Why the UK smart meter delay is a smart move

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By: SGN Staff

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With North American smart meter sales at a plateau, vendors have been looking to Europe in general, and the UK in particular, as the next area of rapid growth. Meanwhile, those of us interested in finding new, more sustainable business models for utilities have been watching the UK with interest. Many of us see it as one possible way forward.

 

That's why the news of a year-long delay was such a disappointment. But recently the GM of the UK's biggest smart meter provider reached out to say that he believes the delay was a good thing. I asked him to share his reasons with you. - Jesse Berst

 

By David Stroud

 

Recently UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced the rollout of smart meters was to be delayed by a year. Pushing back the start is a smart move by the government as the delay looks to ensure that the functionality of the meters will be fit for purpose.

 

Installing 53 million smart meters in 30 million homes and small businesses by 2020 is just the first step and the success of the rollout is dependent on consumer engagement. A seamless, quality customer experience will be essential in the early stages to promote buy-in from consumers. From an industry perspective it is encouraging to see that the government has taken feedback on board and, more importantly, is continuing to keep consumers at the heart of the rollout.

 

Consumer key to success

The smart meter rollout is the start of a journey. Its success is dependent on a number of underlying factors, from securing the right skill set for installers to consumer engagement and the issue of trust with utility providers. To ensure the roll out is successful, in addition to the right skill set and certification, it is crucial to provide installers with the necessary soft skills to maintain consumer engagement and manage expectations. Overinflated consumer expectations are very possible, since on its own a smart meter cannot affect any cost or energy savings. It is dependent on behavioral change by the consumer to see results. Unless this is clearly communicated to consumers then it is likely to result in disappointment.

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