Government confirms new 2020 deadline for smart meter rollout completion

The government has confirmed that the rollout of smart meters will not be completed until 2020, a year later than planned.

In its first annual progress report last year, the government had said that the rollout would be finished by 2019. However, in its second annual progress report out today, the changed deadline was confirmed, following a review of the smart metering programme plan during the first half of 2013.

It said: “The government tested the time needed for the design, build and test phases of industry’s programmes. The consistent message was that more time was needed if the rollout of smart meters were to get off to the best possible start and if customers were to be sure of a quality service.

“The government therefore now expects that, from autumn 2015, all major energy suppliers will be able to use the shared infrastructure provided by the Data and Communications Company (DCC), for both credit and prepay customers, to support the completion of their smart meter rollouts by 2020.”

The DCC, established in September 2013, is the central organisation and services that will deliver communications between smart meters and energy suppliers, network operators and other authorised service users. The DCC, and industry, is gradually taking over the responsibility for the implementation of the smart metering system, although Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will continue to have ownership of the overall programme. DECC is also in charge of ensuring readiness of suppliers to support the rollout of smart meters to most consumers from autumn 2015.

“The period between now and autumn 2015 will see the delivery of the smart metering infrastructure begin in earnest,” the government said.

A key focus over the next two year will be the design, build and testing of DCC, DCC service providers’ and DCC users’ systems, it added.

For example, a key priority in 2014 will be to further develop the Smart Energy Code (SEC) to support the testing of data and communications systems, including security, data access and enrolment of foundation meters.

The government also plans to complete SMETS 2, the second version of the common technical standards for smart metering equipment, by mid-2014. This will then enable suppliers to specify and procure the new version of smart metering equipment.
By autumn 2015, the government expects all major suppliers to be capable of installing SMETS 2 smart meters, ready to use DCC services and offer basic services to credit and prepay customers.

In terms of supplier readiness, the progress report said that suppliers are currently upgrading their internal IT systems to be able to handle smart meter data. They are also procuring smart metering equipment and services from external companies.

“Suppliers have indicated that they have already started, or will shortly be starting, discussions with payment agents to set up new contracts for the delivery of smart prepay, so that systems can be established and fully tested in time for the rollout of smart meters,” the report said.

The programme aims to rollout over 50 million smart electricity and gas meters to all domestic properties and smart or advanced meters to smaller non-domestic sites in the UK by the end of 2020.

As of the end of September 2013, the large energy providers, comprising British Gas, Npower, EDF Energy, E-ON, Scottish Power and SSE, were operating 804,400 smart-type meters. These meters offer some, but not all of the functionality of SMETS meters, and will have to be replaced by December 2020. The meters are expected to be updated remotely.

Meanwhile, there were 200,400, domestic, SMETS-compliant smart meters installed by the end of September, of which 176,800 are operating in smart mode. The remainder are being operated in the traditional mode.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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