Smart meters public confusion

Smart Energy GB should push back campaign launchUK energy supplier First Utility is calling on Smart Energy GB, the organization charged with engaging customers with smart meters, to postpone its national advertising campaign in line with delays to the countrywide rollout.

Smart Energy GB is set to launch in 2015 a GBP25 million advertising programme that includes the cartoon characters Gaz and Leccy.

First Utility is reportedly worried that the campaign “will heighten demand before the technology is widely available”, reports Utility Week.

Darren Braham, co-founder and chief financial officer of First Utility, said: “We are deeply concerned that Smart Energy GB intends to press ahead with a nationwide campaign to promote smart meters in 2015, despite the expected delay until the following year.

“It is a gross waste of money that will ultimately be borne by the bill payers.”

Central consumer campaign

Smart Energy GB however has hit back by saying a centrally run advertisement campaign would avoid the “wasteful duplication what would come from every energy supplier running its own marketing campaign” and added that First Utility may be opposing the planned campaign “for its own commercial reasons”.

It added that its plans have been “designed to carefully match the Government’s projected national rollout of smart meters”, said the Utility Week report.

The public wrangle comes in the wake up of the Data and Communications Company confirming it wouldn’t have the central meter data processing system in place to bring smart meters online during 2015.

The UK’s smart meter rollout date has been pushed back until October 2016, adding GBP90 million to the cost of the programme.

A note from Rose Bundock, editor of Metering.com

Rose Bundock smart-energy.comThe admission by the Data Communications Company (DCC) that the central repository won’t be ready in 2015 to accept readings from the one million plus smart meters already installed comes as a costly blow to the UK campaign.

The anticipated delay until October 2016 will likely add an extra GBP90 million to the rollout, according to the DCC.

But there is also the potential loss of consumer engagement, which is hard to quantify in monetary value.

There are conflicting reports as to how welcome smart metering technology is among consumers but regardless, the UK has done an impressive job of building momentum towards this big change in customers’ relationship with energy companies.

How well the UK can keep the PR machine rolling remains to be seen.

What you said:

Therese Cory, analyst, machine to machine/Internet of Things

In some ways the delay is a good thing and in others a bad thing; for me, it shows that the government is coming to grips with the huge complexities of this type of programme, involving all types of issues and players.  Typical M2M projects however large are confined within an enterprise, but the smart meter programme is nation-wide, involving the grid.  With the involvement of the Internet the risk of hacking of any SCADA system is very real.  A secure regulatory framework is essential and the government must be seen to ensure it will get this right with minimal risk.

For most homeowners however this does reduce confidence; it might be a good idea to educate customers more – I know there has been a programme in Ireland engaging consumers.

I also recall that eCall (an automatic find-me-in-case-of accident system in all new cars) was first mooted in the mid 2000s for implementation in 2010 – this was postponed to 2015 but I think it will be delayed even more.

Nick Hunn, wireless evangelist

What’s surprising is that no-one in Government seems to be the least bit concerned about the impending disaster.  I wrote about it on my own blog this week, adding in my experience of those who are trying to get DECC to reveal more of what they’re doing using Freedom of Information requests, so far with no success.