The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has published its annual report on the much-delayed roll-out of smart electricity and gas meters, reporting that more than 900,000 domestic and commercial properties in the UK have now successfully deployed the technology.
The government would like to replace 53 million meters around the UK in a two-phase programme, which has been in its foundation stage since 2011.
DECC claims that smart metering will give users greater control over their electricity and gas usage, providing real-time information and bringing an end to estimated billing, meaning that, in theory, consumers will save money, be able to switch suppliers more easily and reduce their energy wastage.
The programme is expected to deliver £17.1bn of benefits at a cost of £10.9bn through to 2030, according to an impact assessment conducted in January 2014. On average, DECC believes energy bills will be reduced by £26 per year by 2020, and £43 by 2030.
However, as previously reported by Computer Weekly, the IT costs of the roll-out are skyrocketing, and the forecast economic benefit of around £6bn is now £2bn less than in 2011.
Currently it estimates that live services should be ready to roll out in March 2016 – nearly two years later than originally planned.
Smart DCC, the Capita-owned holder of the smart meter communications licence, is currently working both with data service provider CGI to develop, host and maintain a software application for access control, scheduling and translation for high volume data transmission, and with communications services providers Arqiva and Telefónica to provide the underlying wide area network (WAN).
“I am encouraged to see that energy suppliers are now operating more than 400,000 smart meters in homes and over 490,00 smart and advanced meters in non-domestic premises,” said Sandip Verma, parliamentary undersecretary of state at DECC.
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“Over the past year, responsibility for taking forward key elements of the smart metering programme has moved to industry and other delivery partners. In summer 2014, Smart Energy GB, the new name of the independent organisation tasked to engage the nation with smart meters, unveiled details of the public engagement campaign that will support the programme,” she added.
Verma reported that much of the regulatory framework underpinning the roll-out was now in place, and most legal and technical documents governing how energy suppliers and network providers communicate with smart meters will enable better systems to be designed, tested and deployed.
The government has already mandated that suppliers will be required to provide a smart metering equipment technical specifications (Smets) compliant home area network – similar to a domestic Wi-Fi network – at each premises to support smart metering, and will be working with network providers to provide an 868MHz service that should cover 95% of properties in the country.
Over the next 12 months, said DECC, work will continue on finalising the Smart Energy Code and licence conditions; enhancing the technical specifications for metering equipment as testing continues; early-stage consumer engagement and education programmes; and development of the government’s monitoring and evaluation framework.