Energy firm Utilita warns: ‘Entire smart metering plan needs review’

Utilita, the UK’s leading supplier of prepayment gas and electricity, believes the enforcement of the smart meter connection regulations should be halted, warning that the government’s proposals may breed a “monopoly” amongst larger firms during the rollout

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Utilita, the UK’s leading supplier of prepayment gas and electricity, has warned the government’s smart meter plans will introduce “unnecessary complexity” into the utility market in a letter published this morning.

The criticism came following an open consultation, in which the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) asked energy firms to confirm whether they would be happy for the incorporation of the Data and Communications Company (DCC) gateway – the connection that underpins the smart meter network – to be established next week to speed the rollout.

But Utilita believes the enforcement of the smart meter connection regulations should be halted, and the entire plan put into review.

Monopoly fears

Warning that the government’s proposals may breed a “monopoly” amongst larger firms during the rollout, Utilita’s letter stated its dismay at the lack of inclusion of smaller energy suppliers, who have neither the influence nor the workforce to respond to the “plethora” of consultations in comparison to major suppliers.

While five major energy suppliers wrote letters to department following the latest smart meter update, Utilita was the only SME supplier to respond.

The update, issued in December last year, revealed that smart meters would again be delayed, as the 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 majority of suppliers support the incorporation of the smart meter gateway in responses published today. However, an industry-wide exasperation at the delay, which meant firms have been unable to order connections for devices and consequently unable to conduct testing or on-site feasibility surveys, was clear.

E-On said: “E-On had been requesting ability to place an order for connection to DCC for some months now…we would like to see the barriers to this removed as soon as possible so we can move forward with site surveys to enable the completion and confirmation of our order for connection as soon as possible.”

Npower also agreed with the timing for the network, but added: “The overall Smart Metering Eco System as proposed will be a complex system which has challenging implementation timescales.”

DECC response

DECC said: “Six organisations responded to the consultation. The majority of respondents strongly supported the government’s proposals, with large energy suppliers pointing out that it is important for SEC [Smart Energy Code] Parties to be able to order their connections as soon as is practically possible to enable them to support planned testing activity.

“Only one respondent, a small energy supplier, opposed the government’s proposals on the grounds that it did not believe that small suppliers had been sufficiently engaged in the development of the Gateway Connection approach. It called for H15 of the SEC not to be brought into effect and for the DCC Gateway Connection Code of Connection not be designated, proposing that a review of the “entire [smart metering] solution” be undertaken”.

From 26 January, energy suppliers will have to comply with the Smart Energy Code’s ‘DCC Gateway Connection Code of Connection’. This stipulates that connections must have a download bandwidth of 40 Mbps and upload bandwidth of 10 Mbps.

Any firm wishing to connect to the gateway must apply through a form found on the a form found on the data and communications company’s website.

Connections will be available initially for either a one or three-year time period according to the consultation response.

This month a YouGov survey found that 62 percent of energy customers are sceptical that smart metering will be rolled out in time because they believe all IT projects “run late, have issues or go over budget”.

Image credit: Flickr/Shaiith

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