U.K. smart meter rollout outlined


Ed Miliband,
U.K. Energy and
Climate Change
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — May 11, 2009 – Under plans published today by the British government all homes in Great Britain will have smart meters installed by 2020, amounting to a total of approximately 47 million electric and gas smart meters.

The rollout is expected to cost from £7.7 billion to £9.3 billion and the benefits are estimated between £11.1 billion and £11.8 billion, providing estimated net benefits between £2.5 billion and £3.6 billion over the next 20 years. In addition U.K. carbon emissions will be reduced by about 2.6 million tonnes per year by 2020.

The announcement is in the form of a consultation setting out how the rollout should be managed.

Three options are offered for the rollout, of which the preferred option is the “central communications model.” In this model, gas and electricity supply companies will have responsibility for the provision of smart meters, including their installation and ongoing management, while a single provider will be appointed centrally to provide communications services to and from meters.

This option introduces the communications provider as a new market function to implement and manage the communication infrastructure and data carriage, whilst maintaining metering competition. The communications provider would be organized on a national basis, and all suppliers would be obliged to use the central communication function via license conditions.

The other two models are the “competitive model,” which is based on the existing metering market model, and the “fully centralized model.” Under the competitive model electricity and gas suppliers would be free to determine their own deployment strategy, choose the metering services they require, and have the ability to contract the management of such services. Suppliers would remain responsible for all metering services including communications to and from meters.

Under the fully centralized model, communications services would be managed centrally as in the central communications model, but regional franchises would be introduced to manage meter asset selection, ownership, deployment and maintenance, via a time-based competitive franchise or license awarded under competition.

Proposed functionalities for the meters include remote provision of accurate reads/information for defined time periods, two way communications to the meter system, home area network based on open standards and protocols, support for a range of time-of-use tariffs, remote disablement and enablement of supply (including remote switching between credit and prepayment), and in addition for the electric meters load management capability to deliver demand side management, exported electricity measurement, and capacity to communicate with a measurement device within a microgenerator.

The consultation also proposes that a similar approach be extended to the rollout of smart meters to small and medium non-domestic (business and public sector) sites, amounting to about 2.2 million electricity meters and 1.5 million gas meters. The meters provided to these customers should also have the same minimum functionality as proposed for the residential sector, with certain exceptions to allow for individual consumer requirements.  

“This is a big project affecting 26 million homes, and several million businesses, so it’s important we design a system that brings best value to everyone involved,” said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband.

“This is another part of our Great British refurb. The meters most of us have in our homes were designed for a different age, before climate change. Now we need to get smarter with our energy.”

In a statement the Energy Retail Association (ERA) has welcomed the government’s announcement on the delivery of smart gas and electricity meters, but has stressed the need for a clear timetable for the program as any delays will result in the 2020 target being missed.

“There are still some key decisions to be made before the energy companies can start work, including the functionality of the new meters and the nature of the body to be set up by government to manage the project. It is vital that government acts quickly and decisively once it has completed its consultation process, so that no further time is lost,” said the ERA.

The consultation runs until August 3, 2009.