Major business challenges for smart meter deployment in U.K. – Interview with Ashley Pocock, EDF Energy


By Anthony Pohl

What are the biggest risks for smart meter investment and deployment?
Ensuring that meters have the interoperability required to ensure that they meet their full life span of deployment. It is critical to prove the meters are capable of being operable for their full life span. Meters must be able to seamlessly support change of supplier and other changes. This must be proven to give investors full confidence in deployment.

How is EDF planning to monetize “smart” investments?
EDF Energy was of the original belief that the core assets and infrastructure should operate under a regulated framework, similar to the model used historically for meter assets via the network operators. EDF Energy is now looking at a range of options to monetize deployment, and this is an ongoing process.

What are the major business challenges for smart meter deployment?
Firstly, financing the investment, gaining confidence in the technology life span and confirming that commercial interoperability will underpin the operational lifespan. Secondly, ensuring the market design, regulations and smart energy code are structured to deliver the optimal outcome. Thirdly, the coordination of the national publicity. Communication is key, and it is critical to keep customers onside. A coordinated government led promotional campaign is key.

In terms of the business challenges, EDF Energy is preparing to manage the changes that meter deployment means for the business internally.

How can you best prepare the customer for deployment?
Get the national publicity campaign ready for implementation and coordination across all organizations participating in the deployment program. The rollout of digital TV is seen as a successful model of public communication. It is critical to use this and other examples such as “chip and pin” to review what is effective. It is also important to review what communication is planned from utility to customer, and ensure all messages are aligned.

Evaluate the progress of the metering program to date.
EDF Energy is currently working at maximum speed on this. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is bringing confidence to ensure delivery of a robust smart metering program. There is confidence in the process and a guarantee that smart metering is happening. Q2 2014 is still realistic. However, careful preparation and testing is key. We can’t conduct complete end-to end testing until the data and communications company (DCC) is in place, and this is a critical step in achieving a successful conclusion.

How is the program progressing in terms of delivery certainty, governance and benefit realization?
We are currently exploring how to measure benefit realization. There is uncertainty regarding where the DECC will land on securing energy savings. This is very important. It is vital to match the benefit realization to the initial aims of smart meter deployment. It’s disappointing that there is no requirement to communicate carbon savings to consumers. We think this should be a key metric as it was a core rationale for the smart meter mandate. Some benefits of deployment have not been included in the impact analysis either. There is significant value in terms of assisting delivery of security of supply and future smart grid activity through smart demand management.

For your opportunity to discuss smart metering deployment strategies with Ashley Pocock face to face, attend Smart Metering UK and Ireland 2011.