British government sets out next steps for smart meter rollout


Charles Hendry,
Minister of State
for Energy
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — July 28, 2010 – The British government yesterday set out its proposals for the national rollout of smart metering to domestic and small and medium business customers, including accelerating the rollout ahead of the previous targets.

In its “Smart Metering Implementation Program: Prospectus,” the government proposes a staged approach to implementation, under which suppliers would start to install smart meters ahead of the DataCommsCo (DCC) central data and communications entity being established. The aim is to advance the start of the formal mandate by at least a year to Summer 2012, while the DCC would be established over the period from Spring 2012 to Autumn 2013, when its trialling and testing would be completed and its use for domestic customers would be mandated.

While the full rollout profile has yet to be established, the aim is it should be “ambitious but achievable.”

According to the Prospectus, within a customer’s home or business the metering system will be made up of smart meters for gas and electricity, a home area network to communicate between devices in the home (or business), and wide area network equipment for communicating back to the supplier or other authorized parties. For domestic consumers, suppliers will also be required to provide an in-home display giving near real time information on energy consumption in an easily understandable form.

The proposed high level requirements for the smart meters, both electricity and gas, are:

  • Remote provision of accurate reads for delivery to customers, suppliers and other designated market organizations
  • Two way communications to the meter system for data transfer, remote configuration and diagnostics, software and firmware changes
  • Home area network with provision of “real time” information to an in-home display
  • Support for a range of time-of-use tariffs, with multiple registers within the meter for billing purposes
  • Remote disablement and enablement of supply that will support remote switching between  credit and prepay, notably including for this purpose a gas valve in the domestic gas meters.

In addition for the electric meters:

  • Load management capability to deliver demand side management
  • Exported electricity measurement
  • Capacity to communicate with a measurement device within a microgenerator.

For the in-home display, the minimum information that should be displayed includes real time and historical consumption information, information in pounds and pence as well as kilowatts and kilowatt hours, and accurate account balance information. Further the display must be capable of displaying information from both the electricity and gas meters.

For the home area network there is a clear need for open and interoperable standards, and the technical specification will be determined in conjunction with the industry and the communication regulator Ofcom.

For the wide area network communications between the meters and relevant industry participants the creation is proposed of a new central entity to identify and procure the most cost effective solutions for smart metering data management and communications. Further, given that communications technology is continuing to evolve, the wide area network communications module should be upgradable without the need for the meter to be exchanged.

The Prospectus notes that positive consumer engagement is key to delivering smart metering benefits, and the next stage of work will include an investigation of initiatives to promote consumer engagement. In addition the governance and management arrangements for subsequent phases of the program will be set out later in the year.

The proposals are now subject to consultation, with two closing dates of September 28 (covering the functional requirements, rollout strategy and implementation strategy) and October 28, 2010 (covering data privacy, consumer protection, energy displays, and approach for smaller non domestic customers among other issues). Thereafter the final decisions will be set out.

Other key milestones include confirming the functional requirements and technical specifications by Summer 2011 and modifying the suppliers’ licenses to mandate the rollout in early 2012.

For a Briefing Note from Engage Consulting on the Smart Metering Implementation Programme: Prospectus click HERE

For the Smart Metering Implementation Program: Prospectus and supporting documents click HERE