Last week DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) released its latest update on what’s happening in the UK’s smart meter implementation programme, including recent conclusions and further consultations. The documents published are here, and you can also find more on various aspects of the programme by searching The Green IT Review.
Among the highlights of the announcements were:
The Government will require all energy suppliers to complete their smart meter rollout by 31 December 2019. The view is that this is a ‘challenging but achievable’ timescale.
There will no exemptions in relation to early installations of domestic smart-type meters that do not meet the technical specifications.
The initial version of the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications (SMETS) has been developed and will be published shortly.
The SMETS does not specify the communications technology to be used by the equipment, for example for the Home Area Network (HAN). However, HAN technology utilised by suppliers must be based on open standards. In the meantime, the Government is undertaking a series of trials of different technology standards that could be used for the HAN.
To ensure consumers receive the full benefits from the implementation programme, the Government will require energy suppliers to utilise the functionality of smart meters when installed.
Suppliers’ licences will include the fact that there can be no sales concluded during the smart meter installation visit and that the consumer must agree in advance to any face-to-face marketing activity.
The Government is proposing that, with the exception of monthly data required for billing, consumers should have a choice over the level of data that suppliers can access. Suppliers can collect daily data (for any purpose other than marketing) unless the consumer objects. For half-hourly data (or data to be used for marketing) consumers will have to explicitly opt in.
One issue that has resulted from recent announcements on the technical specification of smart meters is that they need to upgradeable without being replaced. (I’m not sure whether this is explicitly spelled out in the recent documents – I couldn’t find it - or an implication of various comments). Anyway, the Daily Telegraph reported that as a result British Gas will have to replace many of the 400,000 smart meters it has installed in UK homes. The company hasn’t said how many would need to be changed or at what cost. As the paper pointed out, British Gas opted to begin the smart meter roll-out two years ago so it could be ‘ahead of the game’.
Mark England, CEO of smart meter technology company Sentec, gave his view:
“As announced this week, DECC has made a sensible move in its new technical specifications requiring smart meters to be capable of field upgrades. This is a vital function for the success of future smart meter rollout, and a great example of this roll-out model can been seen in the successful proliferation of FreeView decoders and digital TV’s in the UK which, once installed, the vast majority are updated in-situ.”
“The news has come a little late for some, with British Gas needing to replace around 200,000 smart meters that cannot currently receive system upgrades remotely. The ability to future proof smart meters is a critical consideration for those still planning their smart meter rollout and something we have long been championing. With much fragmentation in the market and until now, little guidance from the government, companies must plan now to avoid costly revisions when the roll-out is in full swing.”
There’s clearly still a lot of potential for controversy in the smart meter implementation programme, not officially scheduled to start until 2014.