indicates how much energy we are using. Others generate the consumption reading via clocks that indicate the consumption with five figures.

    Analogue meters add up the energy used during the billed period, while digital meters record it on an hourly basis. Very soon analogue meters will be withdrawn and disappear from the market.
  • Digital meters: these are electronic devices and they could be classed as the middle brother of analogue meters. They can measure consumption in real time; use tariffs based on time restrictions; and know what is happening with the electricity in households at any given time. In order to know how they work, they could be compared with an ADSL system.


Remotely managed meters. The new era of the digital meter

Achieving energy efficiency that enables us to save and preserve the environment is one of the challenges of society. What we do today will determine how future generations live and therefore making use of technology to modernise and make our facilities more efficient is vital. Remotely managed meters are one more step in this direction and the latest development in terms of digital meters.

But, what are the advantages of these meters and how will the change take place?

The installation of these meters, which will be mandatory for users with powers equal to or below 15kW before 2019, pursuant to Royal Decree 1110/2007, Order ITC 3860/2007 and IET 290/2012. Users will receive a notification at their home informing them of the need to change their meter; however verification can be requested at any time. The installation of the new system will not cost anything, as the distribution company shall pay the costs and there will be a short power supply interruption, which will only last a few minutes. Once it has been changed, the new meter will be operational immediately.

At Endesa we are pioneers in remote management issues, since we took the real step towards developing these meters and have already installed them in over 8 million homes. But there are still many families that will have to make the change before the deadline established by the Government in the Replacement Plan.

“The installation of the new system will not cost anything, as the distribution company.”

Advantages of remote management meters

The advantages of these meters extend far, including in terms of management and consumption:

  • You only pay for the lease of the meter, less than 1 euro per month, which includes maintenance and replacement in the event of a fault.
  • The remotely managed systems have the capacity to remotely record your hourly consumption. This means you no longer have to write down your reading to send it to the company and technicians will not be visiting your home to read the meter or for any other tasks that will also be carried out remotely, such as changing your contracted power or your tariff or resolving grid incidents.
  • It facilitates smart consumption, since the price for each hour of the day is available one day before on the Red Eléctrica de España website.
  • Estimated readings will disappear. All bills will refer to real readings with more detailed information about your consumption.
  • It enables energy efficiency; it protects the environment by reducing CO2 emissions sent into the atmosphere.
  • It modernises systems, making them more secure and improving the quality of the power supply.

Remotely managed meters are, therefore, smarter, more flexible and more efficient. They enable a more effective customer service to be provided and detailed information about your consumption, enabling savings and a responsible use of energy. For example, as you can check whether you are using more energy during the day or at night, you can choose the tariff that best meets your consumption habits. With this information, we will also be able to obtain details that were not available before, such as energy use in our home when we are not in or when we are sleeping, as a result of electronic devices on standby and we will be able implement measures to reduce this.

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