UK Government calls on energy firms to respond to smart meter consultation

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UK government invites energy suppliers invited to comment on draft law for connected energy metering scheme.

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The UK government has published a new proposal for the widely criticised £11 billion smart metering scheme, laying out details for energy firms that will have to deploy the technology by 2020. 

Smart meters are the latest generation of gas and electricity meters found in every UK citizen’s home. The scheme, which involves installing a connected meter into every UK home, will improve energy readings and phase out estimated billing. It will also allow consumers to reduce emissions and energy costs. 

The Department of Energy and Climate Change created a new company, the Data and Communications Company (DCC) to handle the national rollout, with the help of the UK’s energy suppliers.

The DCC aims to provide a “smart meter communications service” by which suppliers, network parties and others can communicate remotely with smart Meters across the UK. It has created a smart energy code, and the new consultation contains draft law that will come into effect by the end of 2015.

However, early proposals and early rollout figures have proved to be disappointing, with energy firms criticising the handling of the technical specifications – some of which are already out of date due to the delays.

The network that will support the UK smart meter initiative was pushed back for the second time toward the end of last year, and will not be ready to go live until March 2016. Energy firms like British Gas and E.ON have already criticised proposals for testing the smart meter devices, advised by the government, in a previous consultation. 

Further, in March, MPs voiced concerns the scheme was unlikely to materialise and “could prove to be a costly failure".

New proposals published on Friday include technical specifications as well as details on data retention and security and aim to set out the obligations for energy firms to deploy compliant smart meters as part of the scheme.

Within the consultation document, DECC specified that the DCC will be responsible for holding all communications and data that generated by smart meters in people’s homes, rather than the energy suppliers.

Further, the department will procure a single firm to monitor energy supplier’s adherence to the security and privacy guidelines. DECC admitted that it is likely this organisation will have existing contracts with some of the energy firms, but it will put measures in place to ensure there are not conflicts of interest.

It stated: “It was anticipated that the CIO may have, or have had, existing contracts in place with energy industry participants. Where this is the case we proposed that the CIO would need to demonstrate to the SEC Panel that they are capable of acting independently of any past, existing (or future) contract it may have with a user.”

Other changes include clarification of costs to become a “Smart Energy Code” party (British Gas, for example) and the news that GBCS interface testing will be offered as a service for firms.

Energy suppliers will have until 1 September to respond to the consultation. 

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