Analysis: status of and challenges affecting the UK smart meter rollout


The UK has suffered a setback in its deployment of smart meters. The plan to begin mass rollout in the first quarter of 2016 was unsuccessful, with the exception of a few rollout programmes that have been announced since the start of the year.

Furthermore, the launch of the The Data Communications Company, which is the primary entity responsible for smart meter data acquisition and telemetry to energy suppliers, is yet to take place reported Energy Live.

The country’s smart meter deployment continues to face various constraints including technical factors such as lack of concrete technology and commitment by stakeholders in meeting targets set by the government.

At the same time, the government itself appears to be reluctant regarding the failure by utilities in meeting targets.

In the initial years of programme’s launch, penalties on failure to meet targets were being issued but since then no action is being taken against firms failing to meet rollout targets.

For instance, in November 2015, UK energy regulator Ofgem ordered energy supplier E.ON to pay a penalty of £7 million for failing to deploy 20,000 smart meters to its business consumers by the 2nd quarter of 2014.

The energy supplier managed to deploy 13,000 of the 20,000 smart gas meters.

Challenges in UK smart meter deployment

Would it be fair to point out to the UK’s exit from the EU contributing to the slow in pace in smart meter deployment?

The UK’s smart meter deployment efforts had been underpinned by EU targets on installation of the smart meters, suggesting its exit from the EU had caused a drop in momentum.

In addition, the UK was receiving significant amounts of capital to invest in energy infrastructure, with large amounts being channeled toward the rollout of new metering systems.

Local publication also points out the issue of protracted criticism of the smart meter deployment to be a major contributing factor to the delay.

Consumers continue to resist to engage in utilities smart meter programmes, resulting in power companies setting penalties or very high charges to carry out manual meter readings on consumers who despise the smart meters.

Last month, the Institute of Directors (IoD) released a report criticising the UK government’s plan in deploying the automated metering systems.

The IOD highlighted issues including consumers being charged £400 through their energy bills for being equipped with the smart meters whilst the government claims the meters are being installed for free.

Responding to the facts released by the IOD, Smart EnergyGB said the IOD survey represents a small share of the total consumers equipped with smart meters in the UK.

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Smart Energy GB, said: “Britain’s smart meter programme is putting power back in the hands of consumers, and the Institute of Directors’ latest statement, which contains inaccuracies and misrepresentation of facts, shows them once again attacking the rollout on ideological grounds.”

The Telegraph backed notion presented by the IOD, in a publication which stated that smart meters help consumers reduce energy consumption by 2-3% to save £33 a year on the average bill. [UK gov advised to communicate security of smart meter design].

The Telegraph highlights the inbalance between the total costs which consumers achieve from reducing their energy consumption using smart meters and the £11 billion total cost of deploying the smart meters.

Smart meter awareness

Smart EnergyGB however continues to engage with various departments and organisations to ensure the deployment of the smart meters succeeds.

In early October, the department partnered with eighteen organisations to improve consumer awareness on smart meters.

In a press statement, SmartEnergyGB said it is providing the organisations with grants of between £10,000 and £25,000.

The funding will be used to help consumers at community level on how to use smart meters.

[quote] Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Smart Energy GB, noted: “Smart meters are transforming the way we buy and use energy. Our job at Smart Energy GB is to make sure that everyone in Britain knows what a smart meter is, how to get one, and how to use it to get their gas and electricity under control.”

Apart from advising residential consumers on how to use smart meters, Smart EnergyGB, engaged into a contract with Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce (TVCC) Group to help small businesses in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Swindon, benefit from smart meters

Under the partnership, the two parties agreed to stage social, print and other digital media campaigns using TVCC platforms.

With Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), Smart EnergyGB said it aims to have people living in rural communities across England learn more about the benefits of smart meters.

The partnership with ACRE is expected to help consumers residing in the organisation’s service territories which includes 38 rural councils comprising 11,000 rural communities across England.

Although much is being done to push towards achieving smart meter deployment targets, it seems the UK will not be able to install 53 million smart meters by 2020, as stated by the IOD.

UK water utility Thames Water announced that it has so far installed 6,000 smart water meters under a pilot and kickstarted rollout in Waltham Forest to install 56,000 units.

The water utility said it will only be able to equip all of its customers with smart meters by 2030, ten years after the governments’ announced deadline.


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