The network that will support the UK smart meter initiative has been pushed back for the second time and will not be ready to go live until March 2016, the government announced yesterday.
The delays were announced in the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s third annual progress report on the smart meter project, which will require energy suppliers to replace 45 million gas meters with smart electricity and gas meters at an estimated cost of £10.9 billion.
The report stated that Data and Communications Company (DCC), which is responsible for building the communications infrastructure to support smart metering, “will need at least until the end of March 2016 to be ready to offer live services.”
The department originally said that the network would be ready for energy suppliers to use in autumn 2015, and that the entire smart-meter system would be up and running by 2020. The latest report stated that all devices would be installed by energy suppliers this date, but did not explicitly state whether the system would be live by then.
The project has faced several setbacks, including rising costs and scrutiny from MPs over the device technology. Earlier this year the Public Accounts Committee warned that some of the technology being implemented for the national smart meter rollout would be outdated by the time it is installed, and questioned the value of the project that will only save customers £26 per year.
Legacy IT is a challenge for energy suppliers
The DCC reported that it is midway through its design and building for the core system that will connect the smart meters once they have been installed in 2020. Only when this is complete will it integrate the data and communication systems.
However, it added that connecting energy suppliers’ and network operators’ back-office IT, including legacy billing systems and customer platforms, with the DCC smart meter system had pushed back the delivery.
The report stated: “It is vital that adequate time is allowed for comprehensive testing to be undertaken, to ensure that there is a stable and scalable system… Energy suppliers may face challenges in dealing with changes in organisation and back office systems. Government is alert to these challenges.”
Customers have control over their energy consumption data, unless it is required for billing and regulation. Suppliers can only access daily data if a customer has not opted out, and will need consent from a customer to get access to half-hourly energy data.
However network operators are allowed to access energy usage data, including half-hourly reports if they have plans for aggregation approved by Ofgem.
The European Commission has approved security requirements for the meters, the department for energy and climate change said. Communication between the smart meter, the network operator and the energy supplier will by cryptographically secured over the dedicated smartmeter network, which will function similarly to the current Public Key Infrastructure, which is widely used in business, for example in internet trading, banking transactions and billing systems.
Energy suppliers to present yearly smart-meter targets.
The department said that energy suppliers will have to present smart meter rollout plans to Ofgem in 2015 and set yearly targets for smart meter installations from 2016.
British Gas will use CGI’s Adapter solution to manage its customers’ smart meters via DCC.