Smart Meters are a networked device that allows a virtually live record of household energy consumption to be communicated to energy providers. In turn this mass data provision allows the country as a whole to identify overall energy consumption which will enhance efficiency of utility providers and their adoption to client needs.
The Smart Meter solution seemed to be the perfect answer to addressing growing concerns about energy efficiency and carbon footprint. As a result, in 2010 the Government announced an accelerated roll out of the smart meter which promised £18.7 billion worth of savings over 20 years. The Government target is that by 2020 all UK homes will have a smart meter.
Smart Meters trialled across London
In 2011, UK Power networks carried out a smart meter trial in conjunction with Low Carbon London partner EDF Energy by installing over 6000 smart meters in London properties. The trial was carried out on an opt in basis across a demographically balanced group.
The resulting steps following the trial was to identify how smart metering would benefit the rest of the UK population as a whole taking into account the differing profiles creating during the London trial.
The final stage before roll out was to identify the network suitability and plan any changes necessary. This is where major problems were found which were to cause the substantial delay currently being experienced.
Network suitability causing a delay
In May 2013, the Government announced there was a delay in smart meter roll out due to infrastructure issues until the Summer of 2014, however it quickly became apparent that the digital infrastructure would not be ready in this time-scale so the roll out has been delayed until the Autumn of 2015.
However this does not mean that smart metering will not be happening at all. Some areas of the UK are still going ahead with smart metering, however this is very minuscule. Just 2 million smart meters will be installed in the UK within the next 2 years. This leaves 50 million households without the option of having a smart meter installed although it is possible to register interest with energy providers.
Delay dubbed as ill conceived and ill prepared
TechWeekEurope who assist businesses with the latest technological solutions dubbed the smart meter programme as ill conceived and ill prepared as the £11.7 billion project hits the rocks due to an infrastructure which is not capable of handling a mass influx of new technology.
It appears that there are issues between energy providers and technology companies over who has the contract to run the national Data and Communications Company (DCC.) This company is key to the success of the smart metering programme as the DCC will be providing the infrastructure which allows Smart Meters to transmit data. The future success of the DCC comprises of a major logistical and technological challenge involving 30 million visits to over 50 million homes and small businesses that the Government needs to get right in order for the project to be successful.
Government Roll out expected to be Autumn 2015
The Government fully expects the digital infrastructure to be ready for mass roll out by 2015 with an expected full completion by 2020. The households who have Smart Meters installed ahead of the roll out are being assured that their Smart Meters will be compatible with the DCC network.
Majority of households in support of the smart meter
Despite the delay and industry criticism, there is still majority support of the smart meter with 73% of people surveyed by the Energy Saving Trust being in support of them.
Taking just one extra year to perfect the digital infrastructure in return for £7 billion worth of benefits to consumers and energy providers as well as an estimated £65 in savings per household according to an Oxford Economics Report is in our opinion a sensible move.
The smart meter roll out is just the start of an incredible journey into the future of energy consumption.