London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — December 5, 2011 – 2012 will be a key year – the first full year of the Foundation Stage – for Britain’s smart meter rollout, according to energy and climate change minister Charles Hendry in a presentation to the Smart Metering Forum last week.
During this stage, industry and consumer readiness for the mass rollout must be ensured. It will give industry the space to build and test the necessary systems, both cross industry systems and companies’ own back office processes.
Hendry said his department is currently analyzing responses to consultations on the draft license conditions and technical specifications for the rollout and an installation code of practice, and a call for evidence on data access and privacy, with a response due to be published in the New Year. At the same time updated smart metering equipment technical specifications (SMETS) will be published.
Work on the procurement of the new Data and Communications Company (DCC), which will provide central data and communications services for the domestic sector, is also proceeding.
Hendry said that during 2012 the government would also be doing more work to examine whether further specifications might help support interoperability in the future. In particular, it is planned to review the performance of different home area network solutions over the next few months, and to notify a core set of requirements early in 2012.
Testing and trialling is also important and an overall architecture and high level design for the end-to-end smart metering system is being developed, with a head of testing and trialling being appointed to oversee this. Consumer trials are also continuing with for example, recent new trials launched with British Gas and First Utility. However, in order maximize savings via additional engagement activities, a consumer engagement strategy is being developed, which will be subject to a consultation early next year. This is expected to also address issues of concern such as costs and electromagnetic sensitivity.
There also will be a number of consultations on regulatory proposals, including changes to license conditions and codes and the installation code of practice and rollout.
“That’s a big agenda,” said Hendry. “But we have a good project team in place. We will continue to take decisions as quickly as we can, to give industry certainty, and to ensure that the consumer and other benefits of this program are realized.”
The rollout will see the supply of around 53 million electric and gas smart meters to Britain’s 30 million homes and businesses at a cost around £11.7 billion by 2019.