UK government confirms delay in operation of smart metering infrastructure

Out-Law News | 17 Aug 2016 | 3:32 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has confirmed that the communications infrastructure behind its plans for nation-wide energy smart metering will not become operational until next month, marking a delay in the project.

The Data and Communications Company, responsible for operating a data and communications hub at the heart of the smart metering system, has finished designing and building the communications infrastructure but testing of the systems is ongoing, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.

The infrastructure had been expected to go live on Wednesday, according to a report by the BBC. BEIS confirmed that the system is now expected to be operational at the end of September. It said the delay will not hold up plans to install smart meters in homes and businesses across the UK by the end of 2020.

According to the latest government statistics, there are over 3.6 million smart and advanced meters operating in homes and businesses in Great Britain.

A BEIS spokesperson said: "The roll-out of smart meters is the one of the most significant upgrades to Britain’s energy infrastructure making it fit for 21st century life. The new infrastructure is planned to go live at the end of September, it is currently being tested to deliver a long-lasting, world class system to bill payers. In the meantime energy suppliers continue to drive forward the programme, rolling out more than 3.6 million smart meters to homes and business across the country."

Energy expert Nick Shenken of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that it the delay in the operation of the DCC's communications infrastructure is "likely to be met with industry frustration". He said it is important that "the delay isn’t allowed to drift further".

"This isn’t just about rollout targets being achieved, it’s about consumers having the benefit of the associated technology as quickly as possible," Shenken said. "Those benefits might be as simple as ensuring they don’t have estimated bills going forward, but it’s equally important for future benefits which will be realised as we move towards concepts such as time-of-use tariffs."

"We are currently developing a number of solutions with clients related to high volume deployment of decentralised energy generation infrastructure coupled with battery storage propositions. Consumer benefits from such solutions will be enhanced even further with the benefits of smart meters so it’s to be hoped that there is no further delay in providing the underlying infrastructure allowing smart meters to offer the kind of advantages which have been advertised by government," he said.