Next steps for U.K. smart meter rollout


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — November 19, 2012 – The latest steps in Britain’s smart meter rollout to be completed are the parliamentary process to enable the creation of the central Data Communications Company (DCC) and the regulations setting out the process for the license award.

Further, a number of decisions regarding consumer engagement, data privacy and security are set to be published shortly.

In a recent speech to the Smart Metering Forum, the minister with responsibility for the smart metering program, Baroness Verma said this marks another important milestone in the program.

The DCC will organize the communications and data transfer required to support the smart metering. Gas and electricity suppliers will be required to use the DCC to communicate with smart meters at domestic premises and will be permitted to use the DCC for meters at non-domestic premises.

In a new consultation response document on the license conditions released last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has decided that the DCC license will be awarded for a fixed term of 12 years, with a possible extension of up to six years in specified circumstances, e.g. to ensure smooth handover to a successor licensee.

A Smart Energy Code (SEC) will form the contract between the DCC and its customers. In its response on the SEC consultation, the DECC has decided that six categories of parties will be able to access the DCC’s communications services – gas suppliers, electricity suppliers, gas network operators, electricity network operators, the DCC itself, and ‘other users’ of the DCC’s services.

Meter operators will not be SEC parties in their own right, but they will be able to access via the DCC certain data from meters, for which they are the registered metering agent, as determined by the energy suppliers.

Under the SEC the DCC will offer three categories of core communication services – those available to suppliers, those available to networks and those available to all parties – with both the fixed operating costs as well as any variable costs to be recoverable.

In her presentation Baroness Verma highlighted the desire to put consumers at the heart of the smart meter rollout. In addition to the new rules on consumer engagement, it is proposed to establish a new Central Delivery Body, funded by the suppliers, to deliver a centralized program of consumer engagement activities. Supporting the engagement suppliers will be doing themselves, its objectives will be to build consumer confidence in the installation of smart meters, and consumer willingness, awareness and understanding of how to use smart meters to manage energy consumption.
An Installation Code of Practice is also in preparation to ensure that consumers get good service during the installation, and are given the information they need to understand how to use their new meter and in-home display, and how this can help them to use their energy more efficiently.

Other milestones that can be expected during the Foundation Stage of the rollout, Baroness Verma mentioned, are the establishment of the Central Delivery Body, the second version of the Smart Metering Technical Specification, and the establishment of the SEC and the DCC, competition for which commenced last month.

Baroness Verma also commented that the latest impact assessment of the smart metering program indicates total net benefits of £7.2 billion over the next 20 years.