Lord Hunt of
Kings Heath
 
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — October 30, 2008 – Based on the potential of smart metering and its wish to see progress in this area, the U.K. government has taken the decision to mandate smart meters for all households, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath announced in a debate in the House of Lords Tuesday.

This will result is as many as 47 million smart electricity and gas meters being rolled out nationwide.

“This is a major step forward; no other country in the world has moved to an electricity and gas smart meter rollout on this scale,” said Hunt, noting that the existing powers in the Energy Bill will enable the government to proceed with the rollout.

In making the announcement Hunt explained that the slowness of the government in reaching a decision was not due to a lack of understanding of the potential for smart meters, but to some of the practical matters that need to be addressed, among them the scale of the rollout.

“47 million meters is a big number on any count. The scale and complexity of that operation have made the government cautious about making final decisions on the detail of any mandate, taking into account both the benefits and the costs,” said Hunt. He added that it is difficult to make comparisons on the costs and benefits with other countries as these rollouts have been on different scales within different metering markets and have had different objectives.

Hunt said the government will have to consult industry and the regulator on the full detailed proposals and license modifications and then lay them before Parliament for debate. In the meantime it will continue with a wide-ranging and detailed program of work to look at the overall case for smart metering for domestic customers.

Commenting that the speed of rollout is a central issue and certainty about it is important for businesses and consumers, Hunt cautioned against fixing in legislation a timetable for such a complex project. Nevertheless, a timetable is very important, he said, and as an indicative timetable a period of around two years is anticipated to resolve the issues and to design the full detail of the rollout, with a subsequent rollout over a period of 10 years. “This would see delivery of smart meters by the end of 2020 to align with our renewables targets.”

Hunt said there is a clear need to get smart meters into homes as efficiently as can be done, with minimum disruption and maximum customer engagement. Thus the impact assessment analysis, which should provide more up-to-date figures in relation to the costs and benefits and should be ready by the year end, must be completed before a final decision is taken on the detail of a mandate, including meter functionality.

Commenting on the announcement, Garry Felgate, chief executive of the Energy Retail Association (ERA), described it as a momentous decision for households across Britain. “We’re delighted the government has decided to forge ahead with the rollout of smart meters. It is vital that no time is wasted in implementing this decision and that the government provides the necessary Parliamentary time to debate the detailed plans.”