In his keynote speech at the Smart Metering Forum, Charles Hendry, Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), assessed the progress the UK had made over the past year and presented plans for the coming year.
Hendry called the rollout of an estimated 53 million electric and gas smart meters a key priority for protecting the environment, creating green jobs, and spurring technology but acknowledge that it was “a huge and challenging project, being the largest changeover program in the energy industry since the introduction of North Sea gas about 40 years ago…involving visits to some 30 million homes and businesses. Over the lifetime of the project, that means that on average suppliers will need to install more than 100,000 meters a week.”
According to government estimates, the total cost of the smart meter deployment will be more than £11 billion pounds and Hendry says much can be learned organizationally and logistically from similar rollouts in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, and Sweden.
But, Hendry noted, “The roll out in Great Britain will be especially ambitious, involving the installation of both gas and electricity meters in a framework that will help to ensure that energy consumers secure the £6 billion of benefits we forecast from this program. That’s why consumers’ interests lie at the heart of this initiative.”
Among the past year’s achievements Hendry singled out was the Government’s response to the Smart Meter prospectus. It set out our conclusions in response to the questions asked in the Prospectus; DECC’s published consultations on the draft license conditions and technical specifications for the roll out; and the initiation of the process for procuring the data and communication services for the Data Communications Company (DCC).
Looking forward, Hendry calls 2012 a key year and the first full year of the Foundation Stage, which he calls “a critical period, during which we must ensure industry and consumer readiness for the mass rollout. This phase will give industry the space to build and test the necessary systems, both cross-industry systems and companies’ own back office processes. We are working closely with industry and other stakeholders to make sure Foundation is a success and that the necessary lessons are learnt from early installations.”
Hendry also reported that by early March the DECC “intend to publish specifications for meters which will count against suppliers’ rollout completion obligations. As planned, we will notify these specifications under EU rules and then amend suppliers’ license obligations accordingly.
We will be doing more work during 2012 to examine whether further specifications might help support interoperability in the future.”
The Minister ended his presentation thanking members of the energy industry. “I remain very grateful for all the help and support you have provided to date. If we can make this a success, then as well as delivering benefits for consumers and for society more generally, we can also enhance [restore] trust in the energy industry and, dare I say it, in government as well.”