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US based energy consulting firm Cognizant issued a whitepaper discussing the challenges and provides recommendations for UK utilities to simplify smart meter rollouts.The paper 'Scaling Up Smart Meter Operations' discusses the challenges which utilities in the UK are facing in implementing their smart meter rollout projects.

The consulting firm also provides recommendations towards full and simplified deployment of smart meters.

Smart meter rollout challenges

The paper states that utilities in the UK are struggling to meet up with the mandates set by regulatory bodies to ensure a standardised rollout of some 53 million smart meters for gas and electric customers by 2020.

The mandates are inclusive of business, customer, systems and security requirements set by the Smart Energy Code for all stakeholders in the UK’s smart metering pool to obligate to.

Second is the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice which protects consumer rights in using the smart meters. [UK’s Spark Energy prepares first smart meter rollout].

The Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice stipulates that consumers should receive the highest standard of service from the smart meter installation stage through to the smart meter usage stage.

Under the policy, energy firms are forced to educate consumers on how to use the new metering system to improve their energy conservation.

Lastly, Cognizant finds utilities struggling in lining up with the Data Communications Company guidelines setting standards for installation of back end systems and processes.

What should utilities do?

The firm stipulates that UK power firms need to enhance their operational, technical and business capabilities in order to address various challenges faced from the installation stages of the metering system through to day-to-day operations of the meters.

Cognizant finds utilities are facing the challenge of completing their rollouts in line with the government’s target, due to a lack of capital to fund the set up of smart meter operation centres to manage day-to-day business of the metering system.

The firm recommends that utilities develop a timeline in which smart meter installation commissioning should follow. In addition to drafting a timeline, the report recommends utilities maximise their engineers' productivity.

To address the challenge of managing smart meter data and their communication, Cognizant suggests that utilities increase their investments in technologies to automate their tracking capabilities.