False start for UK smart meter rollout

False start for UK smart meter rollout


By: SGN Staff

Quick Take: The UK has been forced to delay the introduction of residential smart meters by at least a year, as reported by the BBC. I find myself in violent agreement with Ovum analyst Stuart Ravens, who asks "Why did it take the UK's Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) so long to recognize its previous folly?" As you'll read in his statement, the real issue is communications -- the need to create a standardized network that can support a variety of meters.- By Jesse Berst


The UK's ambitious plan to roll out as many as 50 million residential smart meters was set to launch in summer 2014. Instead it will launch no sooner than fall 2015. The Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) announced that more time was needed to build and test the communications system.


Under the liberalized British program, meters are provided by electric power retailers. In most other countries, the distribution system operator provides the meters along with the underlying communications network. The British setup therefore requires a network that can support a wide variety of different meters in different flavors.

That's fine in theory, but in practice it turns out to need much more testing than a system using just one meter brand. The UK situation is further complicated by the fact many meters are indoors, making communications more challenging. Despite these challenges, the UK government had not mandated any testing at scale until now.