The number of gas leaks and problems could be “significant” during the smart meter rollout, distribution network operator Wales and West Utilities has warned.

The gas network company said that public safety must be a “key priority” throughout the rollout but that it is already noticing “consequences”.

Speaking at Utility Week Congress, Wales and West Utilities head of emergency and metering services Clive Book said: “Obviously if you’ve got to go in and work on every meter installation in the country or 80 per cent of them in the next four years, there will be some consequences and we know that now.

“When you disturb things, you get leaks, you get problems. However, the volumes could be significant.”

Book added that new, inexperienced installers can also cause challenges. “You now have to go and inspect every appliance and make sure it’s safe and ventilation is correct, and that’s the skill. It is one of the things that takes some experience.

“With new people coming into the industry, there will be some issues with that and inexperienced meter workers could increase the number of mistakes.”

The full national smart meter rollout was further delayed last month, when the Data Communications Company failed to go live at the end of September. However, suppliers are continuing to install foundation smart meters.