In the world of smart metering, many of the impacts of the delayed transition to SMETS2 technology are well understood and discussed. Indeed, the derogations given by BEIS to 12 suppliers supplying 86% of the market to install further SMETS1 meters between October 2018 and January 2019, and the consultations seeking views on SMETS1 interoperability solutions, are covered in our latest Domestic Smart Metering Market report and an upcoming Chart of the Week. The media is awash with stories about the large numbers of SMETS1 meters now operating in “dumb” mode after a change of supplier, with customers having to once again submit manual reads.
Something that is often overlooked, however, is the impact of the changing timescales on those companies charged with physically installing the meters. The likes of Lowri Beck, Providor and Amey face considerable challenges over the next few years – yet the full nature and scale of these challenges remains unclear.
Providor owner Lakehouse laid the issues out in its 2017 annual report, issuing a stark warning to the industry, importantly written before the extensions to the SMETS1 installation deadline and subsequent interoperability consultations. The company said that it expected a “significant dip” in installations up to the SMETS1 end-date, then a “huge surge in demand” afterwards, as the suppliers that have been waiting for SMETS2 meters to become available start their roll-outs in earnest. Presumably, with that end-date now shifted back three months (and further for some), this effect will be more pronounced, with a compressed SMETS2 installation window. Another issue highlighted was the competition between installation companies for the same pool of engineers.
Lakehouse said that, as the “complexities of the smart meter installation programme become more apparent”, it is having to review its pricing to reflect this. If repeated across the industry, this is another cost that will be passed through to all consumers. And if there is not a resolution to the issue of enrolling SMETS1 meters in to the DCC, and suppliers are required to replace vast numbers with SMETS2 meters before the end of 2020, the surge in demand for installers would be greater still. Secure Meters and EDMI are the two SMETS1 manufacturers that are yet to be considered for DCC integration, between them responsible for a large proportion of all smart meters.
It is an issue that has received some consideration. In a debate in the House of Lords on the Smart Meters Bill, Lord Teverson, Chair of the Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, suggested “thousands of skilled people” fitting smart meters would be “out of a job in October” after the SMETS1 end-date (suggesting SMETS2 meters would still not be ready for a full scale roll-out). Understandably, much of the rest of the debate focused on immediate consumer impacts, but this is an important issue, and may be a significant limiting factor on the speed of the roll-out as we approach the end of 2020.
Our latest quarterly Domestic Smart Metering Market Report, containing information and news on the smart meter roll-out, individual supplier progress, commercial deals with metering service providers, and propositions enabled by smart meters, has now been published. To find out more, please contact Tom Goswell on 01603 959880, or at firstname.lastname@example.org