The largest UK energy suppliers have installed just 394,500 smart meters in domestic properties so far, according to the latest figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Although the government’s Smart Metering Implementation Programme is still in the trial and testing stages, which started three years ago, the low implementation figure highlights the scale of the challenge that energy providers face in meeting the government’s target of rolling out 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 from Q4 2015 to the end of 2020.
The implemented figure is equal to just 0.8 percent of all 47.3 million residential gas and electricity meters in the country. The proportion is even less when taking into account how many of these smart meters are actually operating in ‘smart mode’ - 344,700, or 0.7 percent of all domestic meters operated by the larger suppliers, namely British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power, SSE and Utility Warehouse.
Nonetheless, the statistical release from the DECC for the quarter to the end of March 2014, released on 12 June, showed that there has been an increase in the number of smart meters installed since Q4 2013. Some 98,600 smart meters were installed in homes in Q1 2014, up 3.5 percent from 95,300 at the end of last year.
Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of the Smart Meter Central Delivery Body, an independent body governed by a board made up of representatives from consumer organisations, energy suppliers and ‘observers’ from the energy regulator Ofgem, the DECC and energy networks, said: “It is a testament to the hard work of smart meter installers, the backbone of the smart meter programme, that there are now on average just under 33,000 smart meter installations taking place every month.
“This is an important step in the foundation stage of the national smart meter rollout, and provides the platform from which the number of installations can continue to grow as we approach the start of the mass rollout of smart meters in 2015.”
The implementation figures for smaller, non-domestic sites, were higher. The DECC reported that 492,200 smart and advanced meters are now in operation across the UK, representing 18.9 percent of all 2.8 million meters operated by the larger suppliers.
However, there was a slowdown in the implementation, as just 2,200 smart meters and 17,400 advanced meters were installed in these sites in Q1 2014, down from 2,600 smart meters and 28,500 advanced meters installed in Q4 2013.
A meter is defined as ‘smart’ when compliant with the Smart Meter Equipment Technical Specification (SMETS) and has functionality such as being able to transmit meter readings to suppliers and receive data remotely.
Under the government’s plans, advanced meters can be installed as an alternative to SMETS-compliant smart meters in non-domestic sites until April 2016, and do not need to be replaced with truly ‘smart’ meters before 2020. As a minimum, an advanced meter must be able to store half-hourly electricity and hourly gas data, to which the customer can have timely access and the supplier can have remote access.
The latest statistics from DECC were released the same week the National Audit Office (NAO) report revealed that the rollout could cost £1.5 billion more than expected, already putting the case for smart meters on precarious ground.