Government extends powers over smart meter rollout

Smart meter bill may offer chance to "simplify" deployment

The government has extended by five years the powers which enable it to intervene the national rollout of smart meters.

In the background notes for the Queen’s Speech, delivered yesterday, government set out its plans for a smart meter bill which will maintain its ability to make changes to regulations governing the rollout untill 2025. The bill will also give an extension to government powers to ensure the effective delivery of the programme, inlcuding powers to hold companies to account for their role in it.

A Special Administration Regime will also be established under the bill to ensure the continuing operation of the national smart meter service if the provider becomes insolvent. Currently this service is erformed by the Data and Communications Company.

The notes do not say the government plans to extend the deadline for energy suppliers to offer smart meters to all UK households and business. However, some industry leaders have speculated that the bill may provide for future flexibility on deployment targets for suppliers and the industry supply chain.

Rob Doepel, energy partner at EY commented: “We would hope that the detail of the bill would include provisions to simplify the deployment challenge and enable greater collaboration between suppliers to deliver this critical upgrade to the UK’s energy infrastructure.”

Doepel described the decsion to allow a five year extension of government powers to intervene in the £11bn smart meter programme as “prudent”.

He has previously raised concerns that the financial pressure surrounding the initiative pose a serious threat to the business models and profitability of large incumbents in the energy market.

In February, Doepel told Utility Week: “We’ve asked them to make that ridiculous investment, reduce costs for consumers, and innovate around products – for example, bundling and connected home,” said Doepel. “I am struggling to square the circle. Something has to give.”

Other industry voices have also warned that a compressed timescale for installations could cause safety compromises.

Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade responded to news of the smart meter bill saying suppliers “remain committed to ensuring all households and businesses are offered a smart meter by 2020 and that the rollout is carried out efficiently and delivers a positive experience for consumers.” 

  • This is an updated version of an article that wrongly reported the deadline for the smart meter rollout had been delayed by five years.