Government Accelerates Smart Meter Rollout

Chris Huhn has announced plans to speed up the distribution of smart meters in the UK, with the mandated rollout scheduled to start in 2013

The UK government is standing by its pledge to drive a low-carbon economy and make the coalition the “greenest government ever”, with a new energy policy designed to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Central to the government’s strategy is a new Smart Meter Prospectus, published with Ofgem, detailing plans for rolling out smart meters to every home and small business in the country. The Prospectus was included in the Annual Energy Statement, and emphasises the need for a significant acceleration in the rollout of smart meters compared to previously published targets.

Saving money and cutting emissions

Smart meters give consumers up-to-the-minute information about the amount of energy they are using, helping them to understand and manage their consumption, while saving money and reducing carbon emissions. Smart metering also facilitates the development of smart grids, which integrate the actions of all users connected to them in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.

Ofgem and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) intend to introduce a package of measures in spring 2011, following a public consultation, and have set out a proposed timetable with the aim of beginning the mandated rollout of smart meters in autumn 2013.

“Within a customer’s home or business the metering system will be made up of smart meters for gas and electricity, a ‘home area network’ to communicate between devices in the home (or business), and ‘wide area network’ equipment for communicating back to the supplier or other authorised parties,” said the Prospectus.

The most visible part of the smart metering system for domestic consumers will be the standalone in-home display. Usage information will be displayed in pounds and pence, as well as kilowatts and kilowatt hours, and will also show historical consumption, so that consumers can compare current and previous usage.

The government also plans to set up a new central body known as ‘DataCommsCo’ (DCC), which will “identify and procure the most cost-effective solutions for smart metering data management and communications.” DCC will also manage the rollout and provide communication of data to and from smart meters in the domestic sector.

“The era of cheap, abundant energy is over,” said Chris Huhn, Secretary of State for DECC, in a statement. “We must find smart ways of making energy go further, and value it for the costly resource it is, not take it for granted.”

Uptake accelerating

DECC claims that, as well as the environmental advantages of smart metering, there is a strong business case for taking the programme forward. The department predicts “benefits across the domestic and smaller non-domestic sectors of £17.8 billion over the next twenty years and a net
benefit of £7.2 billion.”

These benefits will derive largely from reductions in energy consumption and cost savings in industry processes, according to DECC. The government is giving consumers until 28 October to respond on proposals.

Earlier this week it was reported that research firm Berg Insight has released its own findings into the uptake of smart meters in Europe, claiming that the installed base of electricity meters will grow by around 17.9 percent between 2009 and 2015 to reach a total number of around 111.4 million.

“In the past year, EDF, Endesa and Iberdrola – three of the absolutely largest electricity network operators in Europe – have launched large-scale pilots in France and Spain, respectively. Next year, these deployments will evolve into nationwide rollouts in these countries”, said Tobias Ryberg, senior analyst at Berg Insight.

“On top of that, the UK’s largest electricity and gas retailer British Gas has launched the first major smart metering project for residential customers in the country. These developments in combination with rollouts in several other European countries will drive strong market growth over the next five years.”