Smart meter rollout significantly dented by COVID-19 lockdown

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the progress of the smart meter rollout uncertain. Research from Cornwall Insight looks at BEIS and Ofgem’s initial indications of future rollout levels compared to pre-pandemic expectations.

The below graph shows two COVID-19 impacted rollout profiles, based on recent assessments from Ofgem and BEIS released in May and June. These are compared with a “pre-pandemic” profile based on data from an Ofgem assessment published in October 2019 and a BEIS impact assessment from September 2019.

The impact of COVID-19 on the rollout is evident with a significant deviation between the pre-pandemic forecast and future rollout expectations. In fact, based on BEIS assumptions*, the rollout will only reach 48% completion by the end of June 2021, compared to 61% on the pre-pandemic forecast.

Comparison of smart meter rollout profiles

Rowan Hazell SeniorAnalyst at Cornwall Insight said:

“The social distancing and lockdown measures brought in to tackle COVID-19 has caused the smart meter rollout to deviate off course, with uncertainty around the future trajectory of the programme. Although installations have begun to pick up as lockdown measures have eased, a return to normal levels is a long way off, the long-term impact on the rollout is still to be revealed over the coming months and years.

“The government has extended the date for suppliers to take all reasonable steps (ARS) to install smart meters to domestic and microbusiness properties by six months to 30 June 2021. This is intended to allow a return to installing smart meters at volume as COVID-19 restrictions ease and help to address the short-term uncertainty for energy suppliers during the pandemic.

“Following the ARS deadline, a new four-year framework will be introduced, requiring suppliers to meet binding installation targets on an annual basis. The government will be consulting in autumn on how lenient those targets should be, taking the pandemic into account.”


Notes to Editors

* BEIS has modelled the rollout profile, assuming zero installations are seen for three months from mid-March, followed by three months where installation rates gradually rebuild to pre-disruption levels. Installation numbers from mid-September are at 80% of the levels that suppliers expected from mid-March.