MULTIDIS members distribute electricity wholesale (medium voltage or MV) or retail (low voltage or LV) to more than 400,000 customers. Some members also generate electricity themselves, mainly from hydroelectric plants (water power), wind turbines (wind power) and solar panels (solar power).
The electricity sector involves both distributing electrical energy, electrons, over a network of cables and overhead lines, and selling customers the energy they consume. The Distribution System Operator (DSO) distributes the electrons and electricity suppliers sell the electrons. DSOs are paid a "distribution charge", calculated according to the voltage levels required by different customers (industrial, business, personal). The electricity supplier is paid for the volume actually consumed by customers in kWh. Meters, installed in the homes or premises of each customer, register consumption in real time. The DSO has responsibility for these meters and manages them independently. Meters must be reliable and hard-wearing. They must also guarantee an exact reading of the electricity consumed or produced.
Because more and more customers are generating their own electricity, bi-directional meters are becoming more common. They must record both the energy consumption taken from the network and the output returned to it - as is the case with output from rooftop solar panels. Members of MULTIDIS operate in a multi-utility context. The trend in this area is towards increasingly intelligent devices known as smart meters. These meters are able to record or collect data from several utilities. This information is then sent via fibre-optics, powerline carrier, coaxial cable or radio waves for processing by the distributors. The DSO processes this chain on a non-commercial basis.