Smart meters rollout: UK gears up but faces ‘challenges’

Smart meters GB MPs warn costly failure
Smart meters rollout: the UK expects to deploy 26 million residential meters by 2020

UK gas and electricity metering services company Lowri Beck Services has received a GBP16.25 million funding package to help energy companies with smart meter rollouts.

The company based in northern England said it has agreed contracts with two leading energy companies and is forecasting its annual revenue to grow from GBP36 million in 2014 to nearly GBP100 million by 2018.

LBS received the funding from Santander Corporate & Commercial including GBP6.5 million in Growth Capital loans, which will be used to help LBS invest in staff training and upskilling.

The new contracts will require more than 500 meter installers.

Santander Corporate & Commercial said LBS qualified for the loans as it has an annual turnover of up to GBP50 million and has demonstrated year-on-year growth in turnover, profit or employment.

Smart meters rollout – challenges

The news comes as last week Energy Minister Lord Bourne warned that the government’s “ambitious” target faces a number of challenges, including accelerating the delivery of the technology and co-ordinating action between different industry players.

Mr Bourne said: “Any large-scale national infrastructure programme brings with it a set of challenges, and smart metering is no different.

“The programme depends on successful delivery by multiple players, including energy suppliers large and small, network operators and consumer groups.”

However, the minister said the government would meet the challenges “head on”, insisting that the rollout of smart meters would help “unlock” a smarter energy grid which can better handle intermittent energy sources and the increased electrification of heat and transport.

According to the latest figures, 1.3 million smart meters have been installed in domestic properties across the country, and more than 620,000 have been fitted on non-domestic sites.

Smart meters rollout – penalties

Bourne’s comments came as the the UK energy regulator Ofgem ordered energy supplier E.ON to pay a fine of GBP7 million for failing to meet a deployment target of 20,000 smart meters to its business customers by Q2 of 2014.

The decision for E.ON to pay the fine comes after Ofgem found the energy provider installed 13,000 of the 20,000 smart meters it was mandated to install by the government, according to BBC News.

In 2009, the government ordered energy companies to supply 20,000 smart meters monitoring electricity and gas consumption more efficiently to their business customers in a period of five years.