Smart moves - changes to the smart meter rollout programme

The latest developments and changes in the programme, including installation plans and how data is handled.
Changes to the rollout
There have been some developments in the smart metering rollout programme:

Deadline to only install SMETS2 meters
BEIS is consulting upon the proposed deadline of 31 March 2019 for the ‘New and Replacement Obligation (NRO).’ The NRO requires that all new meter and replacement meter installations at sites that require a smart meter as part of the rollout programme, must be the latest technical version (SMETS2). This applies to domestic and microbusiness sites that don’t have a Current Transformer or a Large Gas Meter. BEIS believes that activating the NRO will provide a clear signal that the change-over is occurring, though many suppliers are not able to obtain the meters at present.

Two caveats are mentioned by BEIS on the need to install SMETS2 meters in all circumstances:

  • All reasonable steps’ obligation is mentioned as a possible get-out clause for certain scenarios such as emergency installations.
  • The ability for a customer to refuse a meter is mentioned as an example of where a supplier can legitimately fail to install. 

You can read the consultation here.

Mircobusiness customer data
BEIS is consulting on proposals for microbusiness customers to have free access to consumption data. As it stands, energy suppliers can provide access to consumption data at no additional cost (and so absorb the cost of data provision) or seek to charge separately if the customer desires the additional service. Under their proposals, BEIS would either give free customer access to either all non-domestic customers, those customers with smart meters or just microbusiness customers (to be decided). BEIS is also asking how standardised the data provision should be and whether a specific format should be applied.

You can read the consultation here.

Transfer of SMETS1 meters to the DCC
Most smart meters installed are ‘first generation meters’, termed SMETS1 meters. Currently, their communication services are provided by third party communications providers rather than the central smart metering communications monopoly, the Data Communications Company (DCC).

This was to ensure that the smart metering rollout programme was not delayed whilst the DCC was being set up, with the intention that it would provide communications to all smart meters at some point. Now that the DCC is in place, BEIS has decided that the migration of SMETS1 meters to the DCC should start as soon as practical. It is expected that the process for enrolling meters will start in Spring 2019.

You can read the consultation document here.

National Audit Office review
In November 2018, the National Audit Office published its opinion on the Smart Metering Rollout. The report noted that the programme is late, the costs are escalating, and in 2017 the cost of installing smart meters was 50% higher than BEIS assumed. 7.1 million extra SMETS1 meters have been rolled out because BEIS wanted to speed up the programme, but a large proportion of SMETS1 meters currently lose smart functionality after a switch in electricity supplier and there is real doubt about whether SMETS1 will ever provide the same functionality as SMETS2.

The functionality of the system is also dependent on new technology that is not yet developed. The report concluded that while these facts are not fatal to the viability and value for money of the programme, there are serious issues that need to be addressed if the programme is to progress successfully and deliver value for money.

You can read the full report here.

Ofgem reviews Data Access and Privacy Framework
The smart metering Data Access and Privacy Framework determines the levels of access to energy consumption data from smart meters for energy suppliers, network operators and third parties. It also establishes the purposes for which data can be collected and the choices available to consumers. Ofgem recently concluded that the current process is appropriate and there isn’t a clear case for relaxing it. Ofgem believes that low consumer awareness and the difficulties involved in accessing energy consumption data in the microbusiness sector could prevent consumers taking control of their energy use.

You can read the document here.

You can read our latest regulatory report here