The number of domestic smart meters and non-domestic advanced meters installed has hit 5.87m according to latest government data. Suppliers have been tasked with installing around 53m meters by the end of 2020, as such they are 11% of the way there.
“As at 31 December 2016 there were 4,863,300 meters operated in smart mode by large energy suppliers and a further 83,700 meters operated in smart mode by small energy suppliers across domestic properties in Great Britain. Overall, this represents around 10 per cent of all domestic meters,” according to the department for business, energy & industrial strategy (BEIS).
Meanwhile, there were “923,600 (207,900 gas and 715,700 electricity) non-domestic smart and advanced meters operating in smart mode or with advanced functionality by both large and small energy suppliers. This represents over one quarter of all non-domestic meters currently in operation”.
The department said that to date, there are 5.87m meters installed across all premises.
Those figures confirm the scale of the task faced by energy suppliers over the next three and a half years if they are to install smart meters at all customer premises. They are obliged to at least offer a smart meter to all customers by 2020, and take all reasonable steps to do so, although it is not yet clear what ‘all reasonable steps’ actually means, with Ofgem currently working on guidance.
The government figures, which include small supplier installs, tie loosely with approximate numbers provided to The Energyst by the big six suppliers at the end of February, which totalled 5.17m.
British Gas said it had installed the lion’s share (around 3.5m from a customer base of 10m). Eon, which has around 4.6m customers, has installed “more than 750,000 smart meters”, according to a spokesperson. SSE, which has around 8 million customers, told The Energyst it has installed around 400,000. At the end of 2016 Npower had installed 130,000 smart meters of a customer base of 2.8m. EDF, with 5 million customers, said it has installed 150,000 to date.
Scottish Power was the only ‘big six’ supplier that did not answer requests for comment, but its latest results stated it has installed 240,000 of a customer base of 5 million, with plans to install 2,500 smart meters a day in 2017. Since then, the supplier has signed up Actavo to help deliver almost a million additional smart meters across the Midlands over five years.
That would take its rollout to 2022.
Government and regulator are unlikely just yet to admit the rollout is unlikely to meet its 2020 target and let suppliers off the hook. But it appears likely they will be given some leeway as that deadline approaches, given the central communications hub procured by the government, seen as essential to the smart meter rollout, is way behind schedule.
Others, such as economist Dieter Helm, think it should be taken off suppliers altogether and handed to distribution network operators (DNOs). That argument is as old as the programme itself. However, Helm believes that the system benefits of smart meters, integral to its value proposition, cannot be delivered by suppliers.
Equally, smart trials by DNOs confirm Helm’s view that consumers, in the main, don’t want to engage with energy, putting any projected net benefits of the rollout at risk without resorting to automation, which brings its own set of risks and challenges. Regulator Ofgem recently acknowledged those issues, suggesting a whole new set of rules and powers may be required.
Whether local authorities, some of whom are now energy suppliers and will be obliged to rollout smart meters to customers, fare any better in terms of engaging residents remains to be seen.
However, if government mandates that all businesses and households are metered and settled on a half hourly basis (HHS), as it may or may not do next year, according to its smart systems call for evidence, it may affect consumer choice over the need to accept the offer of a smart meter, as HHS will almost certainly require them.
Update: Ofgem has confirmed that even if mandatory half hourly metering and settlement is decided upon next year, there will be no requirement to have a smart meter, so mandatory HHS will only apply to households with smart meters or businesses with advanced meters.
Update: Ofgem has given some clarification on suppliers being required to take ‘all reasonable steps’ in offering all customers a smart meter. It states:
“The smart meter rollout will require suppliers to engage with every home in GB and offer them a smart meter. We haven’t set out a definition for ‘all reasonable steps’ but have described for suppliers areas that they should consider. For example, they should test and trial different ways of contacting customers and making appointments for smart meter installations, and ensure that they have appropriate contracts in place both for the purchase of smart meters and the people who will to install them.”