The government has proposed a start date for 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 earlier this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed plans to activate the New and Replacement Obligation (NRO) on 31 March 2019.

According to its 2015 smart meter rollout strategy, the government originally intended the obligation to come into effect in mid-2018 – on or after the end-date for SMETS1 installations.

But the timetable has been set back by a series of delays to the SMETS2 rollout, which in turn has extended the deployment of SMETS1 meters.

The consultation notes the final deadline for SMETS1 installations has now been set and the transition to SMETS2 is “well underway”, with 300,000 such meters installed and operating as of 22 January.

BEIS therefore wants to introduce the obligation as soon as possible after 15 March – the last day on which the installation of SMETS1 prepayment meters will count 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.

The department said activating the NRO would send “a clear signal that government is embedding the changeover from traditional to smart metering” and give additional momentum to the delivery of SMETS2 technologies that are still under development or in testing.

BEIS said it had previously considered introducing the new and replacement elements of the obligation separately, starting with former. However, the department decided against this on the basis it would create additional regulatory complexity and could potentially lead to more traditional meters being replaced in the future, adding to the costs of the smart meter programme.

The NRO will require energy suppliers to take “all reasonable steps” to install a SMETS-compliant smart meter when replacing a traditional meter or fitting one for the first time.

There are exemptions for emergency circumstances or instances where the consumer wants a traditional meter.

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 19 February.

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