The government has postponed the introduction of a new obligation on energy suppliers to install a smart meter when replacing a traditional meter or fitting one for the first time.

In a consultation published in January, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) stated its intention to activate the New and Replacement Obligation (NRO) at the end of March.

The department has now delayed the start date to 30 June after two thirds of respondents opposed its minded-to decision.

According to its 2015 smart meter rollout strategy, the government originally expected the NRO come into effect in mid-2018 – on or after the planned end date for SMETS1 installations. However, the timetable has been set back by a series of delays to the SMETS2 rollout which have prolonged the deployment of SMETS1 meters.

BEIS was instead hoping to introduce the NRO as soon as possible after 15 March 2019, which was the last day on which the installation of SMETS1 prepayment meters counted towards suppliers’ duty to offer a smart meter to all households by 2020. The equivalent cut-off point for regular SMETS1 meters was 5 December 2018.

But writing to stakeholders, BEIS director of smart meters and systems Daron Walker said the majority of energy suppliers which responded to the consultation thought “more time was needed before they could provide a mature SMETS2 prepayment service”.

Smaller and non-domestic suppliers in particular said implementing the NRO too early could hand an “unintended competitive advantage” to larger suppliers if they are able to offer such a service sooner.  Some respondents also raised concerns about the short gap between the consultation and the proposed activation date, arguing it was too short to allow for adequate preparations.

“The 30 June 2019 activation is intended to allow industry, including smaller energy suppliers, further time to prepare for compliance and to make further progress towards being in a position to deliver a mature SMETS2 service to their customers,” said Walker.

“Delaying the activation date beyond June 2019 would reduce the potential of the NRO to drive the SMETS2 rollout, and potentially delay the benefits for consumers of SMETS2 meters becoming the default metering offer in Great Britain.”

He also noted that the NRO requires suppliers to take “all reasonable steps” to install a smart meter, saying this offered them “a degree of operational flexibility”.