Ofwat urged to fund ‘ambitious’ smart metering plans

Ofwat has been urged to back “ambitious” water company plans to roll out smart meters to the non-household market (NHH).

Trisha McAuley, chair of the Strategic Panel for the business retail water market in England, called on the regulator to match wholesaler ambitions when it makes its rulings on business plans later this year.

She made the call-to-action within the Strategic Panel’s Metering Strategy, which sets out the ambitions for the sector.

McAuley said: “The non-household market uses nearly a third of the country’s water, of which just 1% consumes nearly half. We can therefore make a significant contribution to meeting the country’s water efficiency challenge.

“Water companies have recognised the critical role that smart metering will have in continuing to meet the country’s demand for water and have proposed significant investment programmes in their water resource management plans and PR24 business plan.

“Having encouraged companies to submit ‘ambitious’ plans, the Strategic Panel urges Ofwat to allow the necessary investment to enable them to deliver the Panel’s Metering Strategy outcomes in the interests of current and future customers, while recognising the need to ensure companies’ proposals are properly evidenced and provide value for money.”

The NHH market uses three billion litres of potable water per day; around a third of the country’s water.

The deprartment for environemnt, food and rural affairs (Defra) has set companies a legally binding target to reduce overall consumption in the NHH market by 9% by 2038, increasing to 15% by 2050.

To achieve these targets, wholesalers have set out how they propose to balance the supply and demand for water over the next 25-years (2025-2050) in their water resource management plans (WRMP) and PR24 submissions.

Wholesalers representing half of the NHH market’s supply points are proposing a one-AMP rollout of smart metering by the end of AMP8 in 2030.

A further nine wholesalers, representing 49% supply points are proposing a two-AMP rollout to be complete by the end of AMP9 in 2035.

While two wholesalers, representing around 1% of supply points, are currently proposing a three-AMP rollout to be complete in 2040.

The Strategic Panel said that wholesalers planning a multi-AMP rollout are being “encouraged to deliver as much of their programmes in AMP8 as possible to minimise the disparity of meter and data-related services from region to region”.

McAuley added: “Smart metering is, in effect, a national rollout being delivered regionally. We have therefore set out timescales to work to, standards for how often meters should be read, how data should be formatted and shared and so on. It also deals with meters that are not due to be upgraded.

“We are grateful to our water company members for their support in developing and feeding back on the strategy and in advance for helping to deliver what promises to be a vital and exciting transformational change for the market and its customers.”

This is the first AMP that Ofwat has specified the need for smart metering to be adopted instead of older style ‘dumb’ meters.

Water retailers have urged wholesalers to rollout NHH metering concurrently to their domestic installation programmes.