Smart meters GB: lack of test stubs is ‘too much risk’

Smart meters GB test stubs
The UK’s big six energy suppliers are concerned over the risks of not using test stubs to simulate smart meter components

In the UK, major energy suppliers, including British Gas, E.ON, Utilita, SSE and nPower, have voiced concerns over the government’s proposals on testing methods as part of the national smart meter rollout.

Energy suppliers are responding to a set of proposals published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change last week, due to become law in six months’ time.

One guideline from the Data and Communications Company, set up to process all smart meter data, is that energy companies should pay for network connections six months’ in advance for testing.

Smart metering project managers at British Gas said: “Why six months in advance? We will be paying for six months of bandwidth and cost for no reason if we don’t want to participate in the Pre UIT testing. Don’t want to pay for a connection we don’t need, until we need it,” reported trade website TechWorld.

Smart meter testing – need for test stubs

Other energy companies say the testing approach proposed by the government posed “too much risk” as they do not include test stubs to simulate software components behaviour.

E.On said: “We are particularly concerned that the overall testing timeline has been condensed as far as possible with the overlap of User Acceptance Testing and Interface testing.

“The further overlapping of Solution Testing with Interface testing and User Acceptance Testing, we believe adds too much risk.

The energy company added: “We are also concerned at the proposals to introduce real devices into the User Entry Process Tests part way through testing.

“From our Foundation experience we are concerned that introducing different devices part way through a test phase could cause undue delays.”

Don’t compress testing phase

EDF Energy wrote: “We do not agree with the current approach to potentially compress and parallel run testing phases. In any testing environment such an approach is not good industry practice and introduces a high risk. Should the risk become issues, all concerned, including consumers, pay in terms of time and financial costs.

“The use of test stubs will always be a contentious issue, but we understand the position the DCC is in with circumstances beyond its control.

“However some mitigation towards the test stub approach would be for the DCC to provide its evidence that test stubs will deliver to the desired levels of assurance as required in the Smart Energy Code [the guidelines for the smart meter initiative] as soon as possible, rather than waiting until the decision to use stubs has to be made.”

Energy companies have until 1 September to give feedback on the guidelines, which they will all have to follow as part of the nationwide rollout costing GBP11 billion.