Meter programme makes a slow start

23 January 2013
By Mark Venables
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Smart meter

Smart meter

The UK government’s first annual progress report on its smart meter programme has received a mixed reception from industry players, with many calling into question the sector’s ability to hit its 2020 targets.

Smart energy meters incorporate communications functions so they can be read remotely.

Consumption data can also be presented in near real-time on an in-home display (IHD) or transmitted securely to other consumer devices over a home area network, helping people to manage their energy use better.

The report pledged that consumers will have choice on how often their energy supplier can access their consumption data and that suppliers will not be able to use that data for marketing purposes without explicit consent.

Suppliers will also be required to give their customers reminders about the choices they have made and how to change them.

The Government will request annual reports from all larger energy suppliers setting out their plans and progress with the roll-out.

In addition a new central delivery body will help consumers to use smart metering to better manage their energy consumption and expenditure.

The first version of the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications (SMETS) was published in April 2012, covering gas and electricity meters and the in-home display (IHD).

A second version is due this year with further detail in specific areas, such as the standards for the home area network and the requirements for the communications hub.

“From what I can see in this report there is no real ‘new’ content; it seems mostly to be restating existing policy,” said Mark England, CEO of smart metering technology company Sentec.

“Interestingly, it does now admit that some suppliers will not rollout significant volumes of meters during the Foundation Stage.

“This isn’t a surprising statement when you consider the investment risks suppliers will face developing integrated systems that potentially will not be used.

“From a vendor point of view, the volumes of SMETS1 products are now so low it has become hard to justify the development effort.

“As a result there are very few vendors with suitable tested products.

“When you add in the risk of choosing the wrong home-area network (this is work in progress), it’s not hard to see why initial ambitions for the foundation phase are being scaled back.”

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