Smart meters: A timeline of the UK rollout - Energy customers are cynical about the rollout - click through its history

UPDATED - 17 August 2016The rollout of the national smart meter programme has faced yet another setback, with the launch of a new government body called the Data and Communications Company (DCC) delayed by one month.

The DCC is supposed to be in charge of the overall infrastructure of the smart meter rollout, which intends to install smart meters in every home and business by 2020. Scroll on to slide nine for the latest.

Smart meters will be installed by utility companies across all UK homes and businesses by 2020, the government says – however the progress has been slow and hampered by several setbacks.

The public appear to have little faith that it will hit its target and remains on the fence about whether the scheme truly benefits the taxpayer’s pocket or simply the utility firms' data banks.

Computerworld UK breaks down the history of the smart meter rollout, including up-to-date figures released by the government at the end of 2014.

The original plan
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The original plan

The government has tasked energy suppliers with installing 50 million smart meters by 2020 to the cost of £10.6 billion. It estimates that bill-payers will see an average yearly saving of £26.

How many homes have functioning smart meters so far?
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How many homes have functioning smart meters so far?

The latest figures - released at the end of last year - reveal that utility companies had installed functioning smart meters in just 1.2 percent of customers' homes. That is 543,858 meters.

Suppliers began installing smart meters in 2011.

Setbacks
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Setbacks

The crucial smart meter network is delayed again, it was recently revealed. The original 2019 deadline was pushed back in 2013. Further, the NAO predicted it would cost £1.5 billion over budget. British Gas began installing 'smart-type' meters prior to 2012, which were then deemed out-of-date by new technical requirements - forcing the firm to replace all by 2020.

Privacy concerns, scare-mongering and cyncism: smart meters receive bad press
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Privacy concerns, scare-mongering and cyncism: smart meters receive bad press

One group is determined to halt the rollout, protesting that "there are many serious problems presented by web-enabling our electricity, gas and water supplies and turning our homes into wireless, network-attached nodes on the Internet." Still, a YouGov survey found 62 percent of customers are sceptical suppliers will meet deadlines. Why? Because IT projects “run late, have issues or go over budget”.

Back-office IT and legacy billing systems will hamper rollout
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Back-office IT and legacy billing systems will hamper rollout

Legacy billing systems and infrastructure may be the undoing of the scheme. The latest government update found: “It is vital that adequate time is allowed for comprehensive testing to be undertaken, to ensure that there is a stable and scalable system…Energy suppliers may face challenges in dealing with changes in organisation and back office systems. Government is alert to these challenges.”

£11bn UK smart meter programme could be a ‘costly failure’, warn MPs
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£11bn UK smart meter programme could be a ‘costly failure’, warn MPs

A report into the government’s ‘disappointing’ £11 billion scheme to install smart meters “could prove to be a costly failure", MPs warn in a report published in March 2015. It states that technical problems, interoperability standards, delayed communications infrastructure and a reluctance to improve transparency has contributed to the delay.

Fines: Ofgem fines E.ON £7 million

Fines: Ofgem fines E.ON £7 million

E.ON was served a £7 million fine in November 2015 for failing to miss its installation targets by April 2014.

It installed less than the required 65 percent of its electricity business customers with advanced meters.

E.ON had five years to fit around 20,000 customers with, and supply electricity through advanced meters. E.ON only completed 64.4% of its roll-out, meaning over 7,000 customers did not get a meter on time.

GCHQ intervenes in smart meter project to avert potential disaster

GCHQ intervenes in smart meter project to avert potential disaster

British electronic intelligence agency GCHQ noticed that every single smart meter had the same encryption key for the communication channel back to the utilities grid.

If this key was discovered it would have been possible for hackers, whatever their motivation, to toy with the power supply of the entire country. A senior Whitehall official claimed this could have led to people “blowing things up”.

New infrastructure body DCC delayed

New infrastructure body DCC delayed

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has confirmed that the new Data and Communications Company (DCC) will not be operational until at least September.

The DCC is a government department that was supposed to be active on 17 August, and its job is to control and monitor the IT infrastructure for the national smart meter rollout.

A spokesperson for BEIS told the BBC: “The new infrastructure is planned to go live at the end of September, it is currently being tested to deliver a long-lasting, world class system to bill payers.”

But the BBC was told in July that the department would be operational by August.

The government insists that this delay will not affect the overall target of smart meters in all homes and businesses by 2020.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.