Smart metering project delay a sensible move?

I blogged last week about the fact the GB smart meter implementation programme (GB SMIP) has had its target of having smart meters in UK homes has been put back a year.

According to Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) the target for the introduction of smart meters in homes by the summer of 2014, has been put back to the Autumn of 2015. The project, originally planned to be complete in 2019, will now go live in 2020. This is a huge project and it involves significant IT and IT outsourcing. In fact it was the necessity to get the communications network right that was cited as the reason for the delay.

Although any delay to a project of this scale will inevitable lead to higher costs the delay was justified according to David Green, business development director at smart metering consortium SmartReach, a working with a collaboration of Arqiva, BT, BAE Systems, Detica and Sensus.

Here is a guest blog from Green.

Smart metering: The importance of making the right decisions

By David Green

“Smart metering has the potential to transform energy management and consumption across Great Britain, delivering billions of pounds of energy and cost savings for consumers and utilities. It is also a major critical national infrastructure programme so it’s important that we take the time to get it right. The delay to the start of the rollout will allow more room to finalise technical standards and for the integration plus testing of communications, data and metering technologies. As such, we believe it is a sensible move that should increase confidence, support consumer engagement and assist the programme in delivering the anticipated benefits.

The communication network is a key element of smart metering and the chosen technology needs to be proven to be able to cope with the unique geography of Great Britain, with meters typically located in hard to reach areas such as basements. SmartReach has been running trials in Glasgow, rural Scotland, Ipswich and Reading, where it has been able to successfully connect over 99% of meters using long-range radio, wherever they are, with a single installation visit. This includes meters in hard to reach areas, which other communications struggle to reach. We believe using a proven and dedicated smart metering communications technology will make the task easier by simplifying the integration and testing of technologies ahead of mass rollout. It should also reduce cost, risks and complexity through the supply chain.

The communication network will also have a major influence on consumer engagement as it will underpin the whole smart metering experience. Using a single, proven technology that connects to meters wherever they are supports easier installation of smart meters into homes, which could help reduce the impact on consumers and generate positive word of mouth at the critical early stages of the smart metering rollout.

A positive step is being taken right now, with the creation of an independent organisation currently called the Central Delivery Body, or CDB, from July 2013. The CDB will drive information programmes on the practicalities and benefits of smart metering to consumers and is likely to span all manner of channels from social media to working with local charities. In addition, the CDB will be tasked with improving awareness and support, stimulating people’s willingness to change the way they use energy, and providing helpful information to assist the vulnerable.

Finally, we can learn from the recent TV Digital Switch Over, where great technology and a concerted programme of consumer engagement combined to deliver a highly successful national rollout and positive experience for households.”