The government has pledged to publish an action plan outlining how it intends to overcome the operational and technical bugbears holding back delivery of its smart meter programme by the end of this year.

During the House of Lords debate on the Smart Meter Bill on Tuesday (15 May) junior Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) minister Lord Henley said a “forward plan of activity” would be included in the annual progress report on the rollout of the initiative.

The programme has been the subject of persistent criticisms that it is too far behind schedule to meet the government’s target that suppliers should offer all households a smart meter by the end of 2020.

Lord Henley said: “This will show that the government have a clear plan for resolving the remaining technical and operational challenges to delivering the programme.”

In a further bid to counter criticisms by opposition peers that the smart meter installation programme is out of control, he said the government will publish, by spring next year a report providing a stocktake of progress towards delivering the consumer benefits of the programme.

The Conservative peer said the government would publish a paper by the end of this year drawing out and promoting the potential of the data offered by smart meters for future innovations in consumer technologies and services.

Lord Henley also told the House that the enrolment of less sophisticated SMETS1 meters with the Data Communication Company (DCC), which is due to begin later in 2018, is expected to take “about a year”.

Outlining the opposition’s proposals to get the rollout back on track via a National Smart Meter Plan, shadow energy spokesman Lord Grantchester, said: “The programme is to a large extent in disarray, with enormous confusion and uncertainty in the marketplace. This inevitably leads to reticence and a lack of confidence in the mind of the consumer.”

The Smart Meters Bill includes measures to extend the lifespan of the government’s powers for rolling out the programme and provides Ofgem with powers to deliver half-hourly settlements using data from the devices.

On the same day as the debate, Ofgem published an open letter, which outlined the regulator’s “observations” on suppliers’ smart meter progress reports and rollout plans.

The letter written by Jacqui Russell, head of smarter metering and market operations, said: “For most large suppliers, the number of smart meters in their customer portfolio at the end of the year was in line with the annual milestones they had set themselves for 2017.”

Russell said it was “positive” to see suppliers have been testing and trialling new customer engagement approaches but stressed Ofgem considers “more can be done”.

“All large suppliers and most small suppliers are now DCC users. Some small suppliers are yet to comply with this obligation, which is a breach of their licence. We are addressing this issue directly with those suppliers, consistent with our Enforcement Guidelines,” the letter states.

Ofgem said suppliers’ plans for 2018 indicate a “modest increase in installations compared to previous years” and it expects to see “significant ramp-ups in 2019 and 2020”.