Critical time for the smart meter roll-out

This year is make or break time in the roll-out of smart meters.  Our research shows that roughly 10mn meters have been installed so far.  That leaves more than 40mn to go, with less than 3 years to do it in.

There has been a flurry of recent directions from the Secretary of State (SoS) on intermediate programme deadlines.

In December the Government moved the end date for installing advanced meters in small businesses, the advanced meter exception, back to July this year for both large and small suppliers, (prior to this the dates were January for large suppliers and May for small suppliers).  In January this was moved again to October this year.  Also in January the SMETS1 end date was moved from July to October.  The reason for pushing these dates back is the very real concern over whether the SMETS2 systems have been sufficiently proven in real life customer installations and are ready for mass installation to start.  Meanwhile the roll-out completion date, at 31 December 2020 remains intact.  Large suppliers are continuing to ramp up the installation rate of SMETS1 devices, driven by the imperative of demonstrating they have taken “all reasonable steps” to achieve the roll-out deadline.  Moving back these end dates, in particular the SMETS1 date, gives suppliers a welcome respite to continue these installations whilst the SMETS2 devices are field tested and any problems resolved.  It also gives a breathing space to gear up the supply chain and installation capability to operate at the scale required.  Even with this temporary respite, the timescale pressure will not tolerate of any kind of hiatus caused by the transition to SMETS2.

Along with the considerable physical and logistical challenge to install the meters, suppliers face a monumental volume of obligations and regulations controlling all aspects of the roll-out and the operation of smart meters.  The gas and electricity supply licences contain highly prescriptive and intricately drafted obligations, complete with qualifications, exceptions and dormant clauses awaiting SoS directions.  The process and behaviour of suppliers in installing  smart meters is governed by a detailed code of practice, the SMICOP, enforced through licence, designed to protect the customer.  The Smart Energy Code, a very considerable multilateral contract with over 3,000 pages including subsidiary documents, sets out detailed obligations on all DCC users.  It also has exacting assurance requirements, particularly with respect to safeguarding data and protecting the security of the national smart meter communications infrastructure.  The overall programme is ultimately controlled by the government and the SoS has overarching powers to direct changes to obligations and deadlines.

Next month we’re launching a new service designed to help suppliers navigate this highly complex regulatory environment.  All supplier obligations on smart metering are summarised in clear intelligible language and presented in an easy to access portal.  The purpose is to cut through the complexity of the many and various governance sources so that suppliers can readily understand there obligations and concentrate on ensuring compliance.  The service includes a comprehensive monthly report highlighting changes to the regulations, tracking progress and decisions from key workgroups, capturing government directions and more.